Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

History, MA


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Joshua Goode

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Carolyn Brucken

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Sierra R Newby-Smith


Colonial Past, France, Immigration, Museum, National Identity

Subject Categories

History | Museum Studies


This paper focuses on the intersection of identity, the colonial past, and immigration in France through the lens of the Musée National de l’Histoire de l’Immigration. The museum, which opened in 2007 and is currently redesigning its permanent exhibition, has struggled to come to terms with France’s colonial past, a defining aspect of the museum as a result of its location and theme. This paper argues that the museum functions as a microcosm of France’s difficulty to address its colonial past while still maintaining its current national identity construction. Thus, this paper explores how the Immigration Museum is and has attempted to address the conundrum of two conflicting aspects, the colonial past and the construction of national identity, through colonial memory, the colonial roots of the building itself, and the political rhetoric of state leaders during key moments of the museum’s history. In addition, this paper explores how the museum is moving forward to address its colonial past in the context of contemporary events and movements concerning systemic racism, Islamophobia, and immigration. In doing so, the paper engages with contemporary questions about the construction of identity, systemic racism and xenophobia in France, and the role of state sponsored institutions in recontextualizing national identity paradigms.