6 Chapters
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Part 4. Toward the Postcolony

NoContributor Indiana University Press ePub

PART 4

TOWARD THE POSTCOLONY

Moussa the African’s Blues

Abdourahman A. Waberi

Gustave Flaubert once wrote: “Those who read a book in order to know if the baroness marries the count are fools.” I would add: those who read this text in order to find out how France is doing will have the right to feel cheated, for if you want a prognosis, or if you want to develop some kind of perspective on the situation, you’ll have to hurry over to Marcel Pagnol’s beloved Bar de la Marine. Onward.1

Vacation is a time of idleness, of flânerie and light reading (even mindless newspapers are an ordeal), of collective and simple expression: here, I’m speaking of the emotion felt all the way into the depths of the Ardennes by the story of a bear that had escaped from its Pyrenean zoo, or the compassion for a cycling team suspected of doping. In such moments, I feel a bit ashamed of my receding concern for undocumented subjects and other asylum-seeking misfits, those worn down by uncertainty and worry. I think of them at the detention center for foreigners in Vincennes, me with not exactly pale skin, who chose to move to this country where I always have to spell out my first and last names.

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Part 2. Conquering Public Opinion

NoContributor Indiana University Press ePub

PART 2

CONQUERING PUBLIC OPINION

History’s Mark (1931–1961)

Didier Daeninckx

One often recalls one’s “first love.” Without the eternal emotions to which it gives life, whole swaths of our culture would fall: song would practically disappear, poetry would be but a shadow of itself, miles of film would become obsolete, thousands of actors would be without lines to repeat, without secrets to tell, instruments would abandon the symphony, the ballerina would remain backstage, and white gouache would replace every nuance of color on the painter’s palette. We speak less of another, and yet just as decisive, just as earth-shattering “first time,” the shade of which could be defined through its absence of color: the black of mourning. We speak much less of our first encounter with death. Most oft en, this experience comes in the form of someone close, someone beaten by age, by sickness. Murder is a rarer cause of this first death. Sometimes murder is linked to History, a mix of collective destiny with individual fatality. So it was for me. For the most part, this is what has driven my writing.

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Part 3. The Apogee of Imperialism

NoContributor Indiana University Press ePub

PART 3

THE APOGEE OF IMPERIALISM

Images of an Empire’s Demise

Benjamin Stora

In the field of history, the practice of analyzing (and utilizing) images began in the 1990s, with classifications and typologies. The sensorial shock of an image can both influence the course of one’s life and change one’s perception of history. With respect to the end of the Algerian War, Jean-François Sirinelli rightly asks, “Do not the shocking photos in Paris-Match, with a French readership of 8 million, weigh more than the words of intellectuals? And, knowing that some of the reports featured in Cinq Colonnes à la Une (dating back to January 1959) have remained anchored in the collective memory far longer than any given intellectual petition, what kind of impact did these reports have?”1

To look at the hundreds of images depicting the sub-Saharan and North African colonial universe between 1945 and 1962 is to experience a sort of vertigo in which memory confronts its lacunae, in which the longer history of decolonization somehow oscillates between the exotic and the tragic, the apparent emptiness of forgetting and the irrefutable proof that this chain of events nevertheless did take place. I propose to explore images in a general manner and shall divide my analysis between the visual image (photographs, publicity images, postcards) and the drawn image (illustrations, drawings, sketches). I shall deliberately focus on the fixed image, leaving aside cinema’s—and later, television’s2—animated and mobile image, and consider photographs published in major magazines, drawings from children’s textbooks and military periodicals, sketches and illustrations on the covers of books, propaganda pamphlets, and albums.

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Part 1. The Creation of a Colonial Culture

NoContributor Indiana University Press ePub

PART 1

THE CREATION OF
A
COLONIAL CULTURE

French Colonization: An Inaudible History

Marc Ferro

This foreword is based on a 2005 interview conducted with the historian Marc Ferro, a specialist on the issue of colonization and the reception of this past in French society, namely in books such as L’Histoire des colonisations (1994), Les tabous de l’Histoire (2002), and Le Livre noir du colonialisme (2003).1 He has described the current situation—a situation in which the French public has turned its back on the work of historians—as a form of “self-censorship by citizens,” paired with a “censorship by the governing authorities.” This sort of postcolonial posture, which characterizes France at the beginning of the twenty-first century, cannot and does not want to accept that “the Republic betrayed its core values” because to do so would be to question the “Republic” itself.

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Part 5. The Time of Inheritance

NoContributor Indiana University Press ePub

PART 5

THE TIME OF INHERITANCE

The Age of Contempt, or the Legitimization of France’s Civilizing Mission

Bruno Etienne

In these troubled times when the question of memorial laws triggers emotional and polemic responses and when a president of the Republic (in this case Jacques Chirac) reclaimed the term “Civilization,” it seems legitimate to examine the anamnesis of a process that for too long has been buried in our subconscious as a result of amnesty laws and our collective amnesia. This process has its origins in our connection to those colonies that, during two centuries, marked our history, and that are today imprinted on all aspects of French society through the multiple legacies of colonial culture. The social relations of an era are simple to judge by transposing them to a contemporary normative grid that, itself, is not spared the duty to examine its own presuppositions. In fact, are our values definitely universal? People are the products of the time in which they live, and it would be a mistake to judge people from bygone eras as if they had at their disposal all that we have learned since. Yet some, such as Montaigne or Tocqueville, even a traveling painter like Fromentin, understood the abuse of authority. However, what remained unimaginable was that following the “right to colonize,” we would invent the “duty of intervention”: from the secular mission to humanitarianism, the history of our relationship with the world over the last two centuries appears to have been mapped out.

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