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Commemorations, Commemorators and Commemorated: Unveiling the Politics of France’s Remembrance of Slavery

Brown Bag Lecture Series
Mar 28, 2012
12:15 PM to 01:15 PM
402 Burrowes

Sophia Khadraoui, Department of French and Francophone Studies, Penn State

May 10, 2007: three immense, two-meter-high triangular columns (two in steel, one in wood) each engraved in their negative space with a pregnant silhouette of Solitude, an historical figure of slave resistance in Guadeloupe, emerge in Bagneux, a suburb of Paris. Through nine sculptures and monuments this research questions the process of the memorialization of slavery and its abolition in the French metropolitan cityscape since 1998, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. Socially, historically and/or politically; how are these artifacts used as narrative tools by the state, associations and communities as each party struggles to convey its own perspective of a shared violent past? By studying France’s artistic recognition of slavery and its abolition, this research not only considers slavery with respect to its intimate ties to current questions surrounding race, identity and immigration but also contributes to a larger understanding of slavery in the former European empires, Africa, and the Americas, for scholars who would want to highlight the specificities, perspectives and emphasis that each national site put forward in their process of remembrance of their common slave past.

Sophia Khadraoui is an ABD student in French and Francophone Studies. She is currently writing her dissertation “Sculpted Memories: Commemorating the Abolition of Slavery in Metropolitan France through Monuments”. Her research interests include questions of race and identity and their repercussions in history and memory. She earned an M.A. in American Civilization from La Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris III and another in French Civilization from The Pennsylvania State University.

This lecture is a part of the Center for Global Studies Brown Bag Graduate Lecture Series which focuses on the graduate research across disciplinary fields.

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