Postcolonial Realms of Memory:
Sites and Symbols in the Modern Francosphere
Panel 1: Cities / Urban realms of memory
- Caroline Laurent (Harvard University / King's College London), (Mi)Lieu de mémoire: South East Asian Identities in Paris’s Chinatown
Several autobiographical texts written by Franco-Vietnamese first- and second-generation authors present Paris’s Chinatown as a site allowing memory to circulate and for interstitial identities to be expressed. In Kim Lefèvre’s Retour à la saison des pluies(1990), Chinatown reopens the possibility of remembering Việt Nam for the writer, after her ariival in France almost thirty years ago. By finally wandering in the thirteenth district after having avoided it, Lefèvre re-encounters her past by meeting old classmates from Việt Nam. Memories are flowing, remembrance is finally allowed: “ma peur du passé s’est atténuée, je me promène plus volontiers dans le 13e arrondissement” (368). Lefèvre clearly links remembering with the Asian District, geographically situating her connection to the past. Moreover, while her identity is constantly divided between French and Vietnamese, this Parisian neighborhood finally allows her to inhabit the interstitial nature of her mixed-race self: she mixes the French and Vietnamese languages, smells blends her Vietnamese past and her French present, among other instances of cultural and memorial in-betweenness. In Doan Bui’s Le Silence de mon père (2016), choosing, as an adult, to live in the thirteenth arrondissement offers Bui the possibility of joining her French identity and her communal Vietnamese identity geographically and to thus form a collective locality that she can also inhabit. Having rejected ever living there before, she finally settles in Chinatown, “aimantée” (90) by the Asian neighborhood. Despite Bui’s and Lefèvre’s differences (Lefèvre is a mixed-race individual born and raised in Việt Nam and who came to live in France as a young adult whereas Bui is of mixed cultural heritage, a Vietnamese woman born in France), Chinatown becomes a space at the frontiers in which Lefèvre’s and Bui’s dual identity can be expressed and lived notably through the sharing of personal and cultural memories. Chinatown is a liminal space which welcomes the liminality of Franco-Vietnamese individuals. Bui also introduces another temporality as she encourages her two daughters to occupy this in-betweenness that their mixed-race heritage allows them to: “Mes filles sont eurasiennes. Moitié-moitié. Des métisses” (92). As members of the third generation, Bui’s daughters can have their dual identity recognized along with a transmission of their family’s history. And this possibility is mediated through pieces of writing like Bui’s and Lefèvre’s which try to restore transmission and repair exclusive identarian claims. As both a milieu de mémoire and a lieu de mémoire, the Asian neighborhood in Paris spurs memories, which, in turn, enables members of a same community to establish memorial and historical connections.
- Stève Puig (St John's University), La « Place du pont » à Lyon : un lieu de mémoire postcolonial
La place Gabriel-Péri, communément appelée « place du Pont » à cause de sa proximité avec le pont de la Guillotière, est une place publique située à la croisée de plusieurs axes de la ville de Lyon. Le pont de la Guillotière est depuis sa création un lieu de passage entre plusieurs rives, et surtout entre Lyon et les pays méditerranéens. Il n’est donc pas étonnant que cette place ait toujours été liée à l’histoire de l’immigration à Lyon et qu’elle soit devenue un lieu d’accueil pour des immigrés en provenance du Maghreb. Dans son ouvrage Place du Pont ou la médina de Lyon paru en 1997, Azouz Begag insiste sur l’aspect commercial et convivial de la place et affirme que « dans les années 60-70, la place est devenue un haut-lieu de l’approvisionnement de la communauté maghrébine » (Begag 58).
Dans cette communication, je m’attarderai sur l’histoire de la place du Pont depuis sa création jusqu’à aujourd’hui pour voir entre autres comment elle est un lieu de mémoire de l’immigration maghrébine, mais également comment elle s’inscrit dans une histoire de résistance non seulement dans la volonté de garder le nom de « Place du Pont » au lieu de son nom officiel « Place Gabriel Péri », mais aussi par rapport à son opposition au néolibéralisme ambiant qui menace l’identité même de la place. De nombreux documentaires et textes écrits viendront illustrer notre propos, dont des essais sociologiques sur la ville de Lyon comme Sociologie de Lyon (La Découverte, 2010) et des textes littéraires ayant pour cadre la capitale des Gaules. Il s’agira entre autres d’explorer de voir comment la fiction permet de contribuer à des représentations de la ville plus inclusives, notamment le recueil de nouvelles intitulé ¬Lyon ville écrite (Stock, 1997) afin de faire de Lyon la « capitale des outre-mer » comme l’affirment Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel et Léla Bencharif dans leur ouvrage du même nom (La Découverte, 2007).
- Fatoumata Seck (Stanford University), Dakar
Dakar is a key site of the “modern Francosphere.” It was first a group of villages of Lebu fishermen, then the capital of French West Africa from 1902 to 1960, of the Mali Federation from 1959 to 1960, and of the republic of Senegal since 1960. Because of its strategic position on the Cape Verde peninsula, the westernmost point of Africa, Dakar was central to the transatlantic economy and an essential part of the colonial conquest of West Africa. A symbol of colonial power, Dakar was designed to be an “imperial city” with its railroad system, and air and naval bases. Its port, a major attraction, was dubbed a “service station” in the interwar period (Betts 1985). Colonial Dakar was a materialization of colonial imagination, and a laboratory for architectural experimentation and urban planning (Bigon 2016). It was a cosmopolitan city with autochthonous, Cape Verdean, Libano-Syrian, and European populations. Dakar was also the theater of anti-colonial protests. In addition to Lebu resistance against expropriation, it was in the Dakar suburb of Thiaroye that soldiers were massacred on December 1, 1944 for demanding their due. It was also in the streets of Dakar that the chéchia of the tirailleurs was burned on May 7, 1946 to celebrate the abolition of the code de l’indigénat, which symbolized arbitrary colonial repression of the native population (Champeaux 31). In Dakar’s main square, Place Protet, now Place de l’Indépendance, the “porteurs de pancartes,” or placard waivers, opposed General Charles De Gaulle’s referendum in 1958. From De Gaulle to Sarkozy’s 2007 public addresses, the city has witnessed controversial speeches announcing historical turns in the relationship between France and Africa. Upon independence, Dakar became a symbol of Pan Africanist ideals with the short-lived Mali Federation, and then an embodiment of Senghor’s Negritude philosophy as the poet-president’s cultural policy and nation building project were built into the very walls of the city, from street names to cultural institutions, promoting enracinement and ouverture. Not only did the Senegalese capital welcome the first World Festival of Negro Arts in 1966, and the last one in 2010, it also inspired the most celebrated writers and filmmakers of the French speaking world. This paper examines Dakar’s position in the collective memories of France and the larger Francosphere, before delving into literary and visual representations of this palimpsest city through the works of Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, Djibril Mambety, Ousmane Sembène and Ken Bugul. I posit that while colonial and post-independent documents and reports show Dakar’s central position within the larger system of global economic and political interests, these cultural productions have reinvented the city through the everyday life of ordinary people, thereby showing the complexity of Dakar through the eyes of its denizens.
Bigon, Liora. French Colonial Dakar: The Morphogenesis of an African Regional Capital, 2016.
Champeaux, Antoine, Éric Deroo, and János Riesz. Forces Noires des Puissances Coloniales Européennes. Panazol Haute-Vienne : Lavauzelle, 2009.
Betts, Raymond F. “Dakar: Ville Impériale” (1857-1960)” Colonial Cities / Ed. by R.j. Ross and G.j. Telkamp.1985. 193-206.
Panel 2 : Gardens / Le Jardin d’agronomie tropicale/ Jardin d’Essai as lieu de mémoire
- Gemma King (Australian National University), Le Jardin d’Agronomie tropicale as lieu de mémoire: between ruin and repair.
On the outskirts of the Bois de Vincennes lies the overgrown Jardin d’Agronomie tropicale, the last unrestored, undestroyed, and untransformed trace of the 1907 and 1931 Expositions coloniales internationales. The 1931 Exposition occupies a significant place not only in the historical construction of French nationhood and colonial memory, but in Pierre Nora’s original Lieux de mémoire project. Despite stretching across three volumes and seven books, Les Lieux de mémoire suffers from a major blind spot in its lack of engagement with, or even acknowledgement of, colonialism. However, as Etienne Achille, Lydie Moudileno and Charles Forsdick acknowledge in the introduction to their volume Postcolonial Realms of Memory, the primary exception is Charles-Robert Ageron’s chapter in the République volume, ‘L’Exposition coloniale de 1931’. Ageron’s entry focuses on the event itself, as a lieu de mémoire in a temporal sense. Yet the Vincennes area continues to be marked by a range of physical sites whose connection to the celebration of French Empire has long been a point of contention.
In the case of the 1931 Exposition’s headquarters, le Palais de la Porte Dorée, a painstaking series of transformations have attempted to distance the site from its initial purpose and politic. First presented as the Musée des Colonies directly following the Exposition, the site was reimagined in 1935 as the Musée de la France d’Outre-mer, in 1960 as the Musée des Arts africains et océaniens, in 1990 as the Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie and eventually as the Cité (2007) and then Musée (2014) national(e) de l’Histoire de l’Immigration. However, no such transformation has occurred at the Jardin d’Agronomie tropicale, whose original structures have been left to decay, deemed inappropriate either for restoration or destruction.
Constructed for the 1907 Exposition Coloniale and expanded for the 1931 Village Colonial, the Jardin features architectural recreations including an ‘Indochinese’ temple, Reunionese residence, Tunisian pavilion, monuments to colonial soldiers, and busts of French colonialist figures such as Eugène Etienne. The Jardin was long abandoned and closed to the public. In 2006 it reopened with new contextualizing signage, but without restoration of the structures themselves. By contrast with the measured, politicized, and expensive conservation of the Palais de la Porte Dorée, the Jardin d’Agronomie tropicale occupies an uncertain place in 21st-century French collective memory. This paper reads the Jardin as a lieux de mémoire suspended between ruin and repair, to critique how postcolonial patrimoine can betray both a will to remember and a desire to forget.
