Taken together, the reputations which emerged in Francophone popular culture around a series of distinguished explorers, missionaries, empire builders or colonial administrators can be described as a site of collective memory, cementing in part the French ‘imagined community’ and sometimes spearheading cultural bridges within the French-speaking world in the postcolonial period. Turned into heroic figures endowed with national significance at the time of the ‘New Imperialism’ of the late nineteenth-century, through an elaborate process which involved the agency of a variety of hero-makers (and sometimes the heroes themselves) and the use of the newly-developed mass-media, the names of Lavigerie, Garnier, Brazza, Marchand, Lyautey, Foucauld and the like became sites of memory, both physically (through street or institution naming, statues, etc.) and culturally (through books, representations in the press and later in films, as well their place in the pantheon of school textbooks). Through colonial heroes, an unusual map of (post-)colonial France and the Francophone world emerges, which is much more complex than has been previously acknowledged, especially in the light of the interest of some post-independence African rulers in the colonial conquerors who gave birth to the modern states that they run.
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