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Race on Display in 20th- and 21st Century France$

Katelyn E. Knox

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781781383094

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781383094.001.0001

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Civilized into the Civilizing Mission

Civilized into the Civilizing Mission

The Gaze, Colonization, and Exposition Coloniale Children’s Comics

(p.21) Chapter One Civilized into the Civilizing Mission
Race on Display in 20th- and 21st Century France

Katelyn E. Knox

Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter asks how France’s children were socialized into the imperial gaze by turning to a small but significant corpus of popular music, printed literature and visual works associated with France’s 1931 Exposition coloniale such as Henri Alibert’s song ‘Nénufar’ and Pol Rab’s illustrated comics of the same name that seem, on their surface, to undermine the Exhibition’s larger claim that its exhibits (and those contained within them) were ‘authentic’. Closer analyses, however, reveal that the comics explicitly stage such moments of colonized subjects’ rebellion to quell its young readers’ anxieties about the potentially dominating and racist nature of their own gaze. The chapter’s conclusion then considers how similar questions about this gaze continue to resurface in the twenty-first century. After discussing recent efforts to censor the resurgence of cultural artifacts (such as Hergé’s comic book Tintin au Congo), the chapter concludes that, while laudable, such efforts to censor racist materials also threaten to allow the larger ways of looking on which they depend from view. It is precisely these ways of looking (and their complex entanglement with notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’) that the Francophone works examined in subsequent chapters expose and ultimately contest.

Keywords:   1931 Exposition coloniale, Pol Rab, Henri Alibert, Nénufar, Human zoos, Tintin au Congo, French colonialism, Racism, gaze

The stakes could not have been higher for the 1931 Exposition coloniale internationale, held in Vincennes when popular support for France’s imperial project had reached an all-time low. The last and most impressive of a long line of ethnographic expositions, or ‘human zoos’, this monumental world’s fair attracted 8 million visitors in its six-month run.1 Guided by the goal of reigniting the French public’s interest in the colonies, the Exposition’s organizers took great care to orchestrate what visitors saw and, equally importantly, did not see. As Paul Reynaud, Minister of Colonies, put it in his inaugural address, ‘le but essentiel de l’Exposition est de donner aux Français conscience de leur empire […]. Il faut que chacun de nous se sente citoyen de la plus grande France’ (the primary goal of the Exposition is to give the French people a greater awareness of their empire […]. Each of us must feel like a citizen of ‘Greater France’).2 The act of observing the colonies in France became a way to rehearse the colonial mission.

To this end, officials promoted the Exposition as ‘authentic’ and expunged traces of its highly constructed nature, but hybridity and assimilation still proved particularly thorny issues. Competing narratives vied for space both on the colonized subject’s body and within their larger displays. On the one hand, colonized subjects had to embody savagery in order to warrant further colonization; yet they could not be too ‘savage’, which would suggest the failure of the ongoing colonial project. As Pascal Blanchard points out, colonized subjects ‘could not remain for too long in the category of the “savage” or the “barbarous”, given that this would have been a denial of the core principles of the colonial mission’.3 Similarly, as Patricia Morton highlights, the organizers used colonized (p.22) pavilions’ architecture—whose exteriors supposedly reflected ‘authentic’ cultural practices—to classify ‘colonized races into hierarchies based on stages of evolution’.4 For instance, the pavilions for Martinique, Guadeloupe, and La Réunion, which the French considered examples of successful assimilation to French culture, ‘employed “metropolitan” styles’ while others did not.5

Of equal importance was what Exposition officials expunged from the fair—most notably the violence on which the colonial project depended. In fact, contemporary critics, particularly the surrealists and communists, who held a counter-Exhibition and published a manifesto entitled ‘Ne Visitez pas l’Exposition coloniale’ (‘Don’t Visit the Colonial Exhibition’), drew attention to this very absence.6 They expressed their stern critique in no uncertain terms: France’s colonial project was founded on theft and murder.7 The Exposition, in their view, calculatingly lulled its visitor into a state where the imperial project’s violence became justifiable: ‘Il s’agit de donner aux citoyens de la métropole la conscience de propriétaires qu’il leur faudra pour entendre sans broncher l’écho des fusillades lointaines’ (It’s about giving French citizens the sense of ownership that they need to hear the faraway echoes of gunfire without flinching).8 Thieves were rebranded owners, and the echoes of literal violence no longer troubled spectators. Yet, while organizers erased all traces of literal colonial violence, they nevertheless worried that it might seep through the Exposition’s cracks in other ways.

More importantly than controlling what visitors saw, the Exposition officials also explicitly addressed how their visitors would look, reframing the potentially dehumanizing ‘gaze’ as a curious ‘look’—to borrow E. Ann Kaplan’s formulation.9 For Kaplan, the distinction between the ‘gaze’ and the ‘look’ resides both in reciprocity and motivation. Where the ‘gaze’ is an act steeped in unequal power dynamics and domination, the ‘look’, implies a relationality (the ‘Other’ can look back, regardless of whether s/he chooses to do so) and often stems from a position of curiosity.10 To ensure that the literal violence of the colonial project did not re-emerge through figurative violence inherent in the gazing dynamics, organizers affirmed that the Exposition’s purpose was neither entertainment nor exotic spectacle but rather education.11 In so doing, they preemptively addressed the concerns Exposition visitors might have with both the exhibition’s and the larger imperial project’s violence against colonized subjects.

As Kaplan highlights, these visual dynamics are not innate; rather, they are socialized into us from the earliest of ages. She proposes that (p.23) ‘looking is constituted as the child learns the culture it finds itself in. It learns what to look at, what to avoid looking at; what is to be visible, what invisible; who controls the look, who is object of the look’.12 In this chapter, I am interested in how France’s children were socialized into the imperial gaze at the time of the Exposition colonial internationale. The above sketch of how Exposition officials characterized the fair’s gazing dynamics seems to suggest that the answer is straightforward: by insisting on its ‘educational’ perspective, they outlined who can look, who can’t, and how to look. Turning to children’s publications at the time of the Exposition, one finds a plethora of articles that uncritically espouse the Exposition’s narratives of ‘authentic’ native subjects and an ‘educational’ perspective, which exude tones of curiosity. Many invite France’s children to visit the Exposition to see ‘des villages africains, asiatiques, océaniens, où les indigènes […] travaillent, jouent, dansent, vivent enfin sous le ciel parisien exactement comme ils vivent chez eux’ (African, Asian, [and] Oceanic villages where the natives […] work, play, dance, and live at last under the Parisian sky exactly as they do in their native land).13

A smaller but significant corpus of comics in these publications, however, seems to directly undermine the very narratives which Exposition officials took great care to construct. Far from ‘authentic’ natives, the colonized subjects they depict not only exhibit hybridity and assimilation (or worse, are not ‘natives’ at all, but French individuals performing as natives), some are also aware of and actively protest their status as object of the French gaze. Considering these comics more closely, however, reveals that by reopening the questions the Exposition officials would rather keep closed, they address some of the latent objections children might have regarding the nature of their gaze (and the larger colonial project it represents). Rather than frame the gaze as a look of curiosity for educational purposes, the comics studied here insist that this look is one of surveillance, and that failing to scrutinize France’s colonized subjects can have dangerous consequences for both the colonies and France.

