Annual Conference 2010

Between Utopia and Dystopia: The Afterlives of Empire

Annual Conference of the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies

19-20 November 2010

Institut Français, London

2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the independence of 17 African countries, most of them former colonies of the French Empire. A number of conferences already announced for this year in the UK and elsewhere will attempt to provide a critical overview of this wave of independences, working from a range of perspectives across the social sciences. This conference will adopt a complementary approach, focusing its analysis on the utopian and dystopian representations (literary, political, historical, cultural) to which the process of decolonisation gave rise. We thus invite proposals for papers that seek to explore the complex relationship between utopian and dystopian images of decolonisation in the former French and Belgian colonies.

It is now a critical commonplace that the expectation in the run up to, and euphoria in the immediate aftermath of, independence gave way to a sense of profound disillusionment by the late 1960s. For example, if the 1966 Festival mondial des arts nègres in Dakar posited independence as nothing less than the cultural, social and political renaissance of the entire continent, then Ahmadou Kourouma’s novel Les Soleils des indépendances, first published in 1968, imagined post-colonial Africa as a nightmarish world of poverty, despair and the oppressive one-party state. However, the neat chronology of 1968 as the turning point separating utopian and dystopian visions of independence does not withstand sustained scrutiny: e.g. already in 1961, Fanon’s Damnés de la terre was warning of the danger of independence being derailed by a corrupt elite; that same year, Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected leader of the Congo, was executed by the Belgian security forces with the collusion of the CIA; in 1962, René Dumont gave his stark warning that L’Afrique noire est mal partie; and throughout the 1960s, the writer/filmmaker Ousmane Sembene denounced a transfer of power that was singularly failing to transform the lives of the African masses.

Although the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2010 relate to sub-Saharan Africa, we would also welcome proposals for papers dealing with other contexts such as North Africa and Indo-china, and equally the post-departmentalised DOM-ROMs, whose afterlives of empire are particularly complex. Also, we would be keen to receive proposals from scholars working on France’s ancien régime empire: how was the loss of Canada, and India imagined? What dreams for the future sustained the French-speaking populations or was their imaginary marked solely by a postcolonial melancholy? How and when did Haitian dreams of a black Republic give way to often dystopian images of a seemingly endless spiral of oppression and exploitation? As global inequalities seem to become ever more entrenched, is it still possible or desirable to create utopian representations of independence?


Friday, 19 November 2010

9.30-10.30       Registration

10.30-10:45     Opening Remarks – David Murphy

10:45-12:15     Panel 1: Utopian Literary Futures

• “The Global Mediterranean: Literature and Migration” (Dominic Thomas)

• Speech and Utopia. Senghor’s Poetic Universalism (Michael G. Kelly)

• Decolonizing culture, decolonizing the intellectual: The First Congress of Black Writers and Artists (Paris, 1956) (Lucie Mercier)

12.15-2.00       Lunch/AGM

2.00-3.30         Panel 2: Parallel Sessions

Panel 2a: Caribbean

• Hopes and Frustrations of Departmental Life: the Ambiguities of Martiniquan Attitudes towards the Colonial Inheritance (Sam Coombes)

• Social Dispossession in Dystopian Guadeloupe: Nèg maron, Lettre ouverte à la jeunesse and the Strikes of 2009 (Louise Hardwick)

• “Returns to the native land”1: Dany Laferrière’s unresolved dilemma (Gabrielle Parker)

Panel 2b: Post-imperial Melancholia

• The afterlives of the national: Mediterranean melancholia in the contemporary Algerian novel (Edwige Tamalet Talbayev)

• From Melancholia to Utopia?: on the paradox of recent theory (Lucy Brisley)

• Historicizing the ‘Playground’: The Beach and Empire in Diasporic Island Literatures (Namrata Poddar)

3.30-3.45         Coffee

3.45-4.45         Panel 3: Parallel Sessions

Panel 3a: The Afterlives of the Ancien Régime’s Empire

• ‘Imagining the post-slavery future: travel writing and the afterlives of the Haitian revolution’ (Kate Hodgson)

• After ‘Loss’: Utopian Visions of French India during the Indian ‘Mutiny’ (1857–58) (Nicola Frith)

 Panel 3b: Afro-pessimism and Disillusion

• Utopia/Dystopia: Williams Sassine and Afro-Pessimism (Charlotte Baker)

• La nation anti-impérialisme: désillusion et utopie dans Allah n’est pas obligé (2000) d’Ahmadou Kourouma (Nadra Hebouche)

5.00-5.45         Keynote Speaker: Kate Marsh

‘Nous étions évidemment inspirés par l’exemple de l’Inde’: Idealization of 1947, the end of the Union française, and les ultimes confettis de l’Empire de Dupleix

6:00-7:30         Vin d’Honneur

8:00                 Dinner

Saturday, 20 November 2010

10.00-11:00     Panel 4: Parallel Sessions

Panel 4a: Bande Dessinée

• Memory and Postmemory in Morvandiau’s D’Algérie (2007) (Ann Miller)

• Paradoxical Paradises: Gendered Interweavings of Utopia and Dystopia in the (Post-) Colonial Bande Dessinée (Catriona MacLeod)

Panel 4b: Sexuality and Narcissism

• L’affect mélancolique et la sexualisation des hautes aspirations d’indépendance africaine dans Juletane de Myriam Warner-Vieyra (Anna-Leena Toivanen)

• On a Politics of Narcissism in the African Postcolony: Maryse Condé’s Hérémakhonon (Kaiama L. Glover)

11.00-11:15     Coffee/Tea

11:15-12:45     Panel 5: Parallel Sessions

Panel 5a: Algeria

• Albert Camus’ defence of a French Algeria as a utopian idea of nation or empire building and cultural merging (Heidi Bojsen)

• Postcolonial Algerian cinema: from a ‘constellation of revolt’ to the ‘crushed state of melancholia’ (Guy Austin)

• Shades of Grey: Challenging Utopian and Dystopian Representations of the Algerian War of Independence (Claire Eldridge)

Panel 5b: Africa

• Ironie, satire, allégorie : la rhétorique de la contre-utopie postcoloniale chez Sembène et Ngũgĩ (Ousmane Ngom)

• Le néocolonialisme littéraire: la réception des “Soleils des indépendances” (1968-1970) d’Amadou Kourouma par les éditeurs et les critiques périphèriques (canadiennes) et métropolitaines (Vivan Steemers)

• Alternate History and the Disunited States of Africa (Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi)

12.45-2.00       Lunch

2.00-3.30         Panel 6: Utopian Pasts, Utopian Futures

• The Union Française, Eurafrique, and the fate of French late-colonial utopias (Stephen Tyre)

• La vision panafricaine de Kwame Nkrumah : de la réalité à l’utopie? (Amzat Boukari-Yabara)

• Past glories and oppressive tradition. Empires in European textbooks (Susanne Grindel)

 3.30-3.45         Tea/Coffee

3.45-4.30         Keynote Speaker: Ferdinand de Jong (Chair: David Murphy)

Postcolonial Heterotopia: The Monument of the African Renaissance.

4.45                                 Close of Conference

To register for the conference, please email before Monday 8 November 2010.

For a downloadable version of conference programme click here.

Download the conference registration form here.