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Sartre and black Africa: cross-cultural issues

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This article reconsiders, against the backdrop of postcolonial theoretical and critical debate, Sartre's treatment of the black African theme in a number of polemical essays he wrote between the late 1940s and the early 1960s. As that period saw the dislocation of France's black African empire and the emergence in its place of a politically independent continent, the article seeks to identify the ways in which Sartre, known for his searing indictment of colonial exploitation, responded to issues of difference across the continental divide. It considers in particular whether such a cross-cultural response occurring as it did in the context of decolonization and its immediate aftermath, can be described as being invariably a function of changing relations between France and black Africa. The issues raised are these: What forms does Sartre's anti-colonialism take? What philosophical and ideological convictions shape it? Is the attitude entirely disruptive of colonial modes of relating to difference? If not, what are its aporias, its ambiguities and paradoxes?

Keywords: French African policy; centre/periphery; counter-hegemonic voices; decolonization; difference; intersubjectivity; literary instance; representation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Oxford

Publication date: 2005-04-01

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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