Turning to colonial children’s comics seems to fall outside this book’s larger scope: investigating how racial and ethnic minorities in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century France problematize racially based notions of national identity through literature, music, fashion, and dance. As I examine in this chapter’s conclusion, however, these images continued to circulate when many of France’s current politicians and the francophone authors studied here were coming of age, and thus (p.24) fundamentally shaped how they saw themselves and those deemed their ‘others’. In fact, many of the authors I study in later chapters, notably Alain Mabanckou and Léonora Miano, have written about the way the comics studied here (and ones like them from the same period) initiated them into an understanding of how Africans were seen in the world. Specters of comics such as Tintin au Congo and racially stereotyped stock characters such as ‘Sambo’ reappear in Mabanckou’s Black Bazar (2009), studied in Chapter 3 and in Miano’s Blues pour Élise, studied in Chapter 4, respectively. Anne Donadey points out the important formative role of children’s literature: it ‘shapes an early ideological knowledge of what “we” and “others” are like’.14 As I illustrate in later chapters, it is exactly these notions of what ‘we’ and ‘others’ are like—that is, legacies of colonial imagery and the stereotypes they put forth—that racial and ethnic minority authors will ultimately contest. In order to trace postcolonial institutionalized spectacularism, then, I first turn to the colonial institutionalized spectacularism associated with imperial institutional spectacles.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not explicitly address the question of reproducing some of the racist images I analyze in this chapter—a perennial controversy in cultural studies. Scholars have rightly criticized academic studies that uncritically reproduce racist imagery; the most notable case is Malek Alloula’s Le Harem colonial: images d’un sous-érotisme (1981), of which Rey Chow wrote ‘Alloula’s discourse would have us believe that the French gaze at these women is pornographic while his is not’.15 I therefore do not reproduce such images lightly, and have expressly limited my corpus to three images of one central figure named Nénufar. Beyond limiting the reproduced material, I also contextualize and critically analyze the images, laying bare the colonial narratives they offer. Having said this, reproducing the images is in fact essential to Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France’s larger goal: to destabilize not only legacies of French colonial racism, but also the gazing dynamics on which they depend. It is therefore to the colonial gaze they invite that I turn my attention.

Surveillance and the Dangers of Not Looking in ‘Nénufar’

One would expect the Exposition’s mascot to perfectly embody the types of peoples on display there: a naïve and colonized subject who lives in an exhibit and shares his ‘authentic’ culture with the French visitors. (p.25) This, however, could not be further from the truth. Though a central Exposition figure, Nénufar (waterlily), the fair’s mascot, has received almost no attention from scholars.16 Nénufar’s popularity meant that he took many commercialized forms: he was a plush doll that French children received as a thank you gift for renewing their Les Enfants de France (The Children of France) magazine subscription, he was a spokesperson in print advertising for commercial products such as Bayer aspirin, and a glass version of his body even became the container for the eponymous perfume Ramey released in 1931.17 Beyond his role as a commercial object, Nénufar also had a well-developed character expressed in two venues: he was the eponymous protagonist of the official march (with lyrics) performed most famously by Henri Alibert and played each morning at the Exposition, and a featured character in illustrator Pol Rab’s recurring comic published in Les Enfants de France. Outwardly, Nénufar seems a curious choice for the Exposition coloniale’s mascot for two reasons. First, though the article introducing Nénufar to young French readers announces that he has arrived in an Exposition package, he is never depicted at the Exposition in either the images or the song.18 Second, far from a docile, authentic native, Nénufar seeks out French culture at all costs. Closer analysis of musical and visual representations of Nénufar, however, reveal that these images work through those narratives expunged from the Exhibition: assimilation and hybridity. Specifically, Nénufar’s attempts to adopt European fashion norms suggest that colonized gestures toward assimilation are always incomplete and mimetic. Ultimately, these works depict him as both childlike and threatening in order to justify European surveillance of colonized subjects and to demand that Les Enfants de France’s audience rehearse this gaze with Nénufar.

In its first issue, published in 1931, Les Enfants de France built anticipation for the Exposition coloniale that would take place later that year by introducing Nénufar to its young readers (Figure 1). The issue’s cover rehearses colonial narratives, presenting Nénufar as a childlike, non-threatening, but yet grateful recipient of civilized culture and loyal to his ‘new French friends’: ‘Nénufar, le nouvel ami des enfants de France leur adresse tous ses voeux pour 1931’ (Nénufar, the new friend of France’s children wishes them all the best in 1931).

This image evacuates all notions of colonial violence while simultaneously reinscribing another type of violence: racist imagery. The exaggerated lips in particular are reminiscent of other depictions of sub-Saharan African colonized subjects, reminding the reader of the (p.26)

Civilized into the Civilizing MissionThe Gaze, Colonization, and Exposition Coloniale Children’s Comics

Figure 1: Nénufar illustration by Pol Rab on the cover of Les Enfants de France (1931).

(p.27) Banania posters, which Léopold Sédar Senghor famously proposed to ‘déchirer […] sur tous les murs de France’ (tear down from every wall in France).19

The article which illustrator Pol Rab wrote to accompany this image epitomizes childlike depictions of colonized subjects. Not only does he claim Nénufar as his adopted child, he also emphasizes Nénufar’s naïveté: ‘il est un petit négrillon qui est très intelligent et possède un excellent coeur. Mais il ignore totalement la vie civilisée des petits Français’ (he’s a little Negro who is very intelligent and has a heart of gold. But he knows nothing at all of French children’s civilized lives).20 Presenting Nénufar in this way encouraged young readers to rehearse France’s civilizing mission by figuratively ‘adopting’ him too. In so doing, text and image reinforce notions of colonized subjects as children, and reiterate colonial narratives that the colonized subject desires assimilation.

Similarly, the lyrics to the ‘Nénufar’ march, which spectators heard each morning at the Exposition, present Nénufar as a child lacking self-awareness. Moreover, they reaffirm that Nénufar’s naïveté is authentic, not performed:

  • Nénufar!
  • T’as du r’tard!
  • T’as du r’tard
  • Mais t’es un petit rigolard.
  • T’es nu comme un ver,
  • Tu as le nez en l’air
  • Et les ch’veux en paill’ de fer!21
  • (Waterlily!
  • You’re slow!
  • You’re slow!
  • But you’re a grinning little fellow.
  • You’re stark naked,
  • Unaware of what goes on around you,
  • And you have steel wool hair!)

These lines deploy racial stereotypes to reinforce Nénufar’s blackness (‘steel wool hair’) and reiterate associations between colonized subjects and children who lack self-awareness. In fact, this depiction of Nénufar as ‘stark naked’, which is not matched in any of the visual images (he is always depicted, at the very least, with a loincloth, shirt front, cuffs, and gloves on his feet), speaks to his authenticity: no artifice (even clothing) stands between the viewer and Nénufar’s true self.

