The Social and Institutional Construction of “specificity” Regarding State Action in the French Overseas Territories

Special Report Title: The State and Overseas
By Willy Beauvallet, Audrey Célestine, Aurélie Roger

The “specificity” of the French overseas territories is both a common wisdom and a shared belief among the various actors involved in politics and the public policies displayed in these regions. However, the term “overseas” does not designate an objective category. It is the result of a historical and social construction stemming from a variety of social and political mobilizations. In the article, the authors aim to show the institutional construction of a public policy category and its relations to an elite social space they label “the State overseas”. They argue that such a category has grown more autonomous in recent years and that its capacity to defend and represent the interests of the French overseas territories has subsequently strengthened. Furthermore, while there is a general agreement regarding their specificity and exceptionality, the authors argue that both the frontiers and the content of public policies in these regions are still the results of classification and definition struggles.

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