- Kelly Presutti (Cornell University), ‘This Park Belongs to Everyone’: Re-viewing the Jardin d’Essai, Algiers
Dania Reymond’s 2016 film The Trial Garden (Le Jardin d’Essai) stages a cinematic encounter with a historically-charged site in her native Algiers: a botanical garden planted shortly after the French invasion in 1830. A paradigmatic colonial site, the Jardin d’Essai (alternately known as the Jardin d’acclimatation) allowed for the acclimatization and distribution of species collected from across France’s empire; it was instrumental in settler colonialism.Algerian-born but living in France, Reymond’s lushly-shot film invites us to enjoy its splendid plantings and long allées, aspects that originallysignaled its ties to French power. The garden constructed a vision of the “exotic” out of palm trees and ostriches while also providing plant species to farmers and gardeners in metropolitan France, making it an important node in a colonial network of exchange. Yet as The Trial Garden shows, the garden has become a treasured site for Algerians, who flock to enjoy its verdant grounds. With so much of the material legacy of French occupation destroyed, why did the garden persist? And what does its persistence have to tell us about postcolonial realms of memory?
A seemingly-incidental moment within The Trial Garden offers a potential answer to these questions: whena passerby interrupts the principal action of the film and is asked to leave,heretorts, “This park belongs to everyone.”This claim for belonging addresses the particular circumstances of postcoloniality, in which the past cannot be wholly discarded. Reymond repeatedly foregrounds this active process of repossessing the past against a recurring desire to escape it. The Trial Garden is staged as a documentary about the making of a (fictional) film; the ostensible subject is an Algerian fable about a city under siege, and as the actors rehearse lines about whether to stay or to flee, the camera pans to views of the Mediterranean, to the threat and promise of France across the way. Maintenance workers, meanwhile, are shown dragging hoses to various flower beds, tending to the colonial legacy while simultaneously making it available to new users.A tension emerges between the possibility inherent within the garden and its fraught legacy, a tension the film does not resolve but holds open as an ongoing condition of the postcolonial.
This paper reads Reymond’s inquiry into the garden as an act of what feminist writer Adrienne Rich has termed “re-vision.” “Re-vision” is, for Rich, “the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction” and is further “an act of survival.” Rich’s concept offers an intersectional opportunity for shifting from (unspokenly) colonial to (actively) postcolonial realms of memory. Reymond’s film is an invitation to revisit the garden, both as it stands for Algerians today and in its historic legacy, and is itself a potential methodological model for historians interested in engaging with the fluid and multivalent meanings of postcolonial sites.
- Meghan Tinsley (University of Manchester), Postcolonial Ruination and Restoring the Nation: The Jardin d'agronomie tropicale
Recent work on ruination has explored the capacity of ruins to embody multiple and contradictory meanings within a single site. Building on the existing literature, this paper considers the capacity of ruined lieux de mémoire to disrupt the relationship between past and present, celebration and shame, Self and Other. Ruins produce new expressions of time and space that transcend the intentions of either architect or spectator. Restoring ruins, however, may attempt to overwrite this ambivalence with a single, dominant narrative. As a case study, this paper turns to the Jardin d’agronomie tropicale, a palimpsestic ruin in the Bois de Vincennes that gives material form to both the imperial past and the process of forgetting the empire. Here are the ghosts of empire: pavilions showcasing the architecture of colonies from Indochina to Martinique, bamboo groves, fallen statues depicting the riches of West African colonies, and monuments to colonial troops morts pour la France. The garden is a postcolonial melancholic site that unsettles national memory. In turn, melancholic sites and messy, contested memories pose a fundamental challenge to any universalizing, cohesive narrative of national identity. Recent developments in the garden, however, have pushed back against melancholia, attempting to impose a singular meaning on the site. This paper considers three twenty-first-century interventions in particular: the installation of a permanent sculpture exhibition outside the Tunisian Pavilion in 2001; the restoration of the Indochinese Pavilion as an exhibition space in 2011; and the renovation of the Tunisian Pavilion as a restaurant in 2020. Drawing from Actor-Network Theory, this paper analyses all three interventions as acts of translation that alternately attempt to impose a singular meaning on the garden and enrich to its multilayered form. In each case, despite the intentions of human actants, the garden’s uneasy multivocality has endured. Amidst conflicting and overlapping narratives, the garden haunts post-imperial Paris and undermines its attempts to consign empire to the past.
Panel 3: BD / Graphic realms of memory
- Michelle Bumatay (Florida State University), Petite histoire des colonies françaises: Little Comics Speak Volumes
This paper is submitted as part of a panel I have organized entitled, “Bande Dessinée and/as Memory, Archive, History,” that brings together inquiries into the role of French-language comics (bandes dessinées) as sites of historiography. The panel investigates the increasing recognition and adoption of bandes dessinées as a popular and particularly elastic mode of representing stories from the past among cartoonists and historians alike. In particular, this panel grows out of the observation that many such bandes dessinées often feature either untold histories or known histories told in ways that shed new light on the past to impact opinions in the present. In both cases, France’s colonial past is presented as French history.
“¬Petite histoire des colonies françaises: Little Comics Speak Volumes”
In her preface to the collected edition of Petite histoire des colonies française (2014), French historian Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch points out that the five-volume bande dessinée is a far cry from a textbook, and yet one learns many lessons. She goes on to highlight how the joyful and bold approach crafted by Grégory Jarry and Otto T. entertains while instructing readers about sad moments from the past, moments that are nevertheless an integral part of France’s history. Indeed, the narrator quickly encapsulates the series’ ingenious balance between biting humor and calls for historic justice. The narrator, a large circle sporting a kepi and a military uniform, is an instantly recognizable and comedic caricature of Charles de Gaulle; moreover, the overly paternalistic and even conspiratorial tone of his narration highlights the hegemony downplaying colonization and decolonization common in official accounts of French history and at the same time destabilized such discourse.
Originally published from 2008-2012, Petite histoire des colonies françaises is divided into five volumes starting with French colonization in the Americas and ending with immigration in contemporary France. Each volume is a soft-backed, half-sized (8.5”x5.5”) horizontal book made up of text, stick figures, and a featured color. This playful format purposefully adds to the series’ charm to help facilitate the sociopolitical and economic critiques contained within. In fact, the fourth volume (subtitled “La Françafrique”) includes an insert explaining that on the eve of printing in Lyon at Éditions FLBLB, several individuals broke into the printing press at 2:15 am to delete a section of text central to understanding that particular volume. On the insert, the authors not only provide the destroyed text for the reader, they also ask the following question: “qui a commandité un tel acte de censure?”
This paper asks the same question and, in attempting to answer it, both situates the series within the broader context of public debates about the past in France and analyzes what the series recounts and how it does so.
- Honorine Rouiller (Florida State University), Collective Memory versus Official Memory: the discerning usage of the comics books
Dans l’Ombre de Charonne, written by Désirée and Alain Frappier and published in 2012, adapts the biographical testimony of Maryse Douek-Tripier, who, as a young woman of 17 years old, decided to protest with her friends against fascism and for peace in Algeria. The demonstration happened around métro Charonne on February 8th, 1962, a date that would become part of the history between France and Algeria. At the end of the night, protestors got stuck in the stairs of the metro, including Maryse, while policemen were hitting the bodies in front of them, just like the Paris massacre of 1961. In the preface of the bande dessinée, Benjamin Stora—historian and specialist of the Algerian history—explains that the extreme violence resulted in nine deaths and 250 wounded. In December 2010, Désirée Frappier, a journalist who has known Maryse for a long time, mentioned a possible interview so that Maryse could testify about her experience for a future publication. Maryse declined. Was she scared to arouse the aftereffects of this traumatic night? Did she feel uncomfortable being the spotlight of a dreadful event that gathered thousands of people? In April 2011, Désirée received a text. Maryse was at the hospital because she needed an emergency surgery: she almost lost sight in her right eye. She told Désirée that, before the surgery, she took a sedative drug which left her in a daze. In a blurry fashion, she started to see Charonne, the police violence, her fall in the stairs, the dead. When she woke up, she felt the urge to tell her side of the story, as a survivor and not a heroin. Maryse was finally ready to testify.
Literary scholar Marianne Hirsh describes Art Spieglman’s groundbreaking graphic novel Maus (1973) as a site of remembrance, what Pierre Nora has termed lieux de mémoire, regarding the Holocaust history. In Nora's words, "A lieu de mémoire is any significant entity, whether material or non-material in nature, which by dint of human will or the work of time has become a symbolic element of the memorial heritage of any community” (22). It has the function to “block the work of forgetting” and may refer to any concepts vested with historical significance in the popular collective memory, such as the Holocaust during World War II or the event of February 8th, 1962. In Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in Modern France, the authors dedicate a chapter to October 17th, 1961, but nothing regarding February 8th, 1962. Why did forgetfulness embed itself, about Charonne?
In this analysis, I argue that the Frappiers use the bande dessinée to emphasize the role of the media in framing that event, opposing and creating a tension between official memory—which I define as the official account given by the people in power—and collective memory—which corresponds to Maryse’s memory in the analyzed passage. This tension is a reflection of Maryse’s realization that the media sometimes deliberately disinform the population, favoring the image of the French government.
(Proposed panel: Bande Dessinée and/as Memory, Archive, History)
Panel 4: India/Indian Ocean
- Blake Smith (University of Chicago), Remembering Colonial Pondicherry in India's Francophone Fiction
Remembering Colonial Pondicherry in India's Francophone Fiction
Blake Smith, University of Chicago, Society of Fellows
For a period of three centuries, France was a colonial power in the Indian Subcontinent. As a range of historians and scholars of literature in France, India, the United States and elsewhere have demonstrated, this colonial presence had an important impact on French culture—and culture was in turn a means of legitimating and perpetuating colonial power. Testaments to this cultural impact include 'Indian pavillions' at France's world's fair and colonial expositions, French importations and reproductions of indiennes (dyed cotton cloth from the Subcontinent), and the rise of Paris as a center of Indology. With the end of the colonial era in 1954, the former French territories in India (les comptoirs de l'Inde) receded in metropolitan memory. Occasional references in popular culture, such as Guy Béart's song 'Chandernagore' or mystery writer Vladimir's novel La Latitude de Pondichéry are hardly visible in comparison to the intense, varied and enormous post-colonial cultural production concerning Algeria and Indochina.