(p.28) Like other descriptions of colonized subjects’ attempts to adopt European clothing, the way in which Nénufar adopts (or fails to adopt) European fashion rehearses three of the civilizing mission’s central narratives: first, that the colonized subject desires assimilation; second, that it is the colonizer’s responsibility to anticipate colonial subjects’ needs; and third, that any attempt on the part of the colonized subject to adopt European civilization can only ever be mimetic. The song’s lyrics mock Nénufar’s attempt to conform to European fashion norms: ‘Pour être élégant / c’est aux pieds qu’il mettait ses gants’ (To be elegant / he wore his gloves on his feet).22 This equation between elegance and European fashion underscores that Nénufar desires to acquire European culture at all costs.23

Similar parallels can be found in other colonial visual and musical works. For instance, in the song ‘Joli Chapeau’ (‘Beautiful Hat’, 1952) the protagonist describes (in petit-nègre)24 how he traded all of his pearls ‘contre un joli chapeau / A gentil Monsieur blanc qui venait par bateau’ (for a beautiful hat / From nice white Mister that came by boat).25 Just as the gloves symbolize elegance for Nénufar, the hat signifies assimilation for the protagonist of ‘Joli Chapeau’. In fact, the narrator in ‘Joli Chapeau’ boasts that his new hat accords him prestige within his society: ‘Chapeau, ça me fait distinction, / Bell’ fill’s ne regard’nt plus que moi, / Les Chefs me font génuflexions’ (Hat, it makes me distinction / Beautiful ladies look only at me, / Chiefs grovel before me).26 One also thinks of the panel from Tintin au Congo (published, like Nénufar, in 1931) where two Congolese men fight over a European straw hat.27 Tintin immediately stops the fight and devises an ingenious solution to the problem: he cuts the hat in two and presents the brim to one and the crown to the other. While the Congolese individuals are pleased with this outcome, remarking in petit-nègre ‘Li Blanc li très juste! […] Li donné à chacun la moitié du chapeau!’ (White man very fair. Him give half hat to each one!), the comic draws attention to the absurdity of this solution, since the hat is no longer functional for either man.28 In the European imaginary, symbols of assimilation—even when no longer useful—garner respect within African communities.

Second, Nénufar’s clothing positions the French civilizing mission as generous. The description of how Nénufar obtains his clothing offered in Les Enfants de France makes explicit the connection between clothing and the gift of civilization (through colonization): ‘ce sont des cadeaux que lui ont fait des explorateurs qui ont traversé son pays’ (they are gifts given to him by the explorers who crossed his country).29 A similar (p.29) narrative is also rehearsed in another children’s publication contemporaneous with the ‘Nénufar’ comics: Jean de Brunhoff’s L’Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (1931).30 When Babar first arrives in the European-style town, he immediately remarks the fashion of European men and, though he does not understand where or how to obtain such clothing, nevertheless aspires to wear such fine garments himself. The Old Lady who witnesses the scene recognizes this desire without Babar having to express it verbally. Anticipating the colonized subject’s wish, the Old Lady gives Babar her purse, which he uses to purchase a new wardrobe. These gifts of clothing in both Babar and ‘Nénufar’ place the colonized subject in the role of grateful recipient—a position Nénufar acknowledges when he offers flowers to his young French readers (Figure 1).

Most importantly, however, Nénufar’s clothing—particularly the ways in which he misadopts European fashion norms—quells anxieties regarding colonized subjects’ assimilation. Though they would outwardly seem a symbol of Nénufar’s acculturation and supposed progress, his attempts to adopt European clothing are instead a sign of his distance from French culture. In most of the illustrations that appear in Les Enfants de France, Nénufar participates in activities (including celebrating Bastille day, or preparing crêpes) wearing the clothing described in the initial article about him: a shirt front, one cuff, and gloves on his feet (though when preparing crêpes, he also dons a chef’s hat). This clothing, which serves no practical use, is therefore at once a symbol of Nénufar’s attempts to assimilate, a reminder of the colonial gesture of benevolent giving, and an indication of Nénufar’s inability to gaze upon himself critically. His clothing, a seeming sign of Nénufar’s hybrid culture, instead repeats the association between colonized subjects and children.31

Most of the comics show Nénufar in this semi-naked state; however, two depict him in the process of ‘dressing up’—an activity familiar to most children—to reinforce the idea that his assimilation can only ever be mimetic. In the first, Nénufar holds up a white mask in front of his face; a box containing additional white masks rests on the floor while another sits underneath the mirror (Figure 2). The caption reads, ‘Je mets un masque parce qu’ils croient que je suis déguisé’ (I put on a mask because they think that I’m dressed up). In the second, Nénufar wears a red jacket over a white shirt, a black top hat, gloves on his hands, and dress shoes; his false shirt front and cuffs can be seen draped over a couch in the background. Within the frame, Nénufar defiantly proclaims, ‘Moi aussi, je me déguise’ (Me too, I dress up) (Figure 3). (p.30)

Civilized into the Civilizing MissionThe Gaze, Colonization, and Exposition Coloniale Children’s Comics

Figure 2: Illustration of Nénufar dressing up by Pol Rab in Les Enfants de France (1931).


Civilized into the Civilizing MissionThe Gaze, Colonization, and Exposition Coloniale Children’s Comics

Figure 3: Illustration of Nénufar ‘disguising’ himself by Pol Rab in Les Enfants de France (1931).

(p.32) These images conflate race and culture: putting on a white mask is just as much a process of ‘disguising’ oneself as correctly putting on European-style clothing. In fact, Nénufar seems to gesture in these images toward racial and cultural ‘passing’.32 However, the illustrations’ emphasis on ‘disguising’ is central: not only does it imply impermanence, but the fact that Nénufar describes himself as ‘disguised’ in both images seems to suggest that he, too, understands that this ‘disguise’ is not real. These failed attempts at acculturation, to borrow Homi Bhabha’s terms, perpetuate the colonized subject ‘as a subject of difference that is almost the same, but not quite. […] Almost the same but not white’.33 The comic and song reinforce the dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and demand that their young audience scrutinize colonized subjects, looking particularly for cracks in their outward narrative of Frenchness. In suggesting that colonized subjects are ‘almost the same but not quite’, the images discussed here challenge their young audience to seek out and name the ‘not quite’—that which marks Nénufar as different.

