For Whose Own Good?: French (Post-)Colonialism and Interdependence

deadline for submissions: 
September 1, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 


“C’est avec 76.900 hommes que la France assure la paix et les bienfaits de la civilisation à ses 60 millions d’Indigènes. ”

So reads a French colonial propaganda poster from the 1931 Exposition Coloniale. Indeed, throughout its long colonial history, France painted itself as bringer of good, enlightenment, health, and happiness to those “less fortunate” around the world. This is the essence of the mission civilisatrice. Of course, the lived reality of French colonial rule was far from caring. Rather, it was exploitative, essentializing, and violent. But it also undeniably created systems of interdependence that endure, not least of which is the lasting hegemony of the colonizer’s language. These systems affect everything from representation to (im)migration to questions of individual and national identity. Better understanding colonialism’s role in shaping our past and our present will help illuminate the complicated, ongoing power dynamics it created and the lasting ways in which it both facilitated and hindered caring and interdependency.

A range of topics facilitate a better understanding of these issues. What moments of caring, if any, were able to exist within the colonial system? How did it create networks of (inter)dependency? How do those networks continue to exist and evolve today? How do these relationships play out in cultural texts? How is cultural production used as a way to promote caring in this system, either retroactively through memory or by addressing remaining power differentials? What is the impact of (post)colonialism and systems of interdependency on the environment? This panel invites papers, in English or French, that unpack the historical and contemporary influences and impacts of colonialism on caring in the francophone world.



This panel invites papers in English or French that explore the past and present of the entanglement of French colonialism and caring, broadly defined. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) its presentation as a project of nurturing (la mission civilisatrice) to its creation of systems of interdependence that have lasting influences on questions of (im)migration, identity, and representation to its impact on the environment.