Authored Book

The Colonial Unconscious: Race and Culture in Interwar France



Ezra E (2000) The Colonial Unconscious: Race and Culture in Interwar France. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

France between the two World Wars was pervaded by representations of its own colonial power, expressed forcefully in the human displays at the expositions coloniales, films starring Josephine Baker, and the short stories of Paul Morand, and more subtly in the avant-garde writings of René Crevel and Raymond Roussel. In her lively book, Elizabeth Ezra interprets a fascinating array of cultural products to uncover what she terms the "colonial unconscious" of the Jazz Age - the simultaneous attraction and repulsion of exoticism and the double bind of a colonial discourse that foreclosed the possibility of the very assimilation it invited. Ezra situates the apotheosis of French colonialism in relation to both the internal tensions of the colonial project and the competing imperialisms of Great Britain and the United States. Examining both the uses and the limits of psychoanalytic theories of empire, she proposes a reading of French colonialism which, while historically specific, also contributes to our understanding of contemporary culture. The enduring legacy of empire is felt to this day, as Ezra demonstrates in a provocative epilogue on the remarkable similarities between the rhetoric of colonial France and accounts of the French victory in the 1998 World Cup.

Publication date31/12/2000
PublisherCornell University Press
Publisher URL…I=80140100181620
Place of publicationIthaca and London

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Professor Elizabeth Ezra

Professor Elizabeth Ezra

Professor of Cinema and Culture, French