In addition to portraying him as childlike, however, both media depict Nénufar as a potential threat, illustrating how competing and equivocal narratives share space on the colonized subject’s body. The song’s lyrics, for instance, also deploy racist tropes of the hypersexualized black male in describing Nénufar: ‘T’as fait la conquête des Parisiennes / Tu es leur fétiche / Et tu leur portes veine’ (You’ve won over the Parisian women / You’re their favorite / And you bring them good luck).34 Nénufar’s ‘conquest’ of French women carries a tone of domination, repositioning him as a potential aggressor.35 This idea that Nénufar might be carrying out his own conquest of French women inverts the sexual undercurrent of the colonial project, which is often discussed in terms of ‘rape’.36 Nénufar’s potential to engage in the sexual conquest of white French women thus points to an anxiety that the colony will ‘come home’ to colonize the métropole—a fear that francophone authors such as Alain Mabanckou, discussed in Chapter 3, later revisit.37 Though in this reading, the term ‘la conquête’ certainly might attribute agency to Nénufar, one can also read it as objectifying him: by referencing his black masculinity, the song returns him to the stereotypical role of a hypersexualized black male—an object pitted against the purity of white French women.38

Moreover, this discussion of Nénufar as the object of French women’s gaze also raises larger discussions about the gendered dynamics of the gazing positions. Scholars have pointed out that the gaze is often associated with a masculine subject position—in fact, as Laura Mulvey (p.33) and other feminist scholars have pointed out, cinema and other visual media often automatically adopt a masculine subject position, particularly when gazing upon female objects.39 Thinking of a colonial or Orientalist gaze in the francophone context often brings to mind the North African case, where cultural works such as Eugène Delacroix’s Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (1834), the portraits Marc Garanger took and subsequently published in Femmes algériennes 1960 (1989), and the postcards Malek Alloula studies in Le Harem colonial: images d’un sous-érotisme (1981) conspicuously offer the viewer unmediated access to private or veiled spaces and bodies.40 Here, Nénufar’s position as object of the French women’s gaze seems to reverse these dynamics: it is French women who become the gazing subject, while the sub-Saharan African male becomes the sexualized object.

Yet a closer look reveals that the gazing dynamics here are more complex than they seem. Though the French women look on Nénufar, this look is not, in fact, one of dominance, but rather one through which they potentially fall victim to Nénufar’s charm, regardless of whether he is a childlike figure or a sexualized object. Unlike the other occasional female gazes in the comics discussed in this chapter, which overwhelmingly position the French female gazer as a motherly caretaker figure who maintains an appropriate distance from the colonized subjects in order to supervise their entry into French civilization (such as the Old Lady in Babar discussed above, or the mother in the comic ‘Négro et Négrette à l’Exposition’, discussed below), the song ‘Nénufar’ points out that not all French gazes are equal. Though a French woman can occupy the position of gazing subject, in so doing, she may nevertheless fall victim to the guile of the very object she gazes upon. In this way, the song (more so than the comic) suggests that though the French women possess a gaze (unlike the colonized spectacles such as Nénufar), this gaze may nevertheless lead them to lose the very agency that affords them their gazing position in the first place. In the end, the song ‘Nénufar’ suggests that both colonized subjects and French women’s gaze on those colonized subjects must be subjected to surveillance.

Though Nénufar’s two positions—child or sexual aggressor—might outwardly seem contradictory since the former implies complete naiveté, whereas the second endows him with malevolent agency, what unites them is that they both justify—and indeed require—Nénufar’s surveillance. If he is childlike, then it becomes France’s duty (as a part of the civilizing mission) to watch over him and guide him toward civilization; if he is a sexual aggressor, French society must watch him closely (p.34) to ensure that he does not harm or corrupt French women. This equivocality also illustrates Bhabha’s assertion that stereotypes about colonized subjects profit from a certain flexibility:

The black is both savage (cannibal) and yet the most obedient and dignified of servants (the bearer of food); he is the embodiment of rampant sexuality and yet innocent as a child; he is mystical, primitive, simple-minded and yet the most worldly and accomplished liar, and manipulator of social forces.41

While, as I have suggested, depicting Nénufar in these ways reinforces the need for surveillance, as Bhabha points out, it also suggests that the colonized subject’s ‘true identity’ is a moving target. Is he a child lacking critical self-awareness? Or is he a ‘liar, and a manipulator of social forces’ who knows all too well the roles expected of him, and who merely performs these roles as a means to evade European surveillance? The latter position calls to mind Fatimah Tobing Rony’s formulation of minorities’ ‘third eye’—intimate knowledge of how they were seen in others’ eyes which they can then strategically deploy through a performance, ‘a composing of the self for spectacle’.42 It is precisely from the coexistence of these potentially conflicting identities that representations of Nénufar draw their force. For Stuart Hall, the coexistence of such images reveals ‘a deep ambivalence’ and, what is more, draws attention to ‘the double vision of the white eye through which they are seen’.43 In suggesting Nénufar’s equivocality, these ambivalent images ensure that their audience’s attention remains on him, allowing the larger racist frameworks (‘the double-vision of the white eye’) responsible for creating and upholding such narratives to evade critical scrutiny. Keeping the children’s attention on the object of the gaze in this way allows the gaze itself to avoid scrutiny.

Published in the same venue as ‘Nénufar’, the comic to which I now turn, ‘Les Aventures de Papoul’ (‘The Adventures of Papoul’), seems, on its surface, quite different. Specifically, where ‘Nénufar’ emphasizes the protagonist’s authenticity, ‘Les Aventures de Papoul’ raises the possibility of inauthenticity at the Exposition coloniale. Yet, as I argue below, these different takes on the issue of authenticity ultimately serve the same end: redirecting readers’ attention away from the violence of the comics’ gazing dynamics.

(p.35) The Disastrous Consequences of Failing to Scrutinize in Les Aventures de Papoul

Just as the other comics, children’s magazines (particularly Benjamin aux colonies [Junior in the Colonies]), and guidebooks published at the time slip unsignaled between the real colony and its reproduction at the Vincennes Exhibition, another recurring adventure story, ‘Les Aventures de Papoul’, written and illustrated by Géo Franc, literally springs from this slippage. Though the comic principally recounted Papoul’s adventures in North Africa, its first installment was published in Les Enfants de France’s special issue on the Colonial Exhibition. In this issue, Papoul’s uncle Yaoulick, who has just returned from living in the colonies, takes Papoul to the Exposition. To demonstrate the bargaining skills he has acquired in the colonies, Yaoulick negotiates with what he believes to be an authentic ‘Arab’ merchant for an authentic rug. The comic reveals, however, that the merchant is not Arab but marseillais, and that the rug is a mass-produced reproduction.44 In the comic’s diegetic world, neither Yaoulick nor Papoul will discover this mistake; however, the comic draws the reader’s attention to it. This suggestion that Marseillais are pretending to be Arabs and selling inauthentic wares at the Exhibition seems to directly contradict the wider discourse of authenticity promoted by this issue of Les Enfants de France specifically and advanced in writings about the Exposition coloniale more generally.

Moreover, that French individuals can ‘pass’ as natives well enough to convince those who have lived there (Yaoulick) of their authenticity reveals the epistemological anxieties bound up in the colonial mission. Yaoulick’s act of purchasing an inauthentic rug at an exorbitant price from an inauthentic ‘other’ not only suggests that the Exposition’s visitors might be duped into doing the same, but also that colonial officials might figuratively buy into exoticized and inauthentic visions of the colonies. In buying the worthless commodity, Yaoulick ‘buys into’ the merchant’s exoticized version of colonized culture, and pays dearly for it.

This comic highlights the dangers of what happens when the European gazing subject fails to scrutinize an image. What ultimately becomes the object of the reader’s gaze is not necessarily the Marseillais, but rather Yaoulick and his inability to see through the Marseillais’s performance. By highlighting Yaoulick’s lack of knowledge, the comic reminds its readers of their responsibility as gazers: to critically interrogate all received images, and to serve as the ultimate judge of their authenticity. In so doing, the comic civilizes the young reader into a framework where (p.36) his or her gaze is not just justified, but required. Failure to gaze, in this world, potentially leads to disaster for both France and its colonies.

