Making Slavery Visible? The Electronic Memory of the Slave Trade and Slavery in Post-1998 France

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:50 AM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec , Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada
Léon Robichaud , Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada
98 is most often remembered by French people as the year when the French won the World Soccer Cup. In a rare moment of what appeared to be the successful realization of Republican integration, many after the victory named France a « Black, Blanc, Beur » nation, a reference to the multicultural origins of the team's players. A mere two months earlier, on May 23, a different picture had emerged: more than 40,000 blacks demonstrated in the streets of Paris as they voiced their strong disapproval of the official commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the second abolition of slavery. The « Black, Blanc, Beur » slogan soon receded to the background. Inversely, the claims of those linking their painful presents to the French slave past gained prominence. In 2001, slavery and the slave trade were recognized as a crime against humanity by the French Parliament. In 2006, May 10 became a national day for the remembrance of slavery and the slave trade. In the past ten years or so, the memory of slavery has acquired a new visibility in the public sphere, and the illusion of a cohesive, multicultural nation has definitely faded. Our paper will engage in a discussion of how this burgeoning memory of slavery and the slave trade has materialized at the electronic level since the 1998 commemorations. How have slavery and the slave trade been portrayed in websites? How has race been deconstructed (if it indeed it has been) electronically? Have internet initiatives been mostly of public, centralized or private, decentralized origins? Have women and Africans figured prominently in the e-narrative? Our paper will answer these questions through an analysis of web archives. It will end with a short presentation of an electronic collaborative project called « Retour aux Sources ».