Chapter 1

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This chapter asks how France’s children were socialized into the imperial gaze by turning to a small but significant corpus of popular music, printed literature and visual works associated with France’s 1931 Exposition coloniale such as Henri Alibert’s song ‘Nénufar’ and Pol Rab’s illustrated comics of the same name that seem, on their surface, to undermine the Exhibition’s larger claim that its exhibits (and those contained within them) were ‘authentic’. Closer analyses, however, reveal that the comics explicitly stage such moments of colonized subjects’ rebellion to quell its young readers’ anxieties about the potentially dominating and racist nature of their own gaze. The chapter’s conclusion then considers how similar questions about this gaze continue to resurface in the twenty-first century. After discussing recent efforts to censor the resurgence of cultural artifacts (such as Hergé’s comic book Tintin au Congo), the chapter concludes that, while laudable, such efforts to censor racist materials also threaten to allow the larger ways of looking on which they depend from view. It is precisely these ways of looking (and their complex entanglement with notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’) that the Francophone works examined in subsequent chapters expose and ultimately contest.

To Censor or Not to Censor?

Chapter 1 concludes with a discussion of censorship of racist images such as those promoted in popular music (such as “Nénufar,” analyzed in the chapter) or comic books such as Tintin au Congo or Négro et Négrette à l’Exposition. Here are some links to current debates about these materials’ censorship. On Tintin au Congo (French- […]