At the same time, however, justifying the gaze in this way leaves unaddressed some of the main objections French children might have—namely that colonized subjects might oppose their objectification at the Exposition. The final children’s publication to which I now turn, ‘Négro et Négrette à l’Exposition’ (‘Négro and Négrette at the Exhibition’), will raise these very anxieties to subsequently dismiss them as misguided.

Négro and Négrette: From Racist Gaze to Curious Look

Depicted in another children’s serial entitled Nos albums de la quinzaine (Our Fortnightly Comics),45 Négro and Négrette outwardly seem more suited than Nénufar for the role of Exhibition mascot, particularly because unlike Nénufar (who is never on display at the Exhibition), they and their family live at the Exhibition. In fact, Négro, Négrette, and their family function as native informants who legitimize the Exposition’s claims of authenticity. Upon arriving at the Exposition, their father, the village chief, inspects the structures and confirms that, to his amazement, they are identical to those found in Africa:

Il [le père] a parcouru toute l’Afrique et vraiment il n’y a pas une faute. C’est à croire qu’on a transporté des cases et des maisons toutes faites sur les grands bateaux et le vieux chef est plein de respect.46

(He [the father] has traveled all of Africa and really, he finds no flaws. It’s as if completely assembled huts and houses had been brought [to France] on large boats and the old chief is full of respect.)

Here, Négro and Négrette’s father legitimates the way in which the Exhibition’s pavilions were presented to the French public: not as simulacra, but as authentic villages transported to mainland France.

Regardless of their medium and geographical backdrop, most fictional works of the time—like ‘Nénufar’—depict colonized subjects as blissfully unaware of their status as the object of the French gaze; ‘Négro et Négrette à l’Exposition’ constitutes a monumental exception in this regard. In fact, not only are Négro and Négrette both aware of their status as object of the French visitors’ gaze, but the comic invites its young reader to see the fair through the two Africans’ (albeit invented) perspective. For instance, early on it describes Négro and Négrette’s impressions of the ‘Toubab’ who pass before them in a never-ending (p.37) stream. Using the word ‘Toubab’—an Eastern Maninka word meaning ‘a person of white skin’, and often used to signify Europeans—forces the young French reader to confront his or her own image in the eyes of the ‘other’, calling to mind bell hooks’s notion of the ‘oppositional gaze’ (discussed in this book’s introduction).

Moreover, this perspective also initially seems to suggest the violence of France’s display practices—a move which stands to contradict the narrative that the European gazing position was one of benevolent curiosity.47 The comic imagines how Négro and Négrette feel about being ‘on display’ at the Exposition:

Les négrillons […] n’aiment pas beaucoup se sentir l’objet de conversations. On les montre du doigt, c’est tout juste si on ne leur donne pas des morceaux de brioche comme aux petits singes du jardin zoologique.

Négrette est furieusement vexée. Elle croit qu’on se moque d’elle.48

(The little Negroes […] don’t like feeling that they are the subject of conversations. People point at them, they practically give them pieces of bread like they do to the little monkeys at the zoo.

Négrette is very upset. She thinks the visitors are making fun of her.)

The emphasis on the children’s negative emotional reactions (‘they don’t like’ and ‘very upset’) seems to be an acknowledgement that the Exposition’s gazing dynamics are inherently dehumanizing—a fact, that, as I suggested above, Exposition officials took great pains to elide. The comic’s very next line, however, suggests that the gazing dynamic itself is not malevolent; rather Négro and Négrette only perceive it as such because they do not understand it. Though the comic does not use the terms ‘gaze’ and ‘look’ per se, it nevertheless implicitly and preemptively acknowledges its child audience’s potential objection to and unease with the idea that this act of looking might be a ‘gaze’—that is, a unidirectional act steeped in inequality—and instead reframes it as a benevolent ‘look’. Far from malicious, the French visitors are merely curious: ‘C’est pourtant tout le contraire. Tout le monde s’accorde à trouver ce village nègre et leurs habitants tout à fait gentils’ (It’s in fact quite the opposite. Everyone agrees that this Negro village and its inhabitants are very nice).49 The suggestion that the children fundamentally misunderstand the French visitors’ intent reiterates the colonial narrative equating colonized subjects with children who, at best, have an incomplete understanding of the larger context. Moreover, here, the ‘look’ becomes a metaphor for the larger colonial project. Read in this light, the text repackages imperialism as a benevolent mission (p.38) civilisatrice underpinned by curiosity, and reframes any resistance on the part of the colonized subject as erroneous.

Nowhere is this made clearer than in a scene where the boundaries between spectator and spectacle literally break down and, though a young French girl enacts racist physical violence on Négrette, only the latter is punished. One day, a young, well-dressed ‘Toubab’ visits the Exposition and, curious about Négro and Négrette:

s’[est] permis de frotter la joue de la négrillonne avec son doigt mouillée de salive, dans le but de se rendre compte si ‘c’était du bon cirage’. Profondément humiliée par ce geste, Négrette se jeta sur la petite.50

(permitted herself the liberty of rubbing the little Negro girl’s cheek with her finger, wet with saliva, in order to find out if ‘it was good shoe polish’. Profoundly humiliated by this act, Négrette threw herself upon the young girl.)

Though the young French girl’s action is profoundly racist, and Négrette has every right to protest, the comic’s author does not agree. Following this altercation, Négro and Négrette’s entire family is punished, while nothing happens to the young ‘Toubab’ (or her mother). Judging Négrette guilty and the ‘Toubab’ innocent insists (like the scene above) on the young French girl’s benevolence and demands that the reader understand Négrette’s reaction not as justified, but rather as an uncontrolled, violent outburst. In so doing, the work also reinforces stereotypical narratives about Africans’ quick temper.

Here again, the comic acts out, through a symbolic altercation at the Exposition (that is, on French soil), the very real one transpiring in the colonies. The comic explicitly stages a racist act in order to respond by suggesting that it is misguided to interpret the Exposition’s gazing dynamics (and the larger colonial dynamics for which they stand) in this way. The comic acts as a manual that anticipates the types of uncomfortable and even conflicted reactions that young French visitors might experience at the Exposition (and introduced to France’s colonial project more generally). Overall, the comic makes it abundantly clear that to denounce France’s colonial project and the Exposition as dehumanizing is to fail to understand them. Young readers learn that it is wrong to identify with those on display (for they are punished). Moreover, they learn to see violent rebellion, such as those transpiring in the colonies, as a reaction stemming from flawed assumptions.