In post-colonial India, too, there is apparently little memory of France's colonial presence. While the writer M. Mukundan's Malayalam-language novel On the Shores of the Mayyazhi, an account of the anti-colonial struggle in the French colony of Mahé, was an international success, India's francophone writers have long eschewed issues of politics and remembrance. India has been a site of literary production in French since the nineteenth century, and most of its francophone writers have used French as a vehicle for poetry and short stories focusing on the lyric expression of emotions or scenes of everyday life. Only since the beginning of the twenty-first century have a handful of francophone writers from India begun to give voice to memories of the colonial period.
This paper will explore sites of memory in two historical novels, both set in mid-twentieth century Pondicherry, the largest of France's former colonies in India: Ari Gautier's 2017 Le Thinnai and K. Madavane's unpublished Le Tigre de Pondichéry (I am the English translator of both of these novels, as well as K. Madavane's collection of short stories Mourir à Bénarès). It will build on my recently published article in Esprit Créateur examining the role of translingual practices in Gautier and Madavane's work (this was the first and thus far only English-language article on India's francophone fiction). It will ask what places and events in Pondicherry's history are central to Gautier and Madavane's practices of literary memory—and why it is only in the twenty-first century, three generations after the end of the colonial era, that literary production of this kind is beginning to appear.
- Shanaaz Mohammed (Davidson College), The Aapravasi Ghat: A postcolonial site of (dis)unity
In Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in Modern France (2020), the editors invite reflections on postcolonial lieux de mémoire in the broader Francosphere that extend and diversify the collection’s scope. This paper responds to this appeal through its examination of the Aapravasi Ghat, a nineteenth century immigration depot located in Mauritius. Established in 1849, the Aapravasi Ghat received and recorded incoming and outgoing indentured laborers who came primarily from India, but also from China and Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations either in Mauritius or other European colonies across the Atlantic. Following the end of the indenture period, the site fell out of formal use but eventually reemerged in national discourse in post-independent Mauritius as a site symbolic of South Asian diasporic memory. In addition to its local recognition as a national monument, the Aapravasi Ghat gained international prestige when it was added to the World Heritage List (WHL) in 2006. Its conflation with the South Asian diaspora’s experience inevitably eschews the complexity of the history of indenture and the ethnic diversity of indentured laborers. In this paper, I examine UNESCO WHL nomination reports and committee documents to highlight that the Aapravasi Ghat was constructed as a site that privileged the Mauritian South Asian diaspora and projected the indentured experience as exclusively involving South Asians. I additionally consider the various layers of representation and categorizations that embolden its singular association. These constructions constitute a missed opportunity to engage the diverse layers of the system of indenture and extract the unificatory potential of this site. I ultimately contend that a reconsideration of this site’s history allows for the emergence of a postcolonial memory that re-envisions the Aapravasi Ghat as a site that connects rather than disconnects peoples across racial, historical, and cultural divides.
- Silvia Baage (The Catholic University of America), Cette petite île s'appelle Mozambique : A forgotten ecotone in the Indian Ocean
The island of Mozambique is located in the northern part of the former Portuguese colony Mozambique that claimed its independence in 1975 after five centuries of Portuguese domination. In her 2016 French publication, Cette petite île qui s'appelle Mozambique, Portuguese native Jordane Bertrand classifies the island of Mozambique as one of the strings of African islands that include « Madère, l'archipel du Cap-Vert, São Tomé-et-Príncipe, Sainte-Hélène que les navigateurs portugais [...] avaient collectées tout autour de l'Afrique pour paver leurs exploits maritimes » (17). Bertrand's narrative strategically insists on the complex geo-political past of this island confetti in the Indian Ocean that has functioned as a stepping-stone for colonizers, merchants, and explorers alike. Despite its exiguity, the island of Mozambique has become an important intersection of multiple cultures that manifest themselves through their cultural practices and material heritage. However, its involvement in slave trade, the consequences of a 20 year civil war, as well as its socio-economic precariousness cast a shadow on its glorious past and reveal the vulnerability of an island that has not received much attention in Postcolonial Francophone Studies or studies about the Indian Ocean.
Although declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991, the island of Mozambique can be considered a complex geo-cultural ecotone where both water and vegetation remain sparse and where the compliance with UNESCO standards for the maintenance of cultural and natural heritage continues to be challenging. I posit that Bertrand's representation of Portuguese colonialism in the Indian Ocean is an important contribution to our analysis postcolonial realms of memory which recently have been extended to other sites in France and the so-called outre-mer. Building on Arnold, Duboinm, and Misrahi-Barak's recent edited volume on Borders and Eoctones in the Indian Ocean (2020), as well as Lionnet and Shih's vertical approach to binary power relations through the concept of minor transnationalism, I argue that the island of Mozambique is a neglected realm of postcolonial memory in the Indian Ocean. A postcolonial ecotone, it functions as a complex contact zone in which multi-directional movement patterns reflect past and present instabilities and tensions. These tensions include the preservation of cultural practices, material heritage, and nature (that is, the ocean) and make visible the mobility and migration of dominant (Portuguese and French) and minor people (Comoros and Zanzibar) that deserve more attention.
Panel 5: 17 October 1961 / the Seine as realm of memory
- Seth Graebner (Washington University in St. Louis), Remembering 17 October 1961: The Function of a Postcolonial lieu de mémoire
The massacre of 17 October 1961 in Paris has become both a set of lieux de mémoire for North Africans in diaspora and a lieu commun in French postcolonial studies, as Michel Laronde’s article in Postcolonial Realms of Memory attests. By the most reliable estimate, police under Maurice Papon killed at least two to three hundred in the bloodiest repression of a peacetime demonstration in western Europe in the twentieth century. The return of this event to public memory and its construction as lieu de me̓moire has had a continued cost for postcolonial memory in France. Putting up plaques to groups of victims has effaced the names of individual ones. In addition, I will argue that the present constitution of the massacre as a sort of abstract morality play has combined with the continued obstruction of meaningful access to French archives relate to the Algerian war, to prevent the French from seeing the massacre as an essential early moment in the process of installing in the metropole the techniques of the colonial regime, the results of which we have seen in police operations in certain banlieues ever since. These factors have also impeded the link of individuals’ memories to the collective lieu de me̓moire, and thereby prevented it from fully functioning. In these circumstances, the very possibility of a lieu de mémoire “working” for postcolonial subjects seems questionable. To the extent that this one can work, it appears to do so most clearly in literature, as several novels by Leila Sebbar and others attempt, more or less successfully, to show characters making the link between personal or familial recollections and the collective memory of the events. Whether this is possible for members of the North African diaspora remains to be seen.
- Chadia Chambers-Samadi (Hawai'i Pacific University), De l'évenement au monument: Comment le massacre du 17 Octobre 1961 est devenu un Lieu de Memoire Collective?
Dans le travail de reconstitution de la Mémoire du massacre des Algériens à Paris le 17 Octobre 1961 le livre Archéologie du Savoir de Michel Foucault , paru en 1969 chez Gallimard offre un cadre théorique essentiel. En introduction, Foucault remet en question l’idée selon laquelle en Histoire seules les « longues périodes » sont à privilégier, afin de faire transparaitre une histoire nationale qui s’articulerait dans la durée. La constance est donc nécessaire pour mettre en perspective une succession de mouvements. Aussi Foucault rappelle-t-il que cette volonté de périodisation tend à créer des liens logiques entre différents évènements isolés pour les inscrire dans une même mouvance. L’analyse de Foucault met en valeur une périodicité qui privilégie certains évènements historiques par rapport à d’autres, une « hiérarchisation », qui cherche à créer de « vastes unités » (Archéologie 10). Comme Foucault le décrit, il s’agit ici de mettre en relation et en question le document, le texte :
Le document n’est pas l’heureux instrument d’une histoire qui serait en elle-même et de plein droit mémoire ; l’histoire c’est une certaine manière pour une société de donner statut et élaboration à une masse de documents dont elle ne se sépare pas. […]L’histoire c’est ce qui transforme les documents en monuments, et qui, là où on déchiffrait des traces laissées par les hommes, là où on essayait de reconnaitre en creux ce qu’ils avaient été, déploie une masse d’éléments qu’il s’agit d’isoler, de grouper de rendre pertinents, de mettre en relation, de constituer en ensembles. (Archéologie 13).
Dans le cas du 17 Octobre 1961, il y a une double préoccupation qui se profile : Comment inscrire le 17 Octobre dans la continuité, celle du racisme français et du crime d’état raciste, tout en actualisant les spécificités d’un évènement qui peut se présenter comme une rupture et un moment clé dans la compréhension de l’attitude de la France face à la perte de son empire colonial. Sachant que beaucoup d’archives ont été maquillées ou supprimées, On propose ici de répertorier et d’analyser comment le témoignage oral, écrit ou visuel ont permis à l’évènement de ne pas tomber dans l’effacement et l’oubli et ont permis à cet évènement historique de devenir un lieu de mémoire collective ou pour revenir à Foucault comment cet évènement est devenu un monument. Qui s’apparente à un lieu de mémoire collective pour les Français d’origine maghrébine.
- Blair Watson (Santa Clara University), Inextricable Traces: The Seine as a “non-lieu de mémoire”
In Leïla Sebbar’s 1999 novel La Seine était rouge, the narration moves between past and present, between the era of colonization and that of, temporally, post-colonialism. The events of October 17, 1961, in which, during a peaceful protest for the Algerian war of independence, Parisian police drowned Algerians in the Seine river, flow in and out of the narrative present. In this present, Algerians in 1990’s Paris reflect on an Algeria once again at war, between the FLN and Islamist radicalists.
