From Tiers-Mondisme to Sans Frontierisme: Revolutionary idealism in France from the Algerian war to Ethiopian Famine
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis is about the application of revolutionary thinking to the issue of suffering in the third world during the final decades of the Cold War. It argues that attitudes to the third world were instrumental in the transformation of French intellectual and political engagement in this period. The thesis charts the course of two activist movements in France and the process by which one came to displace the other as the dominant way of addressing injustice in the third world. First was tiers-mondisme, driven by the belief in the third world as the motor for international revolution. The fascination and support for revolutions in Algeria, Cuba, China, and Vietnam gradually weakened as progressive regimes showed their repressive colours. Then followed sans-frontiérisme, the radical humanitarian movement that emerged as third-worldism declined. A French Red Cross mission in Nigeria became the catalyst for the founding of Médecins sans frontières, giving rise to an alternative model for engagement in the third world. Studies to date have neglected the prominent place of humanitarian engagements in the wake of doubts about the Marxist project and the associated model of Sartrean intellectual engagement. By elaborating the relationship between sans-frontiérisme and tiers-mondisme, the thesis acknowledges and explains the central role of sans-frontiérisme within the intellectual framework based on human rights. Furthermore, it offers a corrective to simplistic interpretations of the relationship between the two movements. Too strong an emphasis on the notion of backlash has been evident in accounts of the transition from revolution to humanitarianism. In contrast, the thesis argues that the relationship between tiers-mondisme and sans-frontiérisme is a more nuanced, closer, and more fruitful one than has generally been recognised. It demonstrates the way in which key motifs of tiers-mondiste engagement remained important even as sans-frontiérisme rejected the ideological foundation for militant actions.
- Theses