Introduction: a Short Colonial History of the French State of Emergency



Welcome to the 29th issue of The Funambulist. Although the choice of its topic preceded of several months the various policies undertaken by nation states worldwide in reaction to the global COVID-19 pandemic — many of which have been effectively called “state of emergency” — we hope that this issue can be a useful tool to contextualize these policies within histories of state violence, in particular colonial ones. In Palestine, the various settler colonial architectural apparatuses ensure more than ever the apartheid maintained by Israeli settlers upon pathologized Palestinians; in Iran, the united states sanctions prevent appropriate medical care. In the u.s. itself, the criminal contempt for any form of welfare state is currently resulting in millions of layoffs and tens of thousands of deaths, in particular amongst Indigenous nations and Black communities. In France, from where I’m writing, the state drafted and implemented a law called a “state of sanitary emergency.” Having worked for the last four years on the history of the French state of emergency, this name most certainly brought to my ears resounding echoes of the country’s colonial history. I will come back to this.