Sebbar’s textual references to the title – to the Seine washing away any trace of the murdered Algerians’ blood – move like the tide, both erasing the presence of what once was there, and returning to remind us of its continued existence. The river became inextricably imbrued with Algerian blood, even as it diluted (and therefore cleansed itself of) said blood. Yet the Seine remains, even after, to paraphrase Sebbar, it rejects the massacred Algerians, thereby negating proof of the massacre. The Seine is thus, paradoxically, a site of memory that cannot be one as it wiped away the evidence of the memory.
The Seine’s enduring presence haunts the Algerians still living in Paris; they want to forget the past, telling their children yearning to know that the time is not right. However, past and present, colonial and post-colonial, blur into each other precisely because of the paradoxically stained river. As past inundates present, the novel suggests that, without a reckoning, the bloodstain saturates even deeper the present, which overflows with a violence that persists, demands to be seen. It is through this willingly unseen violence that Sebbar connects the postcolonial with the forms of neo-colonial violence waging in 1990’s Algeria. In other words, in order for decolonize the present, the (in)visible traces of the colonial must be seen and remembered.
It is the children who do see and begin to challenge the enduring colonial presence. These post-colonial children further entangle past and present, colonial and post-colonial: they wander through Paris, spray-painting beside or over “plaques” that commemorate French heroism. They memorialize their side of history – Algerian sacrifices, deaths, and revolutionaries –, the writing covering, blending with, and seeping into the French commemorations. The children recognize that the colonial and the post-colonial are inextricable from each other, and that something of their postcolonial writing will remain corroding the colonial, even once the spray-paint has been removed. With the Seine as a paradoxical absence of a “lieu de mémoire,” the next generation creates their own indelible traces.
Panel 6: Caribbean
- Rachel Douglas (University of Glasgow), Post/colonial Caribbean Sites and Symbols of Memory: Aimé Césaire, CLR James and John La Rose
This article widens the scope of Pierre Nora’s concept of lieux de mémoire to look at intersections of Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean sites of memory. Here the focus will be on influential Caribbean books by Aimé Césaire, CLR James and John La Rose as sites of memory, as well as looking at monuments, including James’s book-shaped tombstone in Tunapuna, Trinidad. The focus will be on James and La Rose’s creative translations of Césaire’s foundational Caribbean poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939), including James’s extensive commentary on, and translation of, the poem in the 1963 appendix ‘From Toussaint Louverture to Fidel Castro’, added to The Black Jacobins (1938). This article is also based upon archival research on collections of John La Rose and James’s papers in London, New York and the Caribbean. When putting James and La Rose’s free translations of Césaire’s Cahier into dialogue, we need to decolonize Nora’s approach to French national identity as eternal and unchanging. By focusing on dynamic transformative practices of translating and rewriting, the article turns to Caribbean cultural identity via Stuart Hall. Both James and La Rose use Césaire’s poem to plot key signposts along the road to Caribbean identity, showing that it is always a matter of ‘becoming’ involving constant transformation. Post/colonial sites of memory, this article argues, can be conceptualized as a palimpsest. Palimpsests will be shown to connect all versions of Césaire’s Cahier, James’s The Black Jacobins, and La Rose’s writings to important memorial sites: their tombstones. According to James, the history’s ‘foundation would remain imperishable’ with new writing being superimposed on top of vestiges of previous writing. This never-ending process of creative translation and rewriting can be visualized as the always open-book tombstone in Tunapuna, Trinidad memorializing James as man of letters. Their work will be put in dialogue with the important Haitian survival technique of rasanblajthe process of re/assembly articulated by Gina Athena Ulysse’s post-earthquake call for ‘new narratives’ for Haiti. These Caribbean foundational works weave, the article argues, palimpsestual multilayered rasanblaj.
- Christopher Bonner (Texas A&M University) , Poetic Alignments in Postcolonial Studies : The Césaire-Depestre Debate as lieu de mémoire and lieu d’oubli
The 1955 literary querelle between Aimé Césaire and René Depestre surrounding the politics of poetry, known by shorthand as the Césaire-Depestre debate, has become an important lieu de mémoire within Francophone postcolonial studies. The debate began with a damning intervention by Césaire, published in Présence Africaine, against Depestre’s professed alignment with the formula of poésie nationale, as laid out by French Communist Party scribe Louis Aragon. While Aragon intended poésie nationale as a call to French poets to turn towards traditional popular poetic forms and abandon the “formal individualism” of the avant-garde, Césaire condemned Depestre’s adoption of this view as mechanistic, reducing the poem to a “moulin à passer de la canne à sucre.” The Césaire-Depestre debate is remembered today, almost unanimously, as a triumph of free, decolonized literary expression (Césaire) against dogmatism and assimilationism (Depestre): the critical consensus is that Césaire liberated Depestre from the aesthetic and political dead end of Louis Aragon’s Stalinist literary prescriptions.
This paper proposes to reconsider the Césaire-Depestre debate by situating this exchange within the context of the global cultural Cold War. It argues, furthermore, that this often underestimated geopolitical context is crucial to understanding its function as a postcolonial lieu de mémoire. Simultaneously Francophone, black, post/colonial, and Marxist, Depestre and Césaire were situated at the intersection of several distinct but interrelated paradigms of Cold War geopolitical alignment. I therefore read the key texts of this debate as a specific instance of a broader Cold War era debate between modernism and realism that includes figures from all three Cold War “worlds.”
This expanded geopolitical context allows us to consider the ideological currents that underpin why this debate is remembered as it is in postcolonial studies, as well as what has had to be forgotten in order for it to function as a postcolonial lieu de mémoire. More specifically, I argue that the generally accepted way of remembering this debate depends on forgetting – on rendering unthinkable – Depestre’s own communist politico-aesthetic project in aligning with Aragon’s poésie nationale. By treating the Césaire-Depestre debate as encapsulating a more complicated set of conceptual problems concerning the politics of literature in a Cold War context, I shed light upon ways in which postcolonial memory and forgetting may be inheritances of this geopolitical conflict.
- Thabett Ouali (Faculty of Human and Social Sciences of Tunis), The Unknown Soldier of the 21st century
Drawing on archives, war veterans’ correspondences and other sources, contemporary fiction commemorating the 1914-1918 War seems to be a rehabilitation of all the soldiers that History has ignored and marginalized. This would allow us to interpret this national framework differently, away from its colonialist dimension in order to introduce with a racial or ethnic spirit.
In the present paper, we will consider modes and forms of commemoration of the Great War by examining a contemporary novel, Raphaël Confiant’s Le Bataillon créole (The Creole Battalion) . We will try to understand the importance and the modus operandi of these commemorative acts, which are placed at the heart of the narrative, and which justify such novelistic writing. In choosing a francophone novel, we will attempt to analyze the relations that France had with her colonies during the Great War by unveiling the symbolism of these commemorations.
We will begin with a detailed examination of these commemorative modes in this novel in order to establish this colonialist and oppressive vision of WWI. While France celebrates its Unknown Soldier, a new postcolonial nationalism is born. It's most significant expression is this identity quest/reconquest that is fostered by the context of this global conflict. The paper will conclude with a reflection on the linguistic tool that purports to be the weapon of this return to order.
Raphael Confiant, Le Bataillon Créole, Paris, Mercure de France, 2013
Panel 7: Film, Theater, Literature
- Chelsea Elzinga (Stanford University), La Trace-mémoires in Three 21st-century Postcolonial Novels
When Patrick Chamoiseau asks, “Comment écrire, dominé?” we hear the echo of his question resonate across the history of Francophone literature. As is often argued, we may better comprehend that which has been dissimulated in official history through the imagined worlds of fiction written by otherwise silenced voices. Chamoiseau emphasizes poetic methods of interrogating the links between literature, history, and memory in the face of such effacement through the figure of the Trace-mémoire. This presentation takes the figure of the Trace-mémoire as it is described in Chamoiseau’s poetic essay, Ecrire en pays dominé (1997) as its theoretical framework. According to Chamoiseau, la Trace is a concrete mark found in the sensorial world. Les mémoires (always pluralized) inhabit la Trace and radiate from an immaterial presence offered to emotion. The association of these two elements (that is, of la Trace and les mémoires) creates a noeud de mémoire that this paper seeks to explore through a close-reading of three novels written by authors who memorialize different realms of the postcolonial Francophère in ways that respond to Chamoiseau’s reverberating question, while also moving us far beyond it. Fatou Diome’s Le Ventre de l’Atlantique (2003), Anna Moï’s Riz noir (2004) and Maryse Condé’s Victoire, les saveurs et les mots (2006) complicate the conversation around the conflation of history and memory, disrupt the dialectic between center and periphery, and defy the hierarchy between le souvenir and l’oubli which are so present in the discourse today around lieux de mémoires. Indeed, l’oubli is, in each of these novels, at once a friend and an enemy; a knotted thread of the Trace-mémoires. In the dynamic of multidirectional memory, we can understand Francophone literature as a space that approaches memory and history in a manner that is both dubious and open. What I plan to bring to this conversation about literature of the Francoshère and its relationship to history as well as to memory, is an attention to narrative strategies and stylistic literary figures that evoke the Trace-mémoires. Where are the Trace-mémoires and how do they function in these three emblematic works? We will discover in these early 21st-century novels a close proximity between memory and the senses that require further exploration. It involves underscoring a method of reading and writing where the imagination engages with history in order to create knots of memory that represent immaterial models of representation, escaping any fixed grip or gaze. These novels take up the task of being témoins de trajectoires perdues as Chamoiseau evokes, but their authors also insist on writing as a productive intersection where the text and the body find themselves in and through emancipatory expression.
