This essay traces the long but neglected history of French anti-colonialism (focusing on opposition to France’s nineteenth-century empire). In many instances, it is not colonialism per se that has been opposed by French anti-colonialists but rather its violent excesses; that is, anti-colonialism has emerged as an indignant response to what is seen as the Republic’s failure to live up to its ideals, with Republican Universalism invoked as a principle to be upheld rather than critiqued. A more radical and sustained critique of empire, mainly but not solely the work of French colonial subjects (or their descendants) has denounced imperialism as inherently violent and incapable of being reformed, and it has castigated Republican Universalism as an ethnocentrism that dare not speak its name. This contribution will trace both lineages of French/Francophone anti-colonialism.
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