Memorialisation, Racism and Post/colonial Connections in Contemporary France: Watch the ASFS 2020 Conference Keynote Round Table

As the keynote event of the conference Dis/connexion in December 2020, the Australian Society for French Studies was proud to host Professor Lydie Moudileno and Associate Professor Mame-Fatou Niang in conversation with Dr Gemma King on the theme of Memorialisation, Racism and Post/colonial Connections in Contemporary France. The round table event was chaired by Dr Leslie Barnes and the recording (not including the audience Q&A) is available for viewing here:

Following the Q&A, several attendees requested a list of the authors Mame recommended for those wishing to learn more about race and identity in contemporary France. These were Lydie Moudileno, Jacqueline Couti, Audrey Celestine, Maboula Soumahoro, Myriam Moise, Aya Cissoko, Dali Micha Toure, Tassadit Imache, Assia Djebar, Maryse Condé, the Nardal Sisters and Bintou Dembélé.

Event abstract:

What role does race play in the French imaginaire and how does this manifest in a society that continues to insist on its own colour-blindness despite a history of colonialism and immigration and an increasingly ethnically diverse present? One answer can be found in the nation’s Assemblée Nationale where a mural displaying recognizably racist iconography serves to celebrate the abolition of chattel slavery in France. Outside the building presides Jean-Baptiste Colbert – Louis XIV’s finance minister and author of the French ‘code noir’ – recently defaced in protest of France’s « négrophobie d’état ». Recent publications such as Lydie Moudileno, Etienne Achille and Charles Forsdick’s 2020 volume Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in Modern France have shed light on the place of such colonial imagery in the contemporary Republic, as lieux de mémoire infamously ignored in Pierre Nora’s work of the same name. The continued presence of such memorials in France, and around the world, raises urgent questions about the nexus of history, memory, and everyday racism that have gained particular prominence in international protests and debates this year. This keynote event for the ASFS 2020 conference brings Lydie Moudileno and Mame-Fatou Niang together in dialogue with Gemma King about the persistence of racist colonial ideologies in the everyday “realms” of French society, be they state-sanctioned memorials, museums or the nightly news.

Lydie Moudileno is Marion Frances Chevalier Professor of French and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, co-author with Etienne Achille of Mythologies postcoloniales: Pour une décolonisation du quotidien (Champion 2018) and co-editor with Achille and Charles Forsdick of Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in Modern France (Liverpool 2020).

Mame-Fatou Niang is Associate Professor of French at CMU, author of Identités françaises: Banlieues, féminités et universalisme (Brill 2019), and co-director of the documentary film, “Mariannes noires: Mosaïques afropéennes” (2015). She is also a driving force behind the petition to remove the slavery mural from the Assemblée Nationale.

Gemma King is Senior Lecturer of French at ANU and author of Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema (Manchester 2017) and Jacques Audiard (Manchester 2021). She convenes ANU’s Global Paris course, which explores iconic cultural sites while also discovering forgotten parts of the city relating to colonial history, the legacy of slavery, and the evolution of the Republic.

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