Significantly, the comic departs from the typical gendered dynamics of the gaze depicted in most of the popular cultural works in my corpus. (p.39) Though the other comics and songs studied here propose the African male body as the object of the European male and female subjects’ gaze, here, both gazer and object are female children—a homosocial encounter that sets it apart from the adult encounter51 described in the song ‘Nénufar’ discussed above. These dimensions in ‘Négro et Négrette’ seem to evacuate the erotic dimension; here, the female-on-female gaze becomes one of curiosity, rather than sexual conquest, and there seems to be no hint that the young ‘Toubab’ might fall prey to Négrette’s guile in the same way as the French women might be figuratively conquered by Nénufar’s charm. And yet, though the comic reaffirms that French children of both sexes possess the right and responsibility to gaze on France’s colonial subjects, it simultaneously intimates that doing so potentially poses risks to young girls in particular. Though Négrette reports feeling ‘infuriated’ when the visitors are of unspecified gender, she only becomes violent when subjected to the female gaze (and subsequent racist violence). The Exposition officials who subsequently punish Négrette’s family, then, watch over the young French girl’s gaze and intervene when it endangers her.

Immediately following this judgment, the comic turns to the topic of colonized subjects’ assimilation. The scene begins one morning when Négro and Négrette visit the zoo adjacent to the Exposition, where they take pleasure in looking at the animals on display, as they have now done for several mornings. Gazing on the animals just as the French visitors gaze on them suggests that Négro and Négrette are beginning to adopt French values and practices. Yet, as suggested by the scene that follows, absent wider frameworks and surveillance, their attempts at assimilation will only lead them to misbehave and to become lost.

Suddenly, the young Africans realize that they have ventured outside of the zoo’s gates and find themselves caught up in a French crowd near a metro station. They follow the crowd underground and, without supervision, become delinquents, riding the metro for hours before French forces of order finally expel them. Completely disoriented upon their return to the surface, they ask a nearby French woman where they are. Though the conversation reveals that Négro and Négrette are far from the Exposition, the woman acquiesces to her two sons’ pleas to invite the Africans to their home for snack time instead of returning them directly to Vincennes. In so doing, the comic invites its young French reader to metaphorically act out France’s civilizing mission within the métropole.

This snack time scene rehearses the epitome of assimilationist narratives. Taking Négro and Négrette by the hand (read: adopting (p.40) them), the two nameless boys introduce (read: educate) Négro and Négrette to the wonders of their bourgeois French snacks (read: civilization). The young Africans marvel at the variety and exquisiteness of the morsels placed before them and, of course, devour them without any sign of manners. Next comes music. The French boys put on a tango (the height of civilization and coordinated ballroom dancing), but Négrette doesn’t like it (read: has no taste for civilization). Instead, she begins dancing in her own fashion. Though she remains blissfully unaware, her exotic dance immediately draws a crowd: ‘Hôtes et invités se sont arrêtés pour regarder la négrillonne’ (Hosts and guests stopped what they were doing to watch the little Negro girl).52 The comic does not rehash Négrette’s objections to being the object of the gaze here. Rather, it reaffirms that looking is not only permitted but also required. New walls—now invisible—separate the exotic spectacle (Négrette) from gazing subject (the French onlookers—both children and adults). What is more, unlike the Exposition’s visible walls, which signaled to Négrette her status as exotic spectacle—a status she ultimately contested—these invisible walls evade her critical scrutiny and ours as readers.

Though intended only as a one-time invitation, the comic explains that this brief glimpse into French life is enough to further Négro and Négrette’s desire to assimilate, and that the children return each week to the same household.53 This connection between the French family and the young Africans not only provides a structured setting for their assimilation, it also develops into a lifelong friendship between the French family and Négro and Négrette’s. When, at the comic’s end, Négro, Négrette, and their family return to their village, they tell their fellow villagers of ‘leur reconnaissance et leur amitié à leurs amis de France’ (their gratitude for and friendship with their French friends).54 Like the image discussed above where Nénufar demonstrates his gratitude at having received a taste of French civilization in the discarded garments he wears (symbolized by the flowers in Figure 1), this ending to ‘Négro et Négrette à l’Exposition’ returns the colonized subject to the role of grateful recipient of colonization. In the end, the comic’s message is clear: even if the colonized subjects protest initially, once they obtain a more global vision of ‘civilization’ in a highly structured environment, they inevitably see things differently.

(p.41) Conclusions: Colonial Comics’ Legacies

What started off as seeming incongruities between these comics and the 1931 Exhibition’s larger narratives ultimately circle back to reinforce the role of the European gazing subject. Rather than undermine the discourse of authenticity put forth at the Exposition coloniale, the comics use different means to the same end. In depicting the dangers of failing to scrutinize an image, ‘Les Aventures de Papoul’ demands that the reader keep his or her attention focused squarely on it. ‘Négro and Négrette à l’Exposition’ must acknowledge colonial racism in order to reframe it as a benevolent gift of civilization. The right to gaze is contested only to be affirmed, whereupon the colonized subjects are returned to the comfortable role of exoticized spectacle. The comics not only invite the reader to gaze upon the racialized object, but also suggest that to fail to do so is dangerous both for France and for the colonized subject. Even when they seem to acknowledge the larger racist structures that produce these images, the works ultimately draw their reader’s eyes away from them and back to the image.

The public outcry against racist images that resurfaced in the twenty-first century suggests that the comics succeeded all too well in this endeavor, illustrated through two cases. First, in 2006, Milan Music released a compilation CD in France entitled Le beau temps des colonies.55 Among the twelve tracks one finds the colonial Exposition’s official march ‘Nénufar’, analyzed above. One of the famous Banania posters, depicting a smiling, docile tirailleur (colonized troop) and his petit-nègre lexicon (‘y’a bon’ [sho’ good eatin’])56 serves as the CD’s cover art, indicating the stereotypical discourse put forth in the songs before one even listens to the album. Following widespread negative attention both in news media and on the website of French store FNAC, where people labeled the album ‘shameful’ and called for its censure,57 the President of Milan Music, Emmanuel Chamboredon, released a statement defending the music and the cover art:

Les chansons les plus excessives ont été écartées […]. Notre but est de restituer l’ambiance de l’époque. Quant à la couverture, elle est bien choisie car elle reflète à la fois la mythologie des années 1930 et l’héroïsme des troupes coloniales.58

(The most over-the-top songs were avoided […]. Our goal is to bring back the ambiance of the era. As for the cover, it’s well chosen because it reflects both the mythology of the time and the heroism of colonial troops.)

(p.42) Similarly, in 2007, another colonial work depicting racist stereotypes—Tintin au Congo, originally published in the same year as the Exhibition—came under fire in France and across Europe. First, British human rights worker David Enright campaigned to have it removed from the children’s section of Borders stores in the anglophone world.59 Later that same year, Belgian student Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo took legal action to have the comic book banned in Belgium. In 2012, Mondondo received his answer: Tintin would remain on bookshelves.60 In France, members of CRAN similarly asked France’s Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, to require publishers to add a prefatory notice to the comic book, just as Britain’s Commission for Racial Equality had added to the English version in 2007.61

As laudable as they might be—for we should always point out and subsequently contest racist imagery—the calls to censor these racist materials are nevertheless misguided for two principal reasons. First, they take issue with, and therefore depend on, the discrepancy between the racist image and ‘reality’, for instance, the depiction of black Africans as savage, uncivilized, and uneducated. Attempting to counter these images is, in fact, counterproductive, and represents the opposite side of the anxieties that were put forth in the works studied in this chapter. Calling for the censorship of Tintin au Congo because it does not depict Africans as they ‘really are’ nevertheless depends on the existence of an authentic identity from which these images deviate. Though the images which those who call for censorship would promote (black Africans as educated, for example) differ wildly from those put forth in these colonial works, in seeking to remove the ‘incorrect’ racist images from circulation, the critics’ focus nevertheless rests at the level of these works’ content. All eyes remain on the (formerly) colonized subject, and scrutinize the degree to which the ‘image’ matches ‘reality’. As Mireille Rosello points out, the endeavor of interrogating these stereotypical images is always self-defeating because ‘the “truth” of a stereotype—its identity—cannot be found in what is said about the ethnic group but in the specific features of the statement itself’.62 Reformulated to fit the largely image-centric analyses offered in this chapter, the ‘truth’ of these larger (racist) stereotypes resides in the gazing dynamics through which they are perpetuated. It is therefore precisely to this gaze that I argue we must draw our attention—an act that censorship prevents.

