France's current status as a leading world power results directly from its decision to develop a nuclear strike capability. After the loss of most of their empire, the French decided that their territories in the Pacific should remain an integral part of France. There followed an extensive programme of nuclear testing in the region, causing ongoing environmental damage and radiation-related illnesses throughout these remnants of the French empire. The present article examines contemporary francophone Pacific literature as a corpus shaped by France's nuclear colonialism. Focusing on novels by Déwé Gorodé and Chantal Spitz, I show how these authors replace the colonial imagery of the welcoming native with anti-colonial narratives of radiation-induced diseases and ambient morbidity. I argue that these novels, often critiqued as essentialist, should be read as a reformulation of strategic essentialism putting ecocriticism at the heart of postcolonial thinking. This discussion brings Pacific theories of identity into dialogue with other postcolonial theories such as créolité, Negritude, and critiques of orientalism, suggesting that, in a context in which métissage and multiculturalism have become ideologies in the service of nuclear colonization, root-based strategic essentialism still has an important role to play in postcolonial narratives.


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pp. 394-411
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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