Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Jennifer Boittin

Jennifer Boittin

Associate Professor of French, Francophone Studies and History
On sabbatical 2020-2021
Jennifer Boittin

Fields

French colonial history (including sub-Saharan Africa, French Indochina, French Caribbean and North Africa); Black and African diaspora; Gender and women's studies; Urban history; Cultural studies and intellectual history; European history

Education

Ph.D., Yale University

Professional Bio

Jennifer A. Boittin received her Ph.D. in History from Yale University. Her research and teaching look at how colonial spaces in West Africa, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and the French Caribbean were shaped by intersections between gender, race, class, sexuality, and urban culture around the world wars and decolonization. Her second book is entitled Undesirable: Passionate Mobility and Women’s Defiance of French Colonial Policing, 1919-1952 (2022, University of Chicago Press). Undesirable tells the virtually unknown history of hundreds of women in Southeast Asia (French Indochina) and West Africa (AOF) tracked by authorities because they were traveling alone and claiming Frenchness. Drawn from Cambodian, French, and Senegalese archives, this book revolves around women of Southeast Asian, European, and West African origin, many poor and ill, who rejected patriarchal or racialized evaluations of them as “bad” to pursue mobility. Undesirable’s focus on how ordinary people react to being policed gives historical depth to pressing contemporary issues of migration and violence in France today and of similar reckonings roiling much of the Global North. Boittin’s first book, Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris (2010, University of Nebraska Press) is an innovative, intersectional history of radical interwar politics. She has also published extensively on the Nardal sisters, Lamine Senghor, Tiémoko Garan Kouyaté, Black anti-imperialism, masculinity, Black and African diaspora, Josephine Baker, and women travelers. She is the rising President of the Western Society of French History, associate editor of French Colonial History, and founding member on the editorial committee for Marronnages, les questions raciales au crible des sciences sociales.

Selected Publications

BOOKS

Undesirable: Passionate Mobility and Women’s Defiance of French Colonial Policing, 1919-1952. University of Chicago Press, 2022. In production.

Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Feminism and Anti-Imperialism in Interwar Paris. University of Nebraska Press, 2010.  Paperback, summer 2015.

EDITED VOLUMES

“Intersections of Race and Gender in French History,” co-editor with Tyler Stovall, special issue, French Historical Studies, 33, 3 (Summer 2010).

“In the Crucible of Race: Lives That Matter in French and Francophone Spaces,” co-editor with Christy Pichichero, special issue, The Journal of the Western Society for French History, slated for publication in 2022.

“Black Feminisms in France and the Francophone World,” co-editor with Jacqueline Couti, special issue, Journal of Women’s History, slated for publication in 2023.

MEDIA

Radio, “La déferlante de la négritude ” La Marche du monde, Radio France Internationale, In Studio, Berlin, Germany, 17 September 2021, https://www.rfi.fr/fr/podcasts/la-marche-du-monde/20210917-la-d%C3%A9ferlante-de-la-n%C3%A9gritude

“Paris: Capitale du Tiers-Monde,” Interview for TV documentary, France 5, first broadcast, 20 September 2020.

Radio, “La France vue de l'étranger (2/5) Luttes féministes, anti-coloniales, anti-racistes,” Les Nouvelles Vagues, France Culture, Paris, France, 7 March 2017, https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/les-nouvelles-vagues/la-france-vue-de-letranger-25

“Tumulte Noir à Paris,” Africa4 blog, Libération, 17 August 2016.

Radio, La Fabrique de l'Histoire, Radio France Culture, In Studio: "Histoire/Actualités du vendredi 20/01/12" Paris, France, 20 January 2012, https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/la-fabrique-de-lhistoire/histoireactualites-du-vendredi-200112 

ARTICLES IN REFEREED JOURNALS

“’The Great Game of Hide and Seek Has Worked’: Suzanne Césaire, Cultural Marronnage, and a Caribbean Mosaic of Gendered Race Consciousness around World War II,” French Colonial History 20 (2021): 145-173.

“‘Are You Trying to Play a French Woman?’ La Mère Patrie and the Female Body in French West Africa,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 40, no. 4 (Summer 2015): 841-864.

“Adventurers and Agents Provocateurs: German Women Traveling Through French West Africa in the Shadow of War,” in “War, Occupation and Empire in France and Germany,” guest editor Jean Pedersen, Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques 40, 1 (2014): 111-131.

“Hierarchies of Race and Gender in the French Empire,” co-author with Christina Firpo and Emily Musil Church, Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques 37, 1 (2011): 60-90.

“Introduction: Who is French?” co-author with Tyler Stovall, in “Intersections of Race and Gender in French History,” edited by Jennifer Anne Boittin and Tyler Stovall, special issue, French Historical Studies 33, no. 3 (2010): 349-356.

“Feminist Mediations of the Exotic:  French Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, 1921-1939,” Gender & History 22, 1 (April 2010): 131-150.

“Black in France:  The Language and Politics of Race during the Late Third Republic,” French Politics, Culture & Society 27, 2 (Summer 2009):  23-46.

“In Black and White:  Gender, Race Relations and the Nardal Sisters in Interwar Paris,” French Colonial History 6 (2005):  119-135.

PEER-REVIEWED BOOK CHAPTERS

“’A Woman Like Any Other’: The Intimacy of Dislocation in Early Twentieth Century Paris and Rufisque” in Black Populations of France (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2022), eds. Aubrey Célestine, Sylvain Pattieu, Emmanuelle Sibeud, and Tyler Stovall.

“The Militant Black Men of Marseille and Paris, 1927-1937,” in Black France: The History, Poetics and Politics of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), eds. Trica Keaton, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting and Tyler Stovall: 221-246.

“‘Among Them Complicit’? Life and Politics in France’s Black Communities, 1919 -1939,” in Africa in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), eds. Robbie Aitken and Eve Rosenhaft: 55-75.