|Conceptions of Citizenship during the French Third Republic, the Rise of Popular Education, and its Identificational Consequences for Belgian Immigrants|
|The main historic migration flux of the Belgians, especially the Flemish, to France stretches out over an entire century, from 1815 onwards until shortly after the First World War, and reaches its summit during the second half of the 19th century as a consequence of the economical crisis in Flanders. The combined factors of the crisis in the domestic and linen industry and the potato crisis in Flanders led to a veritable rural exodus towards the North of France, at that time experiencing the peak of its industrial heyday. All in all, more than 450,000 Belgians decided to cross the Franco-Belgian border, looking for employment and a better life. It is therefore not surprising that, far away from their familiar environment, with its own language, customs and modes of expression, they formed heterogeneous relations with their homeland and created new hybrid identities in their new surroundings. This paper will focus on the second half of the nineteenth century, more particularly on the impact of the centralist and assimilationist policies of the Third Republic on the identificational transitions of the Belgian immigrants and their children, as shaped by the republican educational regime of the time. Especially the 1880s, with the profound impact of the laws of Jules Ferry, have proven to be a vital politico-cultural turning point, providing for a radical breakthrough in popular education. The particular sequence of institutional reform that accompanied these developments involved the establishment of free, compulsory and secular primary education, in line with the traditional idiom of nationhood. With regard to the extent of interculturality of the underlying educational conceptions, it might be emphasized that in the absence of a strong ethnonational self-understanding, French assimilationism and its expansive definition of citizenship were much more determined by political, institutional and territorial motifs than by ethnocultural motifs.
Many Belgian families established themselves definitely in the frontier region of le département du Nord. The distinctively state-centered and assimilationist understanding of nationhood, deeply rooted in political and cultural geography and powerfully reinforced in the 1880s by the Republican programme of universal education, was strongly strengthened by the politicized resentment in these frontier departments. In any case, apparently no educational measures at all were taken to provide for an adapted intercultural embedding of the children of Belgian immigrants. In this regard, the ‘hegemonic’ educational laws of Jules Ferry played a crucial role as far as the manner in which these children gradually shaped their (intercultural) identity is concerned, with language being of vital importance. This specific historical configuration of ‘intercultural education by default’, of which the situation of the children of Belgian immigrants serves as a prime example, also throws some interesting theoretical light on the way in which particular intercultural identity and acculturation effects may be generated in the absence of any purposive intercultural educational policy as such.|