Life Writing from Below in France
Keywords:life writing from below, France, political autobiographies, workers’ literary writings, workers’ identity, protest and emancipation
Without seeking to be exhaustive, this paper offers an overview of the different ways in which workers’ autobiographies have been analysed in France in the human sciences. In the first phase, a social and political approach was dominant. Through workers’ autobiographies written in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, researchers have attempted to grasp the relationship to politics, and especially in the twentieth century the acceptance or rejection of the communist model in the reconstruction of their political and trade union trajectories. At the same time, in a cultural approach, they have tried to understand the educational and literary influences which marked these self-taught workers who, unusually in the workers’ world, crossed over from practices of reading to practices of writing. Over the last ten years, workers’ autobiographies have become sources particularly used in the framework of labour history and workers’ history. Indeed they make it possible to grasp how men and women articulate their working conditions: the atmosphere in the workshop, gestures in work and relations between the body and the work, perception of noises and smells, relationships with hierarchy and trade-unions. These autobiographies can be considered as constituting real “political acts” which contribute to class struggle. Finally, at the intersection of anthropological researches about “ordinary writings” and literary studies about the writing of work and writing at work, they pose a question about the means and the meaning of writing experiences by paying more attention to the form of the writings and to the workers’ literary ambitions, which are often revealed in interviews.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).