- Xinyi Wang (University of Cambridge), Rethinking Space and Memory in Hiroshima mon amour
Space in Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour, explored in Nevers and Hiroshima, more than mise-en-scène, constitutes the characters’ memory and subjectivity. The intervention of memories blurs the boundaries of the actual and virtual, allotting the same importance to each temporalization. Sharing one thing: trauma. Hiroshima becomes a triggering space to evoke the French protagonist’s memories in Nevers, completing her subjectivity. The recognition of space no longer being constrained in memories but existing alongside the characters and shaping their subjectivities opens the possibility of space autonomously existing in the film. Starting from Deleuze’s reading of the film that the coexistence of Nevers and Hiroshima is a simultaneity of presents, Giuliana Bruno’s highlighting of the cartographic mobilization of film can be seen as an expansion from Deleuze’s investigation of time to space, indicating the corporeal and haptic reality in filmic space. Moreover, when Elle’s memories of Nevers intersect with her journey in Hiroshima, there forms a tension between memory (narrative) and space (image). Martin Lefebvre’s study of landscape is useful here to reveals the presentation of space as a deviation of narrative in Hiroshima mon amour, allowing the autonomy of space from spectatorship, without suggesting any hierarchy or sequence of spectacles, thus forming a coexistence of different spaces, which I would call ‘syntopy’. Not being tied to the mind and body of the French protagonist, space – the images of locations in Japan – detaches from relation, history and identity, which renders any location, in Marc Augé’s term, a ‘non-lieu’. The scene in train station merits a close reading showing the fragmented space in layers of meaning imposed by different passengers, also embodying a modern ‘Tower of Babel’. It offers a dialogue between traumatic postwar Japanese memories, French collective opinion about the war and the French woman’s personal memory, resulting in rethinking ‘Hiroshima’ as a transportation port, a nameless site of multiple encounters, which allows us to trace back to the history in a post-colonial and anti-Eurocentric perspective.
- Leslie Barnes (Australian National University), The White Building
Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building was a key piece in the mid-century transformation of the city’s urban landscape. It was completed in 1963, a decade after King Norodom Sihanouk’s successful negotiation of independence from France, which preceded the Geneva Accords by six months. The low-income housing development was an exemplar of the New Khmer architecture that went up alongside existing French colonial buildings, including the Marché central de Phnom Penh and George Groslier’s Musée du Cambodge, both still standing today. The White Building combined elements of international modernism and vernacular tradition in a progressive social experiment that embodied Sihanouk’s vision for a sovereign Cambodia.
Designed by the Russian engineer Vladimir Bodiansky, and built by a team of Cambodian architects lead by Lu Ban Hap, the now demolished White Building may seem an unusual site of memory for contemporary France. Indeed, in responding to the persistent marginalization of French Indochina in Nora’s volumes, in French collective memory, and, as the editors acknowledge, in the Postcolonial Realms of Memory published last year, there is much to be said about other, more visible sites. One might take up Perry Anderson’s call to remember Diện Biện Phủ, for example, or return to Banteay Srei, the Angkor temple that set André Malraux on his path to the Goncourt and later, De Gaulle’s ministerial cabinet.
But the White Building – even in its absence – offers a unique prism through which an ever-accelerating history is momentarily slowed, turned aside from its straight course, and from which it emerges as refracted memory. Like a beam of light bends and disperses as it passes through glass, one national narrative gives way to multiple, transnational stories. This paper will trace the arcs of these different stories, weaving together through urban space the trajectories of
-the Russian born legionnaire who collaborated with Le Corbusier in France and colonial North Africa;
-the cinematic fascination for the building (in films by the French-educated Sihanouk, the French-trained Rithy Panh, and the new generation of Cambodian filmmakers);
-the traumatic histories of genocide and global capital to which the building stood witness.
The aim in proposing the White Building as a lieu de mémoire is to foreground a set of visible and invisible points of intersection between France and its former colonies, uncovering evacuated traces of empire in the geographically and temporally wider Francosphere.
- Clare Finburgh Dellijani (Goldsmiths, University of London), The Colonial Making of Contemporary French Theatre
The Molière theatre awards, 2016. To ensure the smooth running of the evening, the host, comedian Alex Lutz, came up with a plan which was met with gales of laughter from the live audience of 1000, and no doubt from the television audience of a million. Each time an award recipient exceeded the two minutes allotted for their acceptance speech, a man on a Segway zoomed up to the podium and tickled them. Towering over the guests at a height of at least two meters and wearing a black suit and shiny tie, Lutz’s happy henchman was presented as a grotesque cross between a muscle-bound nightclub bouncer, and a mute buffoon. Lutz reassured the audience: “He won’t smash their faces in. He’ll just give them a little prod and a poke (touchis, touchas)...” On an evening when every one of the eighty-six nominees except one – comedian and writer Sophia Aram – was white, and when the audience of producers, casting directors, agents and reality stars was also almost exclusively white, Touchi Toucha, as he was nicknamed, was a Black man. Second, that evening as the nominees and their guests had filed along the red carpet into the Folies Bergères, a demonstration led by the group Décoloniser les arts protested about the “monochrome” nature of French theatre.
This paper examines the part played by the colonial in the making of contemporary French theatre. It examines the political, linguistic and artistic reasons for the lack of diversity within theatre institutions, when France is one of the most multicultural and multi-faith countries in the world. While Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in Modern France and other equally ground-breaking and significant publications like Francophone Postcolonial Studies constitute major intellectual interventions, they tend to omit discussion of theatre, a critical gap that my current research seeks to address. Further diversifying and consolidating the important work performed by Postcolonial Realms of Memory, I examine the pervasive exclusion from contemporary acting, directing, playwriting or theatre spectating in France, of voices from the nation’s former colonies.
I argue that there is an intimate relationship between French theatre, the French language, and exclusion. The vector with which the French republic communicates itself, is the French language. Upon acceding to power in 1789, the Jacobins outlawed regional languages, standardising and institutionalising French in every area of public life both in France itself, and later, across its colonies. In the words of Christiane Albert, specialist in French migrant literature, this linguistic standardisation, supposedly intended to bring universal republican values to all citizens, makes immigrant or post-migrant communities feel ‘culturally excluded from the mastery of the beautiful French language’. French theatrical language thus becomes a lieu de mémoire in the terms of Pierre Nora: a ‘site’ that preserves French heritage and Frenchness through the preservation of a singular notion of language. Concurrently, I examine a number of contemporary post-migrant playwrights, notably Nasser Djemaï and Léonora Miano, who contest France’s collective national memory and history by staging its colonial past, and the related social and racial injustices that persists today.
Panel 8: Shantytowns/bidonvilles
- Patrick Lyons (University of California, Berkeley), Staging Disappearance: retrieving memory of the Nanterre bidonvilles
Staging Disappearance: retrieving memory of the Nanterre bidonvilles
To Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in the Modern Francosphere, I propose a paper presenting the ‘La Folie’ bidonville in Nanterre as an effaced lieu de mémoire and a key site for studying both the domestic colonial management of immigrant populations in mid-20th century France and the forms of resistance and defense that emerged out the bidonvilles to combat the efforts of the French police.
The ‘La folie’ shantytown complex existed in some form from the early 1950’s until it was finally bulldozed in the early 1970’s to make way for new housing developments. At its peak, it housed over 10,000 individuals, the majority of them Algerian immigrants solicited as unskilled labor by the French government and private industry to rebuild a broken, Post-War France.
As demonstrated in a recent urban study by the Funambulist, no commemorative monument stands at the site where ‘La Folie’ existed for nearly 20 years. Despite providing housing for both an indispensable (and highly exploited) immigrant workforce during reconstruction and key cells of the FLN during the Algerian War, ‘La Folie’ does not figure into Pierre Nora’s Lieux de mémoire and would provide a key study of domestic colonial violence and immigrant resistance to Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols of Modern France.
The paper briefly reconstructs the history of the “La Folie” bidonville, foregrounding the contradiction between its role as informal housing for immigrant workers during reconstruction and simultaneous destruction by the “Brigade Z,” a specialized police force created in 1961 under Maurice Papon to prevent expansions or renovations to the bidonvilles. I then consider 2 creative works, one memoir and one film, which reconstruct the memory of ‘La Folie’ outside of official historical discourses, with a particular attention to their recreation of the bidonville’s destruction by the Brigade Z and the French state. Brahim Benaïcha’s memoir Vivre au paradis: d’une oasis à un bidonville (1992) and Rachid Bouchareb’s Hors la loi (2010) both present the Nanterre bidonvilles as key sites of immigrant sociality, political organizing, and domestic colonial policing. Through these works I consider how creative reconstructions of the bidonvilles’ erasure may serve to both reinstitute them as lieux de mémoire, as well as to situate them within a longer lineage of the French state’s neo-colonial policing of informal immigrant communities that continues to this day.
- Vanessa Brutsche (University of Utah), The bidonville as lieu de mémoire: from Site to Symbol in Postwar France
This paper addresses the bidonvilles, the vast shantytowns inhabited by immigrant and working-class populations in and around urban centers in the postwar period, as a postcolonial lieu de mémoire. I will address the bidonville as an inherently transnational and hybrid memorial space that visibly connects the colonial to the metropolitan. While the construction of informal, illegal or semi-legal settlements by marginal populations is by no means a historically new phenomenon, the notion of the bidonville in the French collective imaginary exists within historical and geographical parameters that reveal spatial, political, and memorial connections between France and its former colonies.
The term “bidonville” originated in the 1930s in colonial North Africa (Morocco, followed by Algeria). The French government first acknowledged the bidonvilles in mainland France in the context of the housing crisis in the early 1950s, and declared them eradicated by the early 1970s, at which point they had been razed and their populations relocated into low-income housing projects. The term “bidonville” itself thus ‘migrates’ to metropolitan France along with the legions of Algerian workers and families who arrived in the 1950s and ‘60s.
