Beyond the analysis of their speeches, the presentation focuses on the vocal performances of Louisy Mathieu, Victor Mazuline and Pierre-Marie Pory Papy, the three black representatives from the colonies during the 1848 Constitutional Assembly in France. Analyzing the reception of their oratory, it highlights the resistance they faced from the Parliamentary culture of the time and especially how their credibility and ability to act as representatives was undermined. The abstract of the presentation reads as follows:
L'orateur n'a pas l'usage de la parolefrançaise": Black Representatives facingvocal inequalities in XIXth century French Parliament.
The equalitarian spirit of 1848 in France, which gave rise to the Second Republic, opened a window of opportunity that allowed for the implementation of both universal male suffrage and the emancipation of slaves. However, as other studies have claimed before, these major legal improvements did not have immediate positive effects on the black population.
While shedding light on institutional, cultural and social norms, this paper aims to establish that acoustic dimensions played an important role in shaping political representations and identities. Focusing on the example of the 3 black representatives elected for the colonies in 1848, it argues that examining the vocal characteristics and performances of representatives can serve as an indicator of access and impact within a society and its institutions.
Furthermore, it contends that the ideals carried to the assemblies by Victor Mazuline, Louisy Mathieu and Pierre-Marie Pory-Papy, were countered by a normative political culture that did not acknowledge their identities in practice, whilst it had legitimized their claims legally. It shows, finally, that their performances served as a template of reference for future derogatory depictions and descriptions which contributed to fuel the negative representation of black representatives in French society.
Since the sounds of the assembly, the vocal performances and reactions could not be recorded at the time and have now become irretrievable, this study relies on the perceptions of these moments. Perceptions of sounds are here understood as any opinion, description or analysis, presented in an official, scientific, journalistic, literary or educational manner and expressed in the form of a written of iconographic document. Once extracted, this collection of perceptions is considered as constitutive of a normative discourse on the sound culture of this specific context and can then be approached as a recording of the events.