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This University Seminar focuses on the transnational material, intellectual and symbolic exchanges that have characterized the regions that once composed successive French empires since the seventeenth century.  The seminar will not be an exercise in colonial or imperial history, organized around the opposition between « center » and « periphery », but rather an exploration of connections and lines of fragmentation within that space. The goal of the seminar will be to explore not only France’s global expansion and retraction in the modern period, but, no less significantly, the after-lives of the French empire in various post-colonies, networks, and institutions. Our goal is to map a distinct—but not isolated—world within the “globe,” one conditioned but not defined by France, its empires, its language, and its ecumene. Inherently interdisciplinary, the seminar will bring together scholars in the humanities and the social sciences from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa in order to understand these complex exchanges that reach « Beyond France ».

Professor Ralph Ghoche

Professor Samia Henni

Thomas Zuber

All seminars will continue to meet virtually through Fall 2021. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.


Meeting Schedule

10/15/2021 Online Meeting
12:30 PM
Jean Montague: Fugitive Accounts
Annette Joseph-Gabriel, University of Michigan
Speaker Link Abstract


This chapter examines the correspondence between Jean Montague, an enslaved boy in Paris, and Benjamin Franklin, correspondence that illuminates the ways that enslaved people contested power and personhood in France as both the site of their enslavement and a land of freedom. Drawing on Ivorian novelist Véronique Tadjo’s work on infinite replications of Afro-diasporic narratives of resistance, I recount Montague’s life story in three different ways that move beyond historical reconstruction to consider alternate modes of accounting for the fragments of enslaved people’s lives in the archive. A close reading of the letters by and about Montague shows that his multiple attempts at flight constituted acts of self-fashioning by which he refused the objectification of slavery and articulated a vision of freedom that foregrounded his mobility and bodily autonomy. His recurrent acts of flight reveal the promises and limitations of the law as a means for young people’s contestation of slavery and highlight fugitivity as a strategic fashioning of oneself as free.

11/05/2021 Online Meeting
12:30 PM

Mohamed Amer Meziane, Columbia University
Speaker Link

12/03/2021 Online Meeting
12:30 PM

Jacqueline Couti, Rice University
Speaker Link