This essay analyzes the changing temporality of colonization in the French context from the 1830s to the 1880s. Notably, Benson shows how Algerian colonization was considered an "anachronism" for many journalists, politicians, historians, and economists for much of the nineteenth century. Algerian colonization was seen as both occurring too late in history—since it began in 1830, long after the first major period of France's colonial expansion into the Americas—and too early, starting before France's expansion into Africa in the 1880s. Indeed, it was only after the founding of the French Third Republic (1870–1940) that colonization finally "caught up" with the ideology of the French state. Colonization was then conceived as the marker of French nationhood, an official element of republican ideology, necessary to establish the legitimacy of the fledgling democracy. Paradoxically, France's colonial history became the very thread that tied the new republic to tradition, while colonization itself was refashioned into a new and "modern" policy of progress. Benson concludes by relating his discussion to Massimiliano Tomba's notion of state temporality and Jacques Rancière's analysis of the historian's truth. Both the state and the historian need to reject anachronisms in order to control access to the truth of the past and the present, foreclosing possibilities for the (postcolonial) future.


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pp. 72-89
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