Scaling the French Empire

AHA Session 104
Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4C (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Tyler E. Stovall, University of California, Santa Cruz
Imperial and Individual Journeys in a Global War
Richard S. Fogarty, State University of New York, University at Albany
The Intimate Bureaucracy of the Interwar French Empire
Jennifer Anne Boittin, Penn State University and Paris Institute for Advanced Study
French Caribbean Women and the Other Colonial Experience
Felix Germain, University of Pittsburgh
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel will explore how historians of the French colonial empire connect individual and personal experiences with larger imperial structures and practices.  The presenters will ask whether and how a close reading of the smaller end of the scale of imperial stories can lead us to understanding at the broader levels of a global empire.  The experiences presented will address ideas about race, notions of gender, questions of religion, understandings of social justice, experiences of migration, attempts to discipline male and female bodies, and feelings of alienation.  In keeping with the theme of the Annual Meeting this year, “Historical Scale: Linking Levels of Experience,” the four presenters will each connect stories from the individual scale with the larger imperial, even global scale, and will reflect on the implications of doing so from historiographical, methodological, and epistemological points of view.  Moreover, the papers collectively consider the geospatial dimensions and variations of these questions by investigating people who lived in or moved through France, French West Africa, French Indochina, the French Atlantic, Germany, and the Middle East.  Thus a key question that animates the session is: how do historians move responsibly between these levels of experience, the micro and the macro, the individual and the global, to create meaningful narratives and analyses of the past?
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