I will examine canonical literary representations of the bidonvilles (such as those found in Driss Chraïbi, Les Boucs  and Azouz Begag, Le gone du Chaâba ), in dialogue with more recent depictions in bande dessinée (Laurent Maffre, Demain Demain: Nanterre, bidonville de la Folie, 1962-1966 ), cinema (Rachid Bouchareb, Hors-la-loi ), and literature (Leïlla Sebbar, La Seine était rouge  and Mehdi Charef, Rue des Pâquerettes ). Placing this corpus of artistic representations of bidonvilles in contrast with media coverage from the peak period of their existence in metropolitan France (1950s-70s), I will trace evolutions, continuities and discontinuities in the collective memory of the bidonvilles.
I will argue that the ephemerality of the bidonville, both as informal construction and as now-demolished sites, are essential to its conception in the cultural imaginary. In official discourse, the bidonville appears as a shocking trace of either the colonial world or of the nation’s past, which conflicts with France’s ascent to postwar modernity, and thus must be replaced with modern housing solutions (such as the HLMs). However, this is contrasted with the forms of community, creativity, and collective care that can be found in certain depictions by former residents of bidonvilles. This paper will evaluate the centrality of concepts like trace, ephemerality, and disappearance to the cultural memory of the postwar French bidonvilles, while foregrounding their representation as sites of resistance and community.
- Eric Prieto (University of California, Santa Barbara), The informal settlement as Lieu de mémoire in Rouch and Mambéty
A shanty town, bidonville, or villa miseria would seem to make for an unlikely lieu de mémoire. Informal settlements are inherently evanescent places, and typically go unmarked on official maps. But informal urbanism has been such a recurrent feature of the processes of colonization, decolonization, and postcolonial development, both within France and its former colonies, that the informal settlement as a mode of human habitation has taken on an emblematic status in need of memorialization. One need only think of the archetypal colonial shantytowns evoked in Fanon's Damnés de la terre, the bidonvilles that grew up in and around Paris's major cities in the 1950s and 60s, the postcolonial urban landscapes evoked in Mike Davis's Planet of Slums, or the current generation of migratory bidonvilles and Jungles across France’s cities to realize how persistent a feature of colonial, postcolonial, and neocolonial relations the informal settlement is.
But how does one go about memorializing a phenomenon so inherently ephemeral and so systematically under-represented in France’s public and institutional memory? And how does one do so without indulging in either dystopian mythologizations of human misery or Panglossian mythologizations of the indomitable spirit of the oppressed? This paper addresses such questions by examining two works that focus on the social production of place in the informal city: Jean Rouch’s Moi un noir (1958), a cinéma vérité piece on Abidjan’s Treichville district, and Djibril Diop Mambéty’s La petite vendeuse de Soleil (1999), which is dedicated to the street children of Dakar. Both films seek to memorialize specific places at a specific point in time by honoring the lives of the people who live there. But they also endow their subjects with paradigmatic value, and, in so doing, offer valuable insights into the ways people transform space into place through their daily struggles.
By examining these films in light of AbdouMaliq Simone’s notion of people as infrastructure, I seek to show that the success of these films as memorializations of the informal city is in large part due to the deeper understanding of the social dynamics of urban informality that they make possible. Beyond the thematics of urban informality, these films share a number of remarkable formal features. The episodic, semi-improvised structure of these films, combined with their prominent use of local residents, location shooting, and found elements, as well as their often rough production values, and their refusal of tidy conclusions and easily articulated messages, make them singularly able to communicate a sense of the precarious day-to-day realities of life in the informal city, as well as the DIY strategies, shifting networks of alliances, opportunistic entrepreneurialism, and exploitation of the grey zones between legality and illegality that are so crucial to survival in the informal economy.
Panel 9: Realms of memory in Central and West Africa
- Rosa De Jorio (University of North Florida), Remembering and Reconfiguring the Institution of Marriage in Postcolonial French West Africa
As independence from French colonial rule in West Africa was approaching, the woman’s question became an increasingly prominent issue for the emerging governments, particularly given the limited gains women had attained in the fields of education, employment, and political and legal rights under the French colonial administration. The improvement of women’s socioeconomic conditions was an area that the French had been reluctant to address for fear of antagonizing important local and regional constituencies. The very limited changes had come in the form of less binding decrees whose application was only encouraged among the urban and literate elites but not enforced.
At the same time, mostly (but not only) educated African women were ramping up their political participation, and not just by entering party organizations that were led by men. They created their own local and regional organizations centered on the improvement of women’s rights, which they did not see as sufficiently foregrounded by male-dominated party organizations. These women’s groups received support from a variety of entities, including not only late institutional developments of the colonial administration such as Social Services but also Catholic organizations, international trade unions, and international women’s organizations.
A large part of the women’s effort was geared towards the analysis of women’s subordination and its causes, which led them to prioritize the development of family codes. These codes were intended to offer women greater protections against early marriages, lack of consent, and the uncertainty of marriage arrangements. Foremost among the many changes women sought to promote (besides the end of polygamy) was the codification of marriage transactions. In the present paper, I will discuss the institution of bridewealth (a particular type of marriage transaction) as a site of friction between competing ideas of marriage and the family, as reflected in the writing of colonial administrators and missionaries. In the immediate post-independence society, such discussions became a space from which both men and women politicians and activists began to reconsider African kinship institutions and to recognize their specific values and unique practices. This led them to ultimately reject the victimization of African women, as typified by colonial propaganda. In this presentation, I will discuss bridewealth (often referred to as la dot or dowry in the literature of the time) as a site for the articulation of new solutions between cultural appropriation and the pursuit of a women’s rights agenda.
- Alioune Sow (University of Florida), Memoirs and memory in contemporary Mali
This paper focuses on Malian memoirs written by former political prisoners incarcerated in 1968, following the military coup against Modibo Keita’s socialist regime. Memoirs such as Amadou Traoré’s Le salaire des libérateurs, Samaké’s Le chemin de l’honneur and Sangaré’s Dix ans au bagne mouroir, were published after the democratic political transition of 1991, at a time when under the aegis of the state, the country examined its contentious past and its violent history in an attempt to address national reconciliation and reach a consensus on its own “lieux de mémoire”.
The paper argues that these texts, mainly dedicated to the experience of prison of their authors, assume critical importance as they question any simple “tale of two memories”. By bringing to view forgotten or dismissed stories of repression, persecution and confinement, the memoirs allow their authors to participate in the conversation about the national history, disrupting the official discourses on the past and disputing some of the processes of national reconciliation promoted since the transition of 1991. At the same time, the memoirs are greeted with prudence and sometimes skepticism, as they tell the stories of those who served Modibo Keita’s contested and repressive socialist regime.
The main concern of the paper is to show how the authors anticipated some of these tensions and tried to negotiate them. In the first part of the paper, I will examine the distinctive modes of enunciation, persuasion and justification adopted by the authors. The second part will focus on the ways in which the memoirists attempted to link their narratives to other stories of political repression and incarceration outside of Mali (the French penal colonies, the Holocaust, the Apartheid). The analysis will show how these linkages and discursive interactions enabled the incorporation of the memoirs into a larger history of repression and a larger community of resistance. Finally, I will discuss whether these linkages can be interpreted as strategic protocols intended to influence the position of these narratives within Mali’s national history.
- Mureille Sandra Tiako Djomatchoua (Miami University), De l’Apologie Littéraire à la Censure Politique dans Remember Ruben (1974) de Mongo Beti
Appartenir à une nation, c’est partager une mémoire collective et commune dans laquelle se reconnaît chaque citoyen d’un pays. Cependant, entre discours politique, annales nationales, écriture et archives se créent des tensions quant à la question de la vérité sur/de l’histoire et le “socle mémoriel” de la nation camerounaise. Mongo Béti, dans Remember Ruben, écrit la mémoire du point de vue du peuple, de son expérience des combats indépendantistes et nationalistes et des figures phares qu’il reconnaît comme “Pères fondateurs de la Nation” d'où l’usage des témoignages et/ou confidences, des souvenirs, des dates et évènements historiques, et des lieux emblématiques. A contre-courant des “fanfares” du discours national, influencé et manipulé par la métropole française, usant de ses pouvoirs politico-judiciaires de répression de la parole et des individus pour s’attribuer des rôles “usurpés” et nier la contributions aux indépendances des pionniers des luttes nationalistes et anticolonialistes au sein de l’Etat Camerounais embryonnaire, Remember Ruben de part son style d’écriture véhément et anticonformiste, se présente à la fois comme un chef-d'oeuvre littéraire et comme un instrument d’activisme politique, ce qui justifie notre approche thématique et historico-politique. L’intersection histoire, politique et création offre un cadre qui nous permettra de lire la mémoire à l’aune de la censure, et d’examiner les implications et l’envers du décors de la réception “asphyxiée” de Remember Ruben. Dans quelles mesures Mongo Beti parvient-il à renverser l’ordre du discours établi en encensant la figure de Ruben? Quelle réception pour une oeuvre aussi provocatrice et véhémente? Quels sont les apports de Remember Ruben à l’écriture de la mémoire camerounaise aujourd’hui?
- Joseph Hellweg ( Florida State University), One Wedding and a Riot: Queer Marriage as a Site of Memory on the Edge of the Ivoirian Francosphere
In Abidjan today, trans women and gay men have found work in the realm of HIV, AIDS, and STD education for all the reasons that usually prevent them from finding work elsewhere: their gendered behaviors and appearances, their social networks, and their queer identities. Yet, as employees for international, health-related NGOs, their work lives are precarious. When grants end, their jobs may end too. They therefore find more enduring senses of identity within their trans and gay networks. In contrast to their work lives, these milieu remain largely private rather than public.
At the interface of these worlds lie trans and gay marriages. Many Ivoirians have defensively and preemptively read global calls for gay marriage as attacks on Ivoirian sovereignty, challenging the supposedly nostalgic “African” values of “family,” “religion,” and “tradition.” But trans women and gay men I interviewed recalled an attempted queer marriage in the Abidjan borough of Adjamé that offered a very different vision of society, as well as a critical point of view on global notions of trans and gay rights. I also use the term “queer” (altersexuel) because it encompasses both trans and gay identities, as the attempted marriage did.
