The Colonial Unconscious: Race and Culture in Interwar France

By Elizabeth Ezra | Go to book overview

Introduction
Colonial Culture

In 1931 the French National Zoological Society held its annual meeting at the Exposition coloniale Internationale, in a departure from its traditional venue at the Gare de Lyon. Paul Morand, who presided over the event, summarized the evening's themes in his keynote address:

I must say that I was a bit disappointed to note the absence of human flesh
from this colonial menu… . We may not have tasted Man today, but we
have eaten animal flesh. This is a compromise solution, replacing human
sacrifice, but one that will appear no less abhorrent to our descendants,
who will take their nourishment in pill form. When we consume animals,
the Blacks say that it is still a divinity that we eat and assimilate. Well,
ladies and gentlemen, today we have not only devoured Senegal and the
Gambia, we have not only digested Sudan; we have communed with all
of Africa [l'Afrique tout entière] in the form of a crow and a warthog. (Cited
in Capatti 1989, 203)1

Morand's remarks may have been broadly rhetorical, but they bespoke a very real phenomenon: the consumption of one culture by another. Between the two world wars, the French public was inundated with images of sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, Southeast Asia, and

-1-

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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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