Double Impact: France and Africa in the Age of Imperialism

Double Impact: France and Africa in the Age of Imperialism

Double Impact: France and Africa in the Age of Imperialism

Double Impact: France and Africa in the Age of Imperialism

Synopsis

This collection of original historical essays sheds new light on the French colonial experience and the African reaction to it and breaks new ground by looking at both sides of the colonial equation. Editor G. Wesley Johnson believes that a double impact characterized French colonial rule in Africa during the first six decades of the twentieth century. The contributors, selected for their long experience with France or French-speaking Africa, examine nine thematic areas--the economy, the military, elites, education, art, architecture, literature, race relations and prejudice, and politics--to see if and how reciprocal impact was felt. Finally, Johnson considers the utility of double impact as a concept for understanding France and French colonial society, Africa and its colonial society, and the colonial period which enmeshed the two cultures as a whole.

Excerpt

In recent years historians have turned increasingly to what G. Wesley Johnson calls "the double impact"--to the study of the mutual interaction between societies in an imperial setting. the easy, and potentially racist, assumption that the indigenous society was invariably the victim of the imperial power, as though native cultures lacked the capacity to respond, has long been disproven. Clearly we understand now that "imperialism" is not largely, or even mainly, about mechanisms of control. the development of collaborator studies, of resistance theory, of concepts concerning "social engineering," and the use of indigenous languages side-by-side with the written documentation of the traditional historian have demonstrated that both sides to an uneven equation, despite being uneven, must be studied. Each party had an impact on the other, whether in the transmission of ideas and the diffusion of knowledge, or in changing tastes in clothing or food and drink, or in military organization. It is to this double impact that the writers assembled here by Professor Johnson address themselves.

Of course, there were not simply two sides, two parties, to an imperial transaction. Indigenous cultures contained simultaneously those who collaborated and those who resisted; the encroaching imperial society contained simultaneously those who were proud to be called imperialists and those who doubted, for one reason or another, that expansion into other continents and across other seas was wise. These essays recognize these divisions within societies and thus serve to help us think again about the nature of the imperial exchange, so that we do not continue to think of it in the simplistic terms of side against side. the collective result is an important contribution to the substantial literature on "impact theory," already rich and fruitful with respect to the British Empire and for white settler-Native American interaction in North America. This gathering of talent . . .

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