The marriage in question resulted in social panic and violence. The queer participants narrowly escaped unharmed, thanks, in part, to the intervention of an elderly, Muslim, Jula-speaking woman who positioned herself between security forces and some of the participants, enabling their escape. Only the story, as told from memory—for my hearing, at least, during an interview—memorialized the event, enabling it to stand as a lesson, both positive and negative, for future queer liberation.
The mother in question allegedly appealed to the language of shared kinship rather than individual rights as grounds on which to stop the Ivoirian police from attacking participants.
Panel 10: Realms of shared memory
- Catherine Gilbert (Newcastle University), Towards a shared heritage? Rwandan remembrance in Belgium and France
This paper proposes an examination of collective memory and genocide commemoration in the Rwandan diaspora. It will focus on the forms of memorialization that have emerged among Rwandan communities in Belgium and France, paying particular attention to the use of public space in remembrance practices. As well as large public events such as annual remembrance walks that raise awareness of the Rwandan presence in Belgium and France, a number of monuments to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi have been erected at key public sites in both countries in recent years, particularly in Brussels and Paris. What does it mean for the Rwandan community to claim a public space for memorialization in the heart of former colonial powers? What challenges does this memorialization pose to dominant understandings of (post)colonial history in Belgium and France? Given Rwanda’s problematic relationship with Belgium (due to the ongoing legacies of Belgian colonial administration) and with France (due to the support of Mitterrand’s government for the genocidal regime in 1994), this paper argues that this claim to public space contributes towards the broader project of decolonising collective memory in these countries and demands a critical re-interrogation of the colonial past. Rather than a call for restitution, reparation or apology, Rwandan diasporic communities are actively seeking the recognition and integration of the Rwandan narrative into European collective memory. In so doing, they are complicating the received understanding of lieux de mémoire and shedding light on the multiple ‘entanglements’ of postcolonial collective memory and history, as well as the ongoing practices of colonial amnesia and nostalgia still operational in Belgian and French national memory. In a context where African agency remains largely marginalised in mainstream accounts of Europe’s colonial past, this analysis raises important questions about decolonising collective memory from within the former sites of colonial power and the challenges that the push for increasing visibility on French and Belgian soil poses to dominant historical narratives.
- Michaela Hulstyn ( Florida State University), Memories or Reveries? Cixous’s Algeria and the Problem of Sharing the Past
The concept of the lieu de mémoire suggests that it is possible for a nation to share a past, or at least to share the sense of one. These lieux de mémoire are easier to conceptualize when they refer to sites of memorialization, such as memorials, plaques, museums, or centers. But sharing the past as a nation in a non-material way becomes conceptually slippery, especially when sharing the past is based on communal languages, heritage, or traditions, and particularly in the postcolonial French context. Hélène Cixous explains the difficulty in this notion of sharing the past in the postcolonial Francosphere: “I was born at/from the intersection of migrations and memories from the Occident and Orient, from the North and South. I was born a foreigner in ‘France’ in a said-to-be ‘French’ Algeria. I was born in not-France calling itself ‘France.’ To tell the truth we have to trap the appearances with quotation marks.” This citation calls attention to the gap between lived experience and official history in French Algeria, between the illusion of sharing and the reality of difference that colonization imposes.
This paper explores the concept of literature as a site for memory in Cixous’s Les Rêveries de la femme sauvage (2000) by investigating in particular the way she explores themes of belonging and exclusion in relation to collective memory. Part of the task of such a work in attempting to fill in these gaps is to make the lived experience of the past present for the reader, to activate an impossible memory that is not, in fact, shared. Rather than presenting events in chronological order, Cixous’s memories of colonial Algeria in the work are organized around events or characters from her individual past that magnify in significance by this very process of remembering. The paper will draw on cognitive theories of memory (Schacter, LeDoux, Wagner) in its analysis of Cixous’s text. The paper will discuss the ways in which a work of literature like Cixous’s fills gaps in the official French historical record, especially during moments that resist collectivization (e.g. Vichy). The paper argues that as complex aesthetic objects, literature prompts readers to dive into the complexity of a shared, colonial past in ways that are categorically different than other material sites of memorialization.
- Herman Lebovics (Stony Brook University), Seeing Africa’s Future: The Restitution of Africa’s Patrimoine in French Possession
Africa’s Future on Exhibition
The Restitution of Africa’s Patrimoine in French Possession
For some decades, the CRAN has been the collective organic intellectual of a movement of French people of African heritage to return to Africa pieces of the material patrimoine in French museums. Several African states have been demanding the same. And even before he was elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to return to these objects to where they were made. In past years, many of these pieces represented the breadth of La Plus Grande France in French national museums. First shown as exotic trophies of French hegemony, after the mid-1930s the Musée de l’Homme displayed them as scientific specimens in the new field of (colonial) ethnology. They were then removed to the new museum built by Jacques Chirac, himself a collector of pieces of colonial heritages. When Emmanuel Macron took office, of the estimated 90,000 African cultural items in state possession, about 70,000 had come to the Musée du Quai Branly-Chirac. There, the aesthetically-most-prized items were installed in the darkened main exhibition space on pedestals or in glass cases and beautifully lit. Behind each piece, and running the length of the Seine side of the building, visitors saw a floor to ceiling silkscreen of a dense jungle, presumably their original African home. Ninety percent of Africa’s cultural treasures are held beyond its borders.
Now these three forces have come together to spark action. In reaction to this internal pressure and to launch a new French Africa policy, President Macron announced a state policy of restitution. Speaking to a university audience in Burkina Faso the President expressed his agreement to the right of the peoples in Africa to regain these treasures of their pasts as fundaments for building their futures. But also—a new discourse—he emphasized how important it was for the young people of the Africa diaspora in France to see these objects of their dual heritage returned to the lands of their ancestors. Immediately on his return to Paris, the President named a commission to report to him the why, the how, and the when of the African restitutions. this report strongly urged, in detail, the course of action Macron had only outlined. And it went beyond the President’s language by referring to this African patrimoine collectively as also a diaspora. These cultural objects, if and when repatriated, will serve as sites of memory for further construction of modern Africa societies. The debate continues. But it may be that the current pandemic and economic crisis have put this initiative in question. My contribution will discuss what are still the beginnings of this complex process, and its degree of development up to the early fall.
Panel 11: Patrimony/Exhibitions
- Elizabeth Benjamin (Coventry University), Mapping Marginalisation in the Digital Memoryscape
France’s emphasis on the ‘inalienability’ of public heritage is a double-edged sword, protecting aspects of national identity while clinging on to relics of its colonial past. In the era of the Covid pandemic, where mobility has taken a sudden shift from the physical to the digital, communities have become alienated from social spaces and places of memory. To what extent has the digital realm been able to cater to individual and collective memorial needs? And to what extent are colonial influences and issues of marginalisation seen in the physical realm perpetuated – or exacerbated – in the online forum? Are websites of memory as prone to the hexagonal moulding imposed in Nora’s voluminous Lieux de mémoire?
French government website Chemins de mémoire channels Nora’s concept of ‘sites of memory’, and includes a section on ‘tourisme de mémoire’. This is presented through an interactive map, which offers divisions of ‘musées’, ‘lieux de mémoire’, ‘monuments’, and ‘nécropoles’ as accessible filters of the memoryscape. This paper will analyse Chemins de mémoire – with a particular focus on the map function – in relation to Nora’s work, through a postcolonial critique thereof. The paper will investigate the degree to which issues of colonial influence and marginalisation can be addressed in the digital sphere, asking: What is the value of the website of memory as critique, particularly in relation to its contribution to the touristisation process of these physical sites? What happens to the notion of centre and periphery online? Does the notion of ‘taking up space’ take on a different nuance, and how do these digital and physical spaces alienate marginalised groups from the supposedly inalienable public heritage? Through its analysis of digital mapping, the paper will unpick the layers of inequality present in French memorial structures to propose ways in which the digital realm can give back voice to those who have been silenced by narratives of national memory.
- Maria Gindhart (Georgia State University), Beasts of Burden: Animals at the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale
While the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale (ECI) was addressed by Charles-Robert Ageron in Pierre Nora’s Les Lieux de mémoire and colonial exhibitions are discussed by Nicolas Bancel and Pascal Blanchard in Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in Modern France, the focus has largely been on those who planned, built, and visited the ECI and on the indigènes who took part, with little attention to the non-human animals who were central to the ECI, as well as to the French colonial imaginary more generally. From the extremely popular parc zoologique to the taxidermied fauna from the Croisère Noire expedition in the Citroën Pavilion and the souvenir album Hommes et bêtes des colonies françaises, animals were ubiquitous in the Bois de Vincennes from May to November 1931. Emblematic of the “exotic” and “savage” aspects of the colonies, animals were symbolic of the possibilities of the mission civilisatrice and of the dominion of the metropole in the ways in which they could be trained, contained, represented, and even miniaturized. Colonial animals were also viewed as commodities – a source of such valuable products as ivory and feathers – and as beasts of burden.
This paper will focus on camels and elephants as colonial laborers by examining both actual animals and artistic representations of them at the ECI. Four camels were brought from Mauritania to be part of the French West Africa Pavilion and became popular with exposition visitors who could pay to ride them – and to be photographed doing so. A camel was also featured as a form of transportation in Jean Bouchaud’s painting of Africa for the cupola of the rotunda of Cité des Informations. In that building’s covered outdoor galleries, camels are shown pulling a plow, helping operate an olive press, and being loaded with halfah grass in three of Émile Pinchon’s bas-reliefs of North Africa. Meanwhile, Gaston Le Bourgeois’s wooden sculpture of an elephant carrying a bille outside the Bois Coloniaux Pavilion and the painting by Pierre Ducos de la Haille and his students of an elephant ridden by a cornac and moving a log in the salle des fêtes of the Musée des Colonies highlighted the centrality of Asian elephants to the colonial exotic wood industry. At the same time, three of the elephants in the ECI zoo were work animals from the Tierpark in Stellingen, who were apparently made to carry logs every morning to keep them in shape, which simultaneously alluded to the activities of their brethren in the forests of the French empire.
