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Races on Display

French Representations of Colonized Peoples, 1886-1940

Dana S. Hale

Publication Year: 2008

While European commerce in race was substantial, the colonial trade in ideas of race was highly profitable as well. Looking at official propaganda and commercial representations in France during the Third Republic, this book explores the way the French increased the value of their racial identity at home at the expense of their colonized brothers and sisters. The French did not create the identity-effacing stereotypes of Africans, Arabs, and Indochinese. Instead they refined or remolded these images, and as they did so they redefined and remolded their images of themselves. Focusing on world's fairs, colonial expositions, and mundane manufacturers' trademarks, Races on Display shows not only the prevalence of racial stereotypes, but also how complex these representations prove to be.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am indebted to many individuals and organizations for the help they provided with this book. Races on Display began as a doctoral thesis at Brandeis University. I would like to thank the faculty at Brandeis who helped me give birth to the initial research project, especially Paul Jankowski, who was my dissertation advisor and has remained a source of encouragement. The Graduate School of Arts and...

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pp. 1-6

Races on Display addresses a fundamental issue in modern European history— how a state defines (or redefines) its own identity and the identities of peoples recognized as ethnic and cultural outsiders. Are these identities static or can they be easily modified? At the beginning of the Third Republic, the new leaders of France sought to establish a secular republican state in a complex environment...


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p. 7

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1. Overseas Empire and Race during the Third Republic

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pp. 9-22

By the beginning of the twentieth century, advocates of colonialism in the Third Republic had created what they referred to as “Greater France” by acquiring territories in Africa and Southeast Asia. France’s control over its empire came in gradual stages and in various forms. Troops spread out from older colonial posts in western Senegal to subdue the entire Niger River area to the north, south, and east. In Indochina...

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2. Sub- Saharan Africans: “Uncivilized Types”

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pp. 23-45

Western stereotypes of Africans and peoples of African descent developed out of opinions of their status expressed primarily in intellectual and business communities and disseminated widely in various forms. Because of the Atlantic slave trade, early visions of Africans focused on bondage and freedom. Europeans presented Africans as laborers on their own continent, as slaves, or as people under the control of rival African groups. They usually viewed sub- Saharan...

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3. North Africans: Mysterious Peoples

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pp. 46-66

The territories in North Africa had a special place in the empire because of a number of factors that included the proximity of the Maghreb to France’s southern shores, a history of settlement by French emigrants in Algeria, and lengthy commercial ties. Before World War I, French exposition organizers and entrepreneurs presented the Arab, Berber, and Moorish populations of North Africa as mysterious peoples with customs considerably different from their own...

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4. Indochinese: Gentle Subjects

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pp. 67-84

From the 1880s until World War I, French government officials and merchants typically portrayed the peoples of France’s Asian colonial territories as diligent gentle subjects. Advocates of colonialism did not consider the Indochinese to be in need of civilizing efforts, as were black Africans, nor did they portray their culture as mysterious, as they did the Arab culture of the Maghreb. Instead, French imperialists emphasized the untapped potential of a skilled and compliant...


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p. 85

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Introduction to Part 2

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pp. 85-90

World War I had a significant effect on the French outlook on the empire because of the material aid sent to France from the colonies, the visible numbers of non- French soldiers on the continent, and the impact these soldiers had on the military situation during and after the conflict. No one could deny that the empire helped France survive the destructive war. North African, Malagasy, and...

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5. Sub- Saharan Africans: La Force Noire

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pp. 91-117

The participation of sub- Saharan colonial troops in France’s struggle against Germany from 1914 to 1918 transformed the primary image of black Africans that government officials and entrepreneurs presented to the public in the postwar period. Instead of stressing the negative or “primitive” qualities of Africans and African society, many officials began to focus on the participation and performance...

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6. North Africans: Fils Aîné

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pp. 118-140

North Africa maintained a rapport with metropolitan France that was unique among France’s overseas possessions. As the oldest of the modern colonies, it could be referred to as the first son in the colonial family— the fils aîné. This kinship metaphor was an especially apt description of France’s relationship with Algeria...

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7. Indochinese: Fils Doué

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pp. 141-160

In the early decades of the twentieth century, French imperialists often portrayed Indochina as the most intelligent and gifted of France’s adopted sons. Government officials communicated a certain respect for the ancient civilizations built in the territories bordering southern China and Thailand. But even as they referred to Indochinese people as the most gifted race of the empire and publicly...

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8. La Mère-Patrie and Her Colonial Children: France on Display

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pp. 161-180

During the Third Republic, entrepreneurs and French government officials defined and disseminated images of their colonial subjects and in the process constructed an image of the French state. That image was of a racially, materially, and morally superior France whose leaders embarked on colonial conquest to benefit backward societies and develop underutilized resources. This chapter considers...


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pp. 181-206


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pp. 207-215

E-ISBN-13: 9780253000149
E-ISBN-10: 0253000149
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253348548

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 20 b&w photos, 1 figures
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 248498579
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Races on Display

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • France -- Foreign relations -- Asia.
  • Public opinion -- France.
  • France -- History -- Third Republic, 1870-1940.
  • Indigenous peoples -- Public opinion.
  • Indigenous peoples in literature.
  • France -- Foreign relations -- Africa.
  • France -- Colonies -- Asia.
  • France -- Colonies -- Africa.
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