New Book Explores How French Visual Culture Normalized Colonialism

A new collection of essays, Visualizing Empire: Africa, Europe, and the Politics of Representation, examines how an official French visual culture normalized the country’s colonial project and exposed citizens and subjects alike to racialized ideas of life in the empire. The book will be released on January 19 now via Getty Publications.

A press release states: “By the end of World War I, having fortified their colonial holdings in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and Asia, the French could rightly claim to have expanded their dominion to the four corners of the earth. This point was celebrated in the summer of 1931 when 33 million people attended the Paris Exposition Coloniale Internationale.”

“In that world’s fair, imperialism was not a subtheme, but rather the explicit purpose; visitors could, as the government’s slogan advertised, have a “tour of the world in a day,” touching down on continents and oceans that represented the breadth of France Overseas.”

Through a diverse and interdisciplinary range of studies, Visualizing Empire reveals the complex ways in which the French displayed, defined, and represented their empire. The essays in this volume focus on a collection of materials held in the Getty Research Institute, acquired from the Paris-based Association Connaissance de l’Histoire de l’Afrique Contemporaine (ACHAC) archives.

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