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Postcolonial Realms of MemorySites and Symbols in Modern France$
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Etienne Achille, Charles Forsdick, and Lydie Moudileno

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620665

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620665.001.0001

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The Abolition of Slavery

The Abolition of Slavery

(p.195) The Abolition of Slavery
Postcolonial Realms of Memory

Sophia Khadraoui-Fortune

, Andrea Lloyd
Liverpool University Press

April 24th 1998, a two-meter-high iron statue of a slave, arms raised towards the sky, breaking free from his/her chains, was erected clandestinely in Nantes, the primary French slave port of the eighteenth century. Faced with the local government’s refusal to erect a statue commemorating the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, the Mémoire de l’Outre-Mer association decided, in secret, to commission a sculpture. Following the organization’s initial success of hijacking the inauguration, the statue was vandalized. It soon became a performative monument, a memorial palimpsest, and a centre stage of a symbolic combat where opponents and supporters clashed. This essay reveals the democratic praxis at the heart of this commemoration debate. With both the pressure of citizens on the political body, and the triple practice of diversion, subversion, and taking hostage of (public) space, the association thwarts the writing and power strategies of the city of Nantes and its culture of silence. Mémoire de l’Outre-Mer not only resists official discourse but subsequently imposes its own version of French history on the whitened pages of France’s colonial narrative, thus reclaiming a past, a story, an identity, by bringing to light existences and testimonies, and defining new lieux de parole.

Keywords:   Commemoration, Monument, Public space, Slavery

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