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Aim Csaire, the Colonial Exhibition, and the modernity of the Black Atlantic

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If modernism incorporated experiments with form, style and process, rejecting the longstanding claims to rationality, harmony, and coherence of the Enlightenment, it also provided a platform for the challenge to accepted racialized Atlantic binaries that Negritude would ultimately undertake. As a key moment in Europe's celebratory self-fashioning, the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition lauded the diversity and depth of France's intercontinental stature as a colonial power. But during this period, perceptions of race and alterity mediated a French praxis of assimilation, predicated largely on essentialized principles of racialized difference. Thus the Colonial Exhibition sought to condense and concentrate the central themes of colonial rhetoric into the basic framework of a single event. Csairean discourse would challenge the hierarchies of race and difference that were embodied in this triumphal moment and its furtherance of the stereotypes that nourished French colonialism through the implicit contradictions embedded in France's racialized foundation of difference and subjectivity. These hierarchies had long been accepted and inscribed in western discourse despite the advent of such path-breaking movements as surrealism.

Keywords: Colonial Exposition; Csaire; Negritude; difference; modernity; racialization

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Illinois.

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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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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