CFP – Beyond Françafrique: France outside of its traditional sphere of African influence (19th-21st centuries)

Sciences Po, Paris, Centre d’Histoire, Friday 20 November 2015

The study of France’s policy in Africa has frequently focused on the interactions with its (former) Empire, the “pré-carré”. This has given rise to a narrative of uniqueness and exceptionality, whilst simultaneously contributing to critiques of France as a “neo-colonial” actor in Africa. However, a growing body of new scholarly research suggest that the time is now ripe for a reassessment of this restrictive vision.

The progressive opening up of archives in France and elsewhere, along with the expansion of global and connected histories of empire and decolonisation, has shed new light on the France’s presence in Africa in colonial and post-independence era. Despite taking as their starting point the French traditional zone of influence, many recently published works on French decolonisation and the politics of cooperation explore the regional, continental and global dynamics that shaped French policy in Africa. There are also a growing number of publications, doctoral theses and on-going research projects that break free of the “Francophone” framework entirely. Some of these complete previous political science case studies of French policy in South Africa or Nigeria. Others go further still, uncovering largely unknown relations between France and the (former) British, Belgian and Portuguese imperial spaces in Africa. Adopting a transnational perspective or a “politique par le bas” approach has enabled the study of circuits, networks (formal and informal) and the movement of ideas and people between France and the spaces outside of its traditional sphere of African influence. This global perspective, in turn, has also brought to light triangular connections between France, Francophone and non-Francophone Africa.

It is the aim of this study day to build upon this emergent field bringing together scholars working on all aspects of French engagement with Africa “hors champs” both in colonial and post-colonial period. Researchers from different disciplines are invited to submit proposals, either in French or in English, for papers dealing with all aspects of France’s interactions outside of its traditional sphere of African influence. Papers can explore, but are not restricted to, the following themes:

  • The official French presence in regions of Africa outside of the “pré carré”, including the different dimensions of these policies (political, military, strategic, cultural, economic) and how these relations operated at different levels (international, continental, regional, bilateral).
  • The role of non-governmental French actors, including official and non-official networks.
  • Cultural contacts and circulation and diffusion of ideas
  • Migrations between France, its (former) African colonies, and other regions of Africa, including the impetus behind these movements and their impact.
  • French interpretations of “non-Francophone” Africa.
  • The role of Africans in French engagement with Africa “hors champs”.

Paper proposals of 250-300 words should be sent to Anna Konieczna ( and Joanna Warson ( by Tuesday 30 June 2015.

Organisers: Dr Anna Konieczna (Sciences Po), Malcolm Théoleyre (Centre d’Histoire, Sciences Po), Dr Joanna Warson (University of Portsmouth).


The Place du Souvenir, Dakar

Dr. Joanna Warson is currently in Senegal working at the BBC Service Afrique Dakar bureau. In this post, she describes her recent visit to the Place du Souvenir.

Last week, I visited the Place du Souvenir in Dakar. Located on the busy Route de la Corniche Ouest, right next to the modern Sea Plaza shopping mall and the upmarket Radisson Blu hotel, I found on my arrival an unexpected oasis of tranquillity amidst the hustle and bustle of life in Dakar. Senegalese flags fluttered in a cool ocean breeze. Palm trees, exotic plants and ornamental fountains adorned the area, with the vast Atlantic Ocean providing an impressive backdrop.

Place du souvenir

Admittedly, my first impressions were probably a bit skewered by my decision to walk the short distance to the Place du Souvenir along the busy Corniche road in the midday sun. I arrived hot and a bit bothered. In the space of less than 15 minutes, I had to wave off numerous taxis drivers trying to give me a lift to my destination. (In Dakar, you can’t walk far without a taxi beeping at you, slowing down and waiting expectantly for you to get in!) So, the largely deserted Place du Souvenir was a very welcome sight…

The Place du Souvenir was opened in 2009 as part of a cultural project launched by former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. In keeping with the project’s aim to pay homage to historic figures from Africa and its diaspora, information posters in both English and French are located around the Place du Souvenir, providing snippets of African history.


The most impressive feature of the area, however – and the one that best encapsulates the Place du Souvenir’s objectives – is a gold sculpture of the African continent. Situated on the Ocean’s edge, the sculpture appears almost to be floating above the Atlantic. The gold of the sculpture provides a striking contrast against the blue of the sea and the sky, conjuring up an image of a strong, vibrant and forward-moving African continent.


Whilst at the Place du Souvenir, I visited Librairie Athena, a bookstore owned by a trio of Senegalese writers: Felwine Sarr, Boubacar Boris Diop and Nafissatou Dia Diouf. The store sells everything from business studies textbooks to crime novels to children’s books, but its real specialism is African writing. This is underlined by the fact that Librairie Athena is also the main base for Editions Jimsaan. Sarr, Diop and Diouf launched the publishing house in May 2013 with the aim of giving greater visibility to high quality writing coming out of Africa.


As with many places in Senegal, work on the Place du Souvenir is still on going: electrical cabling lies across the paths, the fountains didn’t appear to function and workmen are still on site. None of this, however, takes away the loveliness and tranquillity of the Place du Souvenir. The impressive setting, striking sculpture and presence of a bookstore-cum-publishing house at the forefront of African writing combine to make this the perfect site to reflect upon Africa of the past, present and future. It is also an excellent place to escape the heat and hubbub of Dakar!