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At the Limits of MemoryLegacies of Slavery in the Francophone World$
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Nicola Frith and Kate Hodgson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381595

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381595.001.0001

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Representing the Slave Past

Representing the Slave Past

The Limits of Museographical and Patrimonial Discourses1

(p.25) Representing the Slave Past
At the Limits of Memory

Christine Chivallon

Liverpool University Press

Chapter two, by Christine Chivallon, which introduces the first part of the volume, takes a critical approach to the new politico-memorial practices related to slavery in France and its overseas territories. The recent state-led ‘memorial boom’ (from the 1990s onwards) is analysed as an attempt to create social unity by transcending the kind of racial hierarchies that characterized the former slave and colonial societies. The workings of patrimonial discourses are exposed through a careful analysis of a number of key study sites based in metropolitan France and its overseas Caribbean departments. It foregrounds four discursive strategies that enable the slave past to become visible through the medium of museography–namely, periodization, national narration, witness sites and monumentality. Overall, it argues that the museographical strategies that are intended to voice the slave past force slavery to conform to circumstantial political demands. More than that, they serve to shape the museum narrative itself, such that this chapter questions the extent to which the museum can ever provide adequate knowledge about, and recognition for, the human experience of slavery.

Keywords:   Slavery, Museum, Museography, Patrimony, Politics, France, Caribbean, Commemoration, Republicanism

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