Deadline for paper submissions: Tuesday 30 June 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, which will take place at Sciences Po, Paris, Centre d’Histoire on Friday 20 November 2015, 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Joanna Warson (email@example.com) by Tuesday 30 June 2015.
Organisers: Dr Anna Konieczna (Sciences Po), Malcolm Théoleyre (Centre d’Histoire, Sciences Po), Dr Joanna Warson (University of Portsmouth).
This post is the product of a conversation between Dr Ed Naylor and Dr Natalya Vince about the recent ‘Progress, Change and Development’ conference, which took place on 4-6 June 2015 at the University of Portsmouth.
Among the many stimulating panels of the conference, the final session of Saturday morning particularly stood out for us. Entitled ‘National liberation and nation-building: Algeria in the 1960s’, the panel featured two women who were simultaneously first-hand witnesses to Algeria’s early years of independence and intellectuals offering reflections on these experiences. Cathérine Levy, whose personal archives are now at the BDIC in Nanterre, recalled teaching at a school in the Algiers Casbah during the Ben Bella presidency (1962-1965) where she and her colleagues found themselves spontaneously reinventing a ‘postcolonial’ syllabus. Fascinating details also emerged on agricultural ‘autogestion’ (self-management) initiatives and localised micro-currencies, as well as tensions surrounding the women’s movement. Natalya Vince, chairing the session, picked up on one aspect of Lévy’s testimony which chimed with her own experience researching her monograph Our Fighting Sisters (2015): during these early years of the Republic, senior posts throughout government were held by individuals of remarkable youth who retained close ties to comrades from the independence struggle. This proximity within an urban educated milieu, where a teacher might solicit a minister on an issue, is a recurring feature of narratives of the first years of independence.
With Beida Chikhi the session moved forward to the Boumedienne era (1965-1978), and her elegant talk communicated a persistent sense of possibilities and excitement amidst nation-building. In a particularly suggestive phrase, she described the social zeitgeist of the 1960s as ‘l’apprentissage de l’indépendance’. Sharing her personal recollections, Chikhi also spoke of an ‘effervescence cosmopolite’ and stressed the intellectual and artistic mobility of the period. With the Algerian Republic at the height of its prestige in the non-aligned movement, its capital was a natural centre for these exchanges: from the Pan-African festival of 1969, to members of the Black Panther movement and the film-maker William Klein. At once knowingly nostalgic and full of thought-provoking details, her portrait of this decade was clearly framed as a counterpoint to the disillusionment of the Chadli years that followed. A point that emerged from the discussion was that piecing together the complex social history of early post-revolutionary, semi-authoritarian regimes is difficult not least because it is often overdetermined by what preceded and followed. Comparisons with Tito’s Yugoslavia or even Egypt under Nasser suggest themselves as a way of thinking through these questions.
While the two speakers had rather different perspectives on the trajectory of post-revolutionary Algeria, their talks complemented each other superbly. The audience was left with a sense of both the enormous challenges and exciting possibilities confronting historians of this post-independence decade.