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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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Le Bagne

Le Bagne

(p.217) Le Bagne
Postcolonial Realms of Memory

Charles Forsdick

Liverpool University Press

The bagne retains an ambiguous status as a lieu de mémoire, in part because of its predominantly extra-metropolitan location, in part because most understandings of the institution rely heavily on representations freighted via literature, film and graphic fiction. In French Guiana and New Caledonia, the bagne was nevertheless the major driver in the attempted mise en valeur of those colonies in the face of varying degrees of resistance to settlement. Moreover, France’s carceral archipelago extended beyond those key sites to include penal colonies in North and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Indochina. The essay scrutinizes the rich body of material that has served as a vehicle for memories of the institution, but uses a focus on contemporary memorial practices in French Guiana and New Caledonia to suggest a distinct divergence in forms of interpretation, especially regarding the place of the penal colony in colonial expansionism. Although until recent years the bagne has often acted as more of a postcolonial lieu d’oubli, in a context of complex postcolonial politics and of growing interest in penal heritage its status as a lieu de mémoire is becoming increasingly apparent.

Keywords:   Bagne, Carceral archipelago, French Guiana, New Caledonia, Penal heritage, Prison

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