The Colonial Unconscious: Race and Culture in Interwar France

By Elizabeth Ezra | Go to book overview

Preface

In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in what is loosely referred to as [postcolonial studies.] This fashionable topic has spawned what amounts to an academic industry, with dissertations, books, symposia, and conferences devoted to it. Yet, in the rush to label texts, practices, and discourses [postcolonial,] there has been comparatively little consideration of the colonial period. Perhaps this curious and rather glaring omission is a function of postmodernism—there's that prefix again—in which aftereffects are emphasized over sources. Or maybe an era can be fully appreciated, or at least properly scrutinized, only in the harsh light of historical distance: as postmodernism is, perhaps more than anything, a metamodernism, so perhaps postcolonialism is, above all, a metacolonialism, a temporal space in which to take stock of that which precedes it.

When I began this project, around 1990 little work had been done in the field of French colonial studies. To a large extent, the problem was, and still is, that colonialism was not only temporally subsumed in the vague term [postcolonialism]; it was also geographically subsumed in the study of the British empire. To adapt an old political slogan, it is as though all colonialism were postcolonialism, and all empires British. At the same time, the welcome surge of interest in Francophone literatures within French studies has had the ancillary effect of deflecting attention from colonial discourse in metropolitan France, with the result that the images that were disseminated in the hexagone at the height of the colonial era have not been given due consideration. Yet an understanding of these images is vital to understanding French culture of the twentieth

-xi-

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The Colonial Unconscious: Race and Culture in Interwar France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction - Colonial Culture 1
  • Chapter 1 - Colonialism Exposed 21
  • Chapter 2 - Raymond Roussel and the Structure of Stereotype 47
  • Chapter 3 - Cannibals in Babylon René Crevel's Allegories of Exclusion 75
  • Chapter 4 - A Colonial Princess Josephine Baker's French Films 97
  • Chapter 5 - Difference in Disguise Paul Morand's Black Magic 129
  • Epilogue - Black-Blanc-Beur 145
  • Notes 155
  • Bibliography 161
  • Index 171
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