Between the “big conspiracy” and network-building on the ground: understanding the transition in francophone africa as social and transnational history

29.09.2017 - 30.09.2017 Add to calendar

29-30 september 2017

In spite of a number of studies that shed light on French decolonization in sub-Saharan Africa, much remains unclear regarding the various continuities that characterize the years after independence. The analysis of the transition has frequently remained an interpretation of late colonial structures, often at the top level of political decision-making, and with a focus on imperial history (which has had difficulties to escape Eurocentric frameworks) ending with the transfer of power (i.e. mostly in 1960).

While the idea of a Françafrique of an entangled character, as a kind of embodiment of French neocolonial goals, has been popular over the last three decades, little has been done to understand the creation and development of French-African networks. Empirical research is relatively rare. Recent interest in the Réseau Foccart has to be regarded as positive. Yet the recent interpretation of Foccart’s activities has favoured a kind of conspiracy theory from a Eurocentric perspective, which does not do justice to the complexities of African-French entanglements. Instead of discussing the French presence in several former colonies after 1960 from this standpoint, the focus should be on the multiplicity and ambivalence of links, interests and strategies.

Such an approach would certainly need to be complemented by a perspective that gives more room to the experience at middle-level and to aspects of social history. We must not forget that, in several former French colonies, European experts, military men and former administrators had an importance locally, continuing the late colonial projects that are so typical of the 1950s. Business links, facilitated by the existence of the Franc zone, were also important. These connections and exchanges with African officials are clearly important for understanding the process of nation-building on the ground.

It would also be interesting to see how far the trajectory of some of the former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa could be compared to experiences elsewhere in France’s former empire, where the transitions took a very different form.

This two-day workshop seeks to promote new research concerning the transition in former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa. It will build on Tony Chafer’s and Alexander Keese’s work on French colonialism and West African societies shortly before and after independence.

Organisé par: 
Tony Chafer (University of Portsmouth) , Alexander Keese (UNIGE), Romain Tiquet (UNIGE)
Lieu de l'événement
Université de Genève
Uni Bastions
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0.00 CHF