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Delving into the neglected colonial archives in Pointe-Noire [Congo-Brazzaville]

Préfecture de Pointe-Noire, 26 mai-2 juin 2017, Endangered Archives (British Library) In May 2017, an international group of five scholars from Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal and the UK, led by Dr Alexander Keese of Geneva University, went to Pointe-Noire [Congo-Brazzaville] to investigate why the colonial archives for the French Moyen-Congo had never been exploited by scholars. We had been told they existed and Dr Keese had applied for funding from the British Library, under its Endangered Archives scheme, to enable us to investigate why this was. In this blog piece, Thaïs Gendry gives her perspective on our mission. J’ai une affection nouvelle pour les premiers archivistes. Les archivistes des institutions établies connaissent et aiment leurs collections, apprennent à en comprendre la logique et les recoins. Mais il y a les premiers archivistes, ceux du temps des premiers inventaires. Chaque fonds d’archive, chaque série, a eu son premier archiviste. Nous étions une équipe constituée de deux archivistes congolaises, de deux directeurs d’archives congolais, et de 5 chercheurs européens. La première partie de la mission pour laquelle nous sommes réunis ressemble certainement à celle des premiers archivistes : rester dubitatif devant une masse de documents, sonder çà et là pour voir de […]

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Past and present, colony and metropolis. By Jim House.

Dr James (Jim) House is a Senior Lecturer in French at Leeds University. With co-author Neil MacMaster (UEA, Norwich) he has published Paris 1961: Algerians, State Terror, and Memory (Oxford University Press, 2006). This book also received a French translation in 2008 (Tallandier publishers). Our thanks goes to Professor Margaret Majumdar for her help. Past and present, colony and metropolis. Recent months in France have seen a number of prominent and disturbing cases of alleged police violence against racialized minorities. In circumstances such as these, historians are often asked by journalists and civil society groups to assess how and to what extent the colonial past influences the present, notably here with regard to postcolonial minorities, policing, socio-ethnic segregation, and racism. In discussing these themes, my article will argue that we often need to be cautious when claims are made for a strong similarity (if not identical situation) between past and present, an assumption that seems often to inform many of the questions I receive. It is precisely the historian’s role to examine the ‘space’ that exists between what may indeed be similar yet which is not identical between past and present. Rather like with debates on the usefulness or not of the […]

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