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Call For Papers (Francophone Postcolonial Studies Tribute to Professor Kate Marsh): ‘Colonial Continuities and Decoloniality in the French-Speaking World: From Nostalgia to Resistance’

26th February 2021

In tribute to our former SFPS President, as well as our colleague, mentor, teacher, outstanding scholar and friend, Professor Kate Marsh (1974-2019), SFPS is planning a special volume to be published in Spring 2023 as part of the Francophone Postcolonial Studies (FPS) series. Professor Marsh’s research and teaching covered an extraordinarily wide range of interests and approaches, encompassing literature, politics, empire and cultural production across the Francophone world in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The purpose of this volume is to offer a fitting tribute by featuring articles by SFPS members (among others) influenced by her work or mentorship, or who knew her personally and/or professionally. Contributions from scholars working either in a similar context to Kate or whose work has been influenced, tangentially or otherwise, by her thinking are equally welcome.

The editorial team (Sarah Arens, Nicola Frith, Jonathan Lewis and Rebekah Vince) is in the process of putting together a proposal for the FPS board and is inviting SPFS members to get in contact if they are interested in participating. As a unifying theme, we are inviting proposals or expressions of interest that focus broadly on the concept of colonial continuities and decolonial thinking and praxis as it relates to the Francophone world.

This theme reflects and builds on Professor Marsh’s longstanding interest in the development of tropes within the French colonial imaginary. In her research, she challenged what she termed the ‘infelicitous periodization’ that had resulted in a convenient separation between the empires of the ancien régime and the Third Republic (India in the French Imagination: Peripheral Voices, 1754–1815, 2009). ‘Eschewing traditional periodizations’ means revealing the ‘continuities in representational strategies and cultural preoccupations’ across time. It also means illuminating, as she wrote in the introduction to France’s Lost Empires: Fragmentation, Nostalgia and La Fracture Coloniale (2011), ‘how perceptions of territorial loss sustained continuities […] which informed subsequent manifestations of French imperialism, and which, indeed, are evident today in metropolitan representations and memories of empire’. Nostalgia, she stated, was sewn into the very fabric of French empire building, its ‘tropes of loss’ revealing ‘much about the complex persistence of ideas concerning France’s identity as a colonial power both during and after the periods of colonization’.

Today more than ever we need to examine the persistence of colonial tropes, representations, narratives and mindsets that continue to structure systems within contemporary societies. Calls to decolonize research practices, teaching curricula, institutions and structures means confronting precisely those ‘infelicitous periodizations’ that artificially divide the past between the colonial and the post-colonial. Proposals or expressions of interest may interpret this theme widely in recognition of the breadth of Professor Marsh’s own research interests. As she noted in the introduction to her second monograph, her work is diachronic in terms of its time span, but synchronic in its ability to reach down into the specificities of particular events within that longer history. This oscillation between understanding history at both the macro level of the longue durée and at the micro level of the specific event was typical of her ability to move between different kinds of materials, across different time periods and geographical locations, all connected by the history of colonialism and exploitation. It is in this spirit of scholarly excellence, integrity and engagement that we invite your participation.

Questions/themes for consideration include:


  • How has colonial nostalgia been instrumentalized and/or weaponized and for what diverging political, social and intellectual ends?
  • To what extent does nostalgia continue to inform dominant narratives/discourses of empire?
  • How do colonial systems of thought and representation continue to inform social, political and institutional structures in the French-speaking world today?
  • What forms of resistance have there been to such narratives/discourses of nostalgia?
  • In what ways has decolonial thinking and activism pushed back against the colonial project from imperial conquest to national liberation movements, and beyond?
  • To what extent does nostalgia offer decolonizing potential, for example in imagining alternative futures based on pre-colonial societies, cultures, political and philosophical systems and/or anti-colonial resistance struggles etc.?
  • What continuities exist between anti-enslavement and anti-colonial resistance in the past and decolonial movements today?
  • What geographies, networks and histories of resistance have been elided in francophone postcolonial studies to date?
  • To what extent are decolonial and postcolonial theories different and comparable, and how should postcolonialism engage with decoloniality?

Please submit an expression of interest, along with a 250-500-word abstract by Friday 16 April 2021 to

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