Although featured as both objects of attraction and vital cogs in the functioning of the colonial economy, things did not end well for several of the actual bêtes brought to Paris in 1931. In the aftermath of the ECI, one of the camels was killed in a bizarre veterinary experiment, and the elephants died in a fire, chained in their lodging. It is time to remember these specific animals – and all the others who contributed to the functioning of Greater France.
- Caroline Ferraris-Besso (Gettysburg College), Dé-localiser Gauguin: Le Cas du Tiki Village à Moorea
Dans cette communication, je considère le cas du Tiki Village, un complexe touristique situé à Moorea, en Polynésie française, qui opère sous l’égide d’une Association de loi 1901, l’ « Association folklorique et culturelle du Tiki Village » et se veut à la fois culturel ou pédagogique et touristique. J’examine dans un premier temps la manière dont le lieu cristallise les images traditionnellement associées à la Polynésie tout en se présentant comme un véritable village où vivent et travaillent des artisans. Je montre qu’en jouant sur la notion d’ « authenticité », le Tiki Village s’inscrit dans ce que Dean MacCannell appelle « staged authenticity », constituant pour ses visiteurs « a staged back region ». Je montre que cette apparente adoption des codes touristiques se manifeste encore plus vivement au travers d’une attraction en particulier : une réplique de la Maison du jouir de Paul Gauguin (dont l’original se trouve sur l’île d’Hiva Oa, aux Marquises), sur laquelle je me penche plus longuement dans un second temps. Par le biais de reproductions d’œuvres de Gauguin et au travers des légendes et différents écrits liés à la fausse Maison du jouir, les propriétaires du Tiki Village procèdent à une dé-localisation de l’œuvre de Gauguin, et rendent banale et prévisible, plutôt que « pas à sa place », la présence de la maison des Marquises à Moorea. Je propose que l’inclusion de Gauguin dans le Tiki Village aboutit à un paradoxe : alors que l’un des objectifs de l’Association, est de présenter « tous les éléments du patrimoine culturel polynésien » et de « la culture polynésienne au sens large », elle inclut dans ce patrimoine une figure que l’imaginaire français a de manière problématique associée à la Polynésie aux dépens des artistes locaux. La fausse Maison du jouir, loin d’être anecdotique, révèle en réalité l’importance et la nocivité du mythe de Gauguin dans la Polynésie d’aujourd’hui.
Panel 12: Lieux d’oubli?
- Cara DeSimone (Independent Researcher), Contested Waters & Forgotten Friendships: Subsistence, Sustainability, and Colonialism in Modern Acadia
Colonialism has shaped laws, languages, and lines on maps, but also has far-reaching, multigenerational effects. In the Maritime provinces of Canada (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick), an area beginning to acknowledge and accept its unique blend of anglo and francophone heritage, Indigenous communities still bear the brunt of Canada’s “corporate colonialism” (Comack 2018).
Historians have stressed the alliance and mutual support between Acadians and Mi’kmaq since the 17th century. The Mi’kmaq shared their fishing technologies and territorial lands with Acadians; In turn, the Acadian communities used aboiteaux to harness the extreme tidal changes of the Bay of Fundy and transform tidal marshes into fertile farming land.This model of establishing and maintaining relationships based on peace and cooperation supplied both communities with staples and trade goods necessary to sustain themselves throughout harsh winters. The increased access to other trade goods also benefited both communities, while Indigenous methods of harvesting ensured an ongoing sustainability of resources.
When neutral Acadians were forcibly expelled from their settlements in 1755, many sought refuge with neighboring Mi’kmaq. The colonial lens of retelling, however, largely overlooks families that did not relocate to Louisiana or France; glossing over entire communities that owe their livelihoods and continued existence to the support of Indigenous hosts. Perhaps over 400 years some loss of memory is to be expected. Yet even modern Acadians are not strangers to government expropriation, evidenced by Jackie Vautour’s fight against the creation of Kouchibougouac National Park in 1969 - often referred to as the “twentieth century deportation” (Rudin 2011).
The tradition of Indigenous and Acadian communities sharing local bounty and maintaining mutually beneficial coexistence has further disintegrated following more recent events tied to local, commercial, and federal treaty violations. Indigenous communities, acting under claims of treaty rights (confirmed under the 1999 “Marshall Decision” regarding eel fishing) are met with hostility and violence. Acadians are found on both sides of the debate; a testament to their own complex histories, often eroded by colonial cultural hegemony and disadvantages of a diasporic population.
Following a brief historical overview, this paper will focus on the current dispute between the Nova Scotia government, Acadian commercial fisheries, and the Sipekne'katik band of tribal fisheries. The conflict is indicative of a larger trend of Indigenous communities attempting to uphold their historic rights to manage, harvest, and maintain natural resources in the face of commercial and governmental interests. The site of struggle centers along the coast and rivers, which provide natural resources necessary for survival through subsistence. This paper will explore the dynamic relationships of Mi'kmaq and Acadian families, illuminate their interconnected histories, and explore past and current events tied to these struggles - traced through the historical context of the often-disputed and ill-defined concept of “moderate livelihood.”
To ensure that this paper is not simply a reiteration of western memory, the fisheries dispute will be presented through “two-eyed seeing” by integrating interviews with indigenous artists and advocates as well as their Acadian allies and supporters to emphasize the multi-faceted historical record.
- Bill Marshall (University of Stirling), The Forgotten Continent of French Memory?
In this paper I begin by juxtaposing two texts. Argentinian philosopher Enrique Dussel is no doubt correct to state, in his Politics of Liberation: A Critical World History (2011), that in modernity there are ‘two historical modes of Exteriority: the Alterity of the original American inhabitant (…) and the African slave’, and that this ‘unheard-of inhuman bloody violence, origin of the process of Modernity, [is] the hidden face of the Exteriority of the system’. In their Introduction to Histoire de l’Amérique française (2019), Gilles Havard and Cécile Vidal bemoan the fragmentary nature of the memory in France of its first overseas empire (New Orleans and its French Quarter, quaint Quebec accents): ‘Notre mémoire collective semble se résigner à n’entrevoir l’histoire des colonies françaises d’Amérique du Nord qu’à travers ces images fugaces et évanescentes’. My paper polemically seeks to critique the absence from Francophone studies of memory, and from France itself, of that ‘original American inhabitant’, and thus, along with the transatlantic slave trade, that other central drama of European imperialism and modernity. Such an absence can be filled only by a porous approach to the borders of memory, and by an engagement with the memory of New France to be found in Quebec, which I shall summarise. However, the bulk of my paper will contain firstly a discussion of the reasons for these absences (in France, the coupure – and defeat - of 1759 and the Seven Years’ War, the lack of a later tradition of integrating emigration outside France into a republican narrative, the puzzling nature of cultural and linguistic métissage in French Canada). Secondly, I shall engage in a hunt in France itself for manifestations of lieux de mémoire pertaining to its North American empire, and discuss their political implications in terms of a largely top-down strategy of national heritage. The Commission franco-québécoise des Lieux de mémoire communs was founded in 1996, and its online presence includes an inventory of common lieux de mémoire, an Encyclopédie du patrimoine culturel de l'Amérique française, and portals featuring images of New France in French art, as well as relevant objects in museum collections. A wider global strategy is evident in, for example, then President Jacques Chirac’s speech in 1996 at a ‘rencontre internationale des Amérindiens’ at the Elysée in June 1996. I shall end by exploring examples of more ‘bottom-up’ manifestations of memory relating to indigenous peoples: the politics of memory in a French département – Guyane – where there exists a significant indigeneous population; and representations of Amerindians in bande dessinée.
- Florian Wagner (University of Erfurt), Ni Lieu, ni Mémoire? French Colonial Internationalism and its Forgotten Legacy
The parti colonial, which was France’s most important pro-colonial lobby group around 1900, has received much attention in scholarly and popular historiography. While its influence on French colonial policy-making is well known, hardly anyone remembers that the parti colonial was deeply involved in what I call colonial internationalism in this paper. To begin with, members of the parti colonial established the Institut Colonial International in 1893, together with like-minded colonial enthusiasts from Belgium and the Netherlands. By 1914, the Institut Colonial International turned out to be the most important think tank for colonial policy in the world with 200 members, of whom the majority spoke French. Although based in Brussels, French colonial lobbyists set its agenda. As early as 1900, France had become the center of colonial internationalism, with French colonial lobbyists organizing international meetings and workshops on colonial issues. After World War I, protagonists of French colonialism continued playing a leading role in the Institut Colonial International. What is more, they internationalized key events of French nationalist politics. For example, the famous centenaire of Algeria’s conquest, celebrated in 1931, has became famous for its nationalist fervor that showed itself in the Colonial Exposition in Vincennes. However, the centenaire was an international event. In 1931, colonizers from around the world met in Paris to discuss issues of colonial policy, sociology, anthropology, economy and history. A multitude of nationalities attended the different sections of the huge international colonial conference that accompanied the centenaire of 1931. I outline in my paper that the history of colonialism, in particular, became an internationalist project at the Paris conference in 1931. What is more, I show in this paper that even in the 1950s, when former French colonial administrators turned into anthropologists and historians, they refused to embrace nationalistic narratives of French colonial heroism and paid tribute to other colonizing powers instead. Thus, this paper argues that Fench involvement in colonial internationalism once had been a lieu de mémoire, since former French colonial administrators promoted it publicly and in their scholarly work. However, the collective memory of colonial internationalism got lost in the 1970s and 1980s, when debates about colonialism increasingly became an internal affair in France and a unifying national trauma. This shift, I argue, goes back to the “repatriation” of the pieds noirs and their neocolonial and nationalist agenda that led French colonial internationalism to pass into oblivion.
Panel 13: Crime and punishment in the Caribbean
- Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool), Le bagne
- Ryan Augustyiak (Florida State University), Fort Dimanche
- Martin Munro (Florida State University), The Ear/Code Noir