Ultimately, then, to combat the underlying colonial racism and its vestiges which resurface in contemporary France, we must turn our attention not to the images of racial and ethnic minorities offered by the (p.43) works I have analyzed in this chapter, but rather to the anxieties they would rather hide from us. Far from being confined to the colonial period, the larger gazing dynamics I have analyzed in this chapter form the basis for how France understands its racial and ethnic minority populations today, particularly those who are said to ‘speak for themselves’ and ‘make themselves visible’. The works studied in the following chapters could be said to be a kind of mirror image of the Exposition’s gazing dynamics. Instead of being put on display, which implies a sort of radical dehumanizing status as object, the musical and literary works I study actively speak out on behalf of racial and ethnic minorities in France and seek to make these populations visible, in their own way and on their own terms.

Yet, as the literary and musical works I examine in chapters 3, 4, and 5 point out, the act of writing (or singing) to ‘right’ stereotypical images is also potentially problematic, given the wider context of institutionalized spectacularism, which still positions minorities as the object of the French gaze. Each of the works thus negotiates the fine line between reproducing (and, by extension, legitimizing) this exoticizing gaze, and calling attention to and critiquing the larger structures that perpetuate it. In the case of music and literature associated with the sans-papiers (‘undocumented individuals’)63 movement in the 1990s, to which I now turn in Chapter 2, the works ‘speak out’ and ‘gaze back’ at the French viewing public, all the while drawing attention to how external forces such as the cultural marketplaces in which they are produced always package the black body as a commodity for consumption. While ‘speaking out’, in other words, the works self-consciously grapple with their own complicity in perpetuating legacies of the same exoticist gazing dynamics. In tracing how the works strike this delicate balance, I also take up the call they offer: to interrogate not just the images of those populations deemed ‘others’ but also the larger frameworks that produce them.


(1) For thorough studies of the 1931 Exposition, see Jean-Pierre Mercier, ‘Image du Noir dans la littérature enfantine de 1850 à 1948’, Notre Librairie 91, nos 1–2 (1988); Catherine Hodeir and Michel Pierre, 1931, L’Exposition coloniale (Bruxelles: Editions Complexe, 1991).

(2) Lyautey qtd. in Pascal Blanchard and Sandrine Lemaire, Culture impériale 1931–1961 (Paris: Autrement, 2004), 5.

(3) Pascal Blanchard et al., ‘Human Zoos: The Greatest Exotic Shows in the West: Introduction’, in Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires, ed. Pascal Blanchard et al. (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008), 26–27.

(4) P. A. Morton, Hybrid Modernities: Architecture and Representation at the 1931 Colonial Exposition, Paris (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 89.

(6) André Breton et al., ‘Ne visitez pas l’Exposition coloniale’ (1931). The counter-Exposition, however, would only receive a fraction of the visitors of the colonial Exposition and would in some ways fall into the trap of reproducing the very exoticism it critiqued.

(9) E. Ann Kaplan, Looking for the Other: Feminism, Film, and the Imperial Gaze (New York: Routledge, 1997), xvi.

(11) Maréchal Lyautey, for instance, famously banned troupes deemed ‘too savage’ from the Exposition, arguing that the type of gaze their presence would invite would run counter to the Exposition’s educational mission. Of course, these populations—most notably the Kanak—were nevertheless brought to France and exhibited at other locations such as the Bois de Boulogne. See Joël Dauphiné, Canaques de la Nouvelle-Calédonie à Paris en 1931: de la case au zoo (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998). For a fictional take on the Kanak at the 1931 Exposition see Didier Daeninckx’s ‘New Caledonian cycle’, comprising the two novellas Cannibale (1998) and Le Retour d’Ataï (2001).

(13) Alice La Mazière, ‘Nous allons faire un beau voyage’, Les Enfants de France 75 (1 April 1931), 2220; my emphasis.

(p.169) (14) Anne Donadey, ‘“Y’a bon Banania”: Ethics and Cultural Criticism in the Colonial Context’, French Cultural Studies 11 (2000), 28.

(15) Rey Chow, Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993), 39.

(16) The one exception is Catherine Hodeir’s ‘Decentering the Gaze at French Colonial Exhibitions’, in Images and Empires: Visuality in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa, ed. Paul Stewart Landau and Deborah D. Kaspin (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002).

(17) The cartoon artist, Pol Rab, was involved in designing all of these commercial products. See Pol Rab, ‘Nénufar Advertisement’, Les Enfants de France 75 (1 April 1931).

(18) Rab, ‘Nénufar’, Les Enfants de France 69 (1 January 1931).

(19) Léopold Sédar Senghor, ‘Poème liminaire’, in OEuvre poétique (Paris: Seuil, 1990), 55; ‘Preliminary Poem’, in Prose and Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), 121.

(20) Pol Rab, ‘Nénufar’, Les Enfants de France 69 (1 January 1931); my emphasis.

(23) For an insightful analysis of the connection between Babar’s clothing and narratives of civilization see Ariel Dorfman, The Empire’s Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds (New York: Penguin Books, 1996).

(24) Though it was primarily a spoken vernacular explicitly taught to colonized troops to maintain their position of inferiority, petit-nègre has also been strategically deployed in written texts. In Nationalists and Nomads, Christopher Miller has argued that deliberately deploying petit-nègre in the first issue of La race nègre (the journal for the Ligue de défense de la race nègre; Negro Defense League) functions as an act of resistance (Christopher L. Miller, Nationalists and Nomads: Essays on Francophone African Literature and Culture [Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998], 43–44)—an argument on which Brent Hayes Edwards builds to argue that it also confronts the reader with ‘the mistreatment of French West African soldiers during the war’ (52–53).

(27) Hergé, Tintin au Congo (Tournai: Casterman, 1974).

(28) Hergé, Tintin au Congo; Tintin in the Congo (London: Egmont, 2005), 27.

(29) Pol Rab, ‘Nénufar’, Les Enfants de France 69 (1 January 1931). Léon-Gontran Damas’s poem ‘Solde’, (1937) dedicated to Aimé Césaire, contains echoes to two of these garments: ‘J’ai l’impression d’être ridicule/[…] dans leur plastron/dans leur faux-col’ (Léon-Gontran Damas, Pigments [Paris: Présence africaine, 1962], 39).

