“Africa Will Accept Us If We Remain Faithful to Her”: Métissage, Culture, and Belonging in Francophone Africa

Friday, January 2, 2015: 4:10 PM
Mercury Rotunda (New York Hilton)
Rachel Jean-Baptiste, University of California, Davis
This presentation will consider definitions of intimacies via an intriguing project:  the building and management of a live-in school for mixed-race boys operated by a mixed-race Senegalese man in the colonial capital city of Dakar from the 1940s-1960s.  Rejecting the French missionary model of placing métis children in orphanages, Nicolas Rigonaux sought to cultivate métis boys into literate future professionals who would be versed in mores of French civilization, language, and culture, as well as intimate with their black mothers and the varied ethno-language communities from which they came.  In emphasizing affective ties with natal African societies and cultural and intellectual ties with the French society, Rigonaux’s educational experiment was to create African men who were intimate with both sets of cultures.  The intervention will briefly present this case study before moving on to consider how archival research, oral histories with the descendants of men who attended the school, and visual sources such as family and school photographs, can help us to rethink the meanings of intimacy through the intersections of masculinity and race. As such, this intervention challenges the gendering of the concept of intimacy as always female and thereby seeks to expand our discussion to consider changing historical constructions of race in the era of decolonization.
See more of: Intimacies and Empires
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