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Open Access 'Working Through' Slavery: The Limits of Shared Memories in Contemporary France

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This article questions what it means to create a shared and national memory of slavery in contemporary France following a long period of state amnesia. Beginning with the first Taubira law (10 May 2001), which named slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity, it considers the position assumed by the state as it tentatively confronts France's history of slavery at both national and regional levels. LaCapra's theory of 'working through' the traumatic past serves as a model for evaluating whether or not the state is engaging in genuine memory work. If the location of a consensual and republican framework for remembering slavery has resulted in the state's privileging of the abolitionist view, to what extent has that tendency been reflected at local levels in France's former slave ports of Nantes and Bordeaux? A comparison of the recent state-led memorial initiatives at these two key sites enables a deeper reflection on the absence of national sites of memory, while questioning the desirability of creating a 'shared' and national memory bounded by republican discourse and politics.

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Keywords: BORDEAUX; MEMORY; NANTES; REPUBLICAN DISCOURSE; SLAVERY; TAUBIRA LAW

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 19, 2013

More about this publication?
  • The Irish Journal of French Studies is an annual international refereed journal published by the Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d'Irlande. Articles in English, French or Irish are welcomed on any aspect of research in the area of French and Francophone culture, society, literature and thought. Articles published within the last two years are available free online to members and may be purchased by non-members. All other articles are available on an open access basis.

    Please note that the Print ISSN listed for the journal on this website applies to volumes 1 to 10, and part of volume 16. All other volumes are published, in their entirety, on-line only.

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