Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution

Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution

Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution

Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution

Synopsis

This landmark collection by an international group of scholars and public intellectuals represents a major reassessment of French colonial culture and how it continues to inform thinking about history, memory, and identity. This reexamination of French colonial culture, provides the basis for a revised understanding of its cultural, political, and social legacy and its lasting impact on postcolonial immigration, the treatment of ethnic minorities, and national identity.

Excerpt

Pascal Blanchard, Sandrine Lemaire, Nicolas Bancel, and Dominic Thomas

THE PRESENT COLLECTION is the fruit of an inquiry that began in the early 1990s and that sought to better elucidate certain aspects of France’s contemporary history. The weight of colonial imaginary, discernible in the production of a colonial iconicity, in colonial cinema, and in the intertextual articulations of images/ discourse, called for improved contextualization, as did those mechanisms associated with the construction of different paradigms with respect to the Other in the context of a burgeoning imperialism. Initial research was conducted on the subject of “human zoos,” and then shortly thereafter we began evaluating the importance of colonial expositions and world fairs that were held in France and abroad. We also sought to better understand the relationship between immigration to the metropole from the “global South” and the colonial phenomenon itself over a longer historical period that included both the colonial and postcolonial periods. In turn, we found ourselves compelled to investigate even more complex, yet related, processes, such as French Republican identity.

This research is the result of an empirical deconstruction of a number of initially scattered cultural, juridical, and political systems, which over time came to constitute a historical system that could be defined in large part by imperialism and its postcolonial repercussions. We have found the expression “colonial culture” helpful in describing this system. The present work thus represents a concerted attempt to elucidate and interpret the gradual development, dissemination, and mutation of colonial culture in the French metropole over more than two centuries. The book therefore begins at the dawn of colonial culture, when slavery was first abolished, and ends in the postcolonial period with an examination into the long-term effects of the imperial system. Of course, research conducted in Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, and elsewhere over the past two de-

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