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252 Book Reviews nary. While the collection fulfills its mission statement to “offer a broad . . . panorama of historical cases, theoretical elaborations, literary engagements, and representations culled from various media” (xvi), Post-Empire Imaginaries? is aware of the omissions in its archival project. The introduction acknowledges the collection’s Western-centrism and focus on Anglophone literatures. Despite the (necessary) limitations of this collection, the project of documenting the post-empire imaginary offers the potential to reenergize discussions of empire and reevaluate empire as active and future-oriented. Sarah Kent Gary Wilder. Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World. Durham: Duke UP, 2015. Pp. xvi, 384. US$28.95. Aimé Césaire from Martinique and Léopold Sédar Senghor from Senegal remain seminal figures in anti-colonial thought. As founders of the négritude movement with the French-Guyanese Léon-Gontram Damas, they directly confronted racism and imperialism in their literary and political writings and fostered pride and self-affirmation among peoples of African descent around the world with their proclamation that, as Césaire phrased it in his Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, “no race has a monopoly on beauty, on intelligence, on strength” (Collected 77). At the same time, Césaire’s and Senghor’s ideas have provoked controversy, and their political careers have led critics to point out the seeming contrast between their firm anti-colonial rhetoric and the compromises they supported in the relations between their native lands and the French metropolis. Gary Wilder’s Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World is a fascinating overview of Césaire’s and Senghor’s careers at their most critical point: the moment right after 1945 when France, recently liberated from Nazi occupation, was compelled to redefine its identity as a nation and an empire. As such, the book can be read as an intellectual biography of these two figures during that important period. The book is also a reflection on the multifarious relations between anti-colonialism, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and aesthetics. Wilder’s assertion, which he defends compellingly throughout the text, is that Césaire’s and Senghor’s positions on these issues, particularly their refusal to regard nationalism as the only alternative to colonialism, have much to teach us today in an increasingly globalized world. 253 Book Reviews Wilder’s point of departure is that 1945 opened an “untimely” moment in which many possible futures could be imagined as achievable—that is to say, as already present immanent possibilities within the circumstances at the time. In France’s case, the metropolis and its colonies could radically redefine their relations to one another based on how much the experience of empire had already altered the French republic (a topic that Wilder explores in his previous book, The French Imperial Nation-State). The notion that the colonies could challenge colonial domination only by achieving independence and becoming nation states of their own is, for Wilder, a narrative imposed retrospectively on what was, at the time, a much more fluid reality. Another possibility was for the colonies and France to regard themselves as one large French-speaking community, united by ties of culture, language, and shared history. If carried out in the spirit of the radical critiques of capitalism in which both Césaire and Senghor engaged, such a solution could have led the former colonies to actual “substantive freedom” (248). This would involve empowering people by addressing economic inequalities, racial prejudices, and other circumstances that limit individual and collective self-determination. Conversely, the merely “formal liberty” (248) that many of the colonies acquired as independent states converted them into impoverished neocolonial pawns in the Cold War. From that perspective, Césaire and Senghor “demanded not simply a full integration of overseas peoples with the existing nation state but a type of integration that would reconstitute France itself” (163). In Césaire’s case, the vision of a pluralistic, multicultural France led to his instrumental role, as member of the French Assembly, in transforming Martinique into a French overseas department. Through centuries of colonization, Antilleans had become, albeit in an intolerably subordinate role, legitimate participants in French history and culture. Now...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1920-1222
Print ISSN
0004-1327
Pages
pp. 252-255
Launched on MUSE
2017-09-06
Open Access
No
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