(p.170) (30) Jean de Brunhoff, Histoire de Babar, le petit eléphant (Paris: Éditions du Jardin des Modes, 1931).

(31) As Alain Ruscio puts it, ‘Le thème du vêtement “pour Blancs” accaparé par les “indigènes” qui en font un effet parfois paradoxal, est l’un des moyens les plus fréquents de souligner que les Noirs restent des “grands enfants”’ (The theme of natives taking up clothes ‘for White people’, sometimes in paradoxical ways, is one of the most frequently used means to underscore the idea that Blacks remain nothing more than ‘big kids’) (Alain Ruscio, Que la France était belle au temps des colonies: anthologie de chansons coloniales et exotiques françaises [Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2001], 443).

(32) I also discuss the concept of ‘passing’ in Chapter 3. For more on racial passing in the American context, see Elaine K Ginsberg, Passing and the Fictions of Identity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996); Gayle Wald, Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century US Literature and Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000).

(33) Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 122, 128.

(35) In fact, this is how Catherine Hodeir reads Nénufar’s position: ‘Nenufar [sic] exemplified the masculine as fetish, which seduced Parisian women spectators’ (‘Decentering the Gaze at French Colonial Exhibitions’, 238).

(36) See for example, Fanon’s foundational description of how the Algerian woman functions in the French mindset as a symbol inviting penetration in A Dying Colonialism (New York: Grove Press, 1967).

(37) As I discuss in Chapter 3, one of Black Bazar’s protagonists, Yves l’Ivoirien, posits revenge for colonization in explicitly sexual terms (75).

(38) In fact, a parallel emerges between Nénufar and Moïse, the protagonist of Simon Njami’s African Gigolo. As Susan Gehrmann points out, although Moïse is initially ‘ready to fall in love and longs for a serious relationship’, he soon realizes his true position in France: ‘white French women take him as an object of pleasure without considering him as a human being with feelings—he is turned into a sex toy’ (Susanne Gehrmann, ‘Black Masculinity, Migration and Psychological Crisis: A Reading of Simon Njami’s African Gigolo’, in Transcultural Modernities: Narrating Africa in Europe, ed. Elisabeth Bekers, Sissy Helff, and Daniela Merolla [New York: Editions Rodopi, 2009], 148). Later, he attempts to use white women’s attraction to him to his advantage, only to realize that this, too, cannot afford him real power; instead ‘he has fallen into a trap while playing the game of the black male expected of him’ (151).

(39) Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen 16, no. 3 (1975).

(40) Franco-Algerian writers Assia Djebar and Leïla Sebbar have responded to these colonial gazes in their fiction. See especially Assia Djebar, Femmes (p.171) d’Alger dans leur appartement (Paris: Des femmes, 1980); Leïla Sebbar, Sept Filles (Paris: Thierry Magnier, 2003).

(42) Fatimah Tobing Rony, The Third Eye: Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacle (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 40.

(43) Stuart Hall, ‘Racist Ideologies and The Media’, in Media Studies: A Reader, ed. Sue Thornham (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 277.

(44) This situation also recalls Ousmane Socé’s Mirages de Paris (1937), in which Ambrousse sells mass-produced wares to the French public at the Exposition coloniale. For an insightful reading of this scene, as well as the larger role of the Exposition in Socé’s novel see Miller, Nationalists and Nomads.

(45) Other recurring storylines for numbers 5–12 included Toffa and Toffette, Zigo and Bamboula, and Kangoroo and Kangoraa. The album underwent a notable shift with number 13, when the series became ‘Les Belles Aventures de Pierrot, Marisette et Négro’. At this point, the main setting shifted from Africa to France, and Négro became one of three principal characters, though he is absent from numbers 19–22, and 24.

(46) ‘Négro et Négrette à l’Exposition’, Éditions enfantines 9 (10 June 1931), n.p.

(47) Here, one also thinks of Jean Garrigues’s description of the Banania advertisement, which, as Anne Donadey points out, ‘serves to cover over the reality of colonization and to reactivate stereotypes of the happy African subordinate’ (‘Y’a bon Banania’, 18).

(51) Even if Nénufar is described as childlike, and Pol Rab explicitly refers to him as an ‘adopted son’ in the comic, the song’s lyrics indicate that he not only has a ‘chérie’ (sweetheart), but also owns his own shop in Central Africa (through a reference to his accounting practices), suggesting that he is an adult.

(53) Another comic from the same series goes one step further. In this installment, entitled ‘Bamboula and Zigo veulent revenir à Paris’, we learn that two of Négro and Négrette’s compatriots, Zigo and Bamboula, who, like Négro and Négrette, are on display at the Exposition (though they hardly figure in the Négro and Négrette comic), are so profoundly influenced by this introduction to French culture that they seek to return to France at all costs. The comic ends when, even after the village elders introduce them to the mystical elements of their culture, they still decide to run away from their village, and the elders regret ever having allowed them to travel to France.

(55) Although the CD is listed on the FNAC website under the title Au temps des colonies, its official title is Le beau temps des colonies.

(p.172) (56) For a provocative reading of the Banania imagery (particularly how it changed over the years), see Brett A. Berliner, Ambivalent Desire: The Exotic Black Other in Jazz-Age France (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002). Note that this translation comes from the published English translation of ‘y’a bon Banania’ in Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (2008).

(57) See ‘La FNAC et le Beau Temps des colonies’, Pressafrique (12 October 2006), accessed 5 July 2014, now only available through the Internet Archive at https://web.archive.org/web/20100312064503/http://www.pressafrique.com/m640.html; Xavier Ternisien, ‘“Le beau temps des colonies” en disque’, Le Monde (11 October 2006), accessed 5 July 2014, http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2006/10/10/le-beau-temps-des-colonies-en-disque_821820_3224.html.

(59) David Enright, ‘Tintin in the Congo Should not be Sold to Children’, Guardian (4 November 2011), accessed 5 July 2014, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/04/tintin-in-the-congo.

(60) Louise Bastard de Crisnay, ‘Racisme: Tintin acquitté’, BibliObs (13 February 2012), accessed 6 November 2014, http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com/actualites/20120213.OBS1234/racisme-tintin-acquitte-en-belgique.html.

(61) The Foreword’s last paragraph now advises the reader that ‘In his portrayal of the Belgian Congo, the young Hergé reflects the colonial attitudes of the time. He himself admitted that he depicted the African people according to the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period—an interpretation that some of today’s readers may find offensive’. On the CRAN case see ‘“Tintin au Congo”: le Cran demande à Frédéric Mitterrand de se prononcer’, Le Nouvel Observateur (9 September 2009), accessed 5 March 2015, http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/culture/20090909.OBS0540/tintin-au-congo-le-cran-demande-a-frederic-mitterrand-de-se-prononcer.html.

(62) Mireille Rosello, Declining the Stereotype: Ethnicity and Representation in French Cultures (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998), 37.

(63) As I discuss in the next chapter, the sans-papiers deliberately named themselves thus to distinguish themselves from those who had entered France illegally, or who had overstayed their visas. The sans-papiers had entered the country legally, but lost their residency status following French immigration legislative changes in the 1980s and 1990s.