News Bureau | University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo


2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

U. of I. conference to examine 'departmentalization' of former colonies

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — On the 60th anniversary of the “departmentalization” of four of France’s overseas colonies, scholars from across the United States and from abroad are coming to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to explore the consequences of this rare form of colonialization.

The conference, “Departmentalization at the Crossroads: Sixty Years On,” will take place Nov. 15-18 in Room 314 of the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana. It is free and open to the public.

The anniversary marks the only occasion in European colonial history when former colonies – French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean, and the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean – were integrated into the political structure of the colonial power that had dominated them for more than 300 years. Gaining full status as a département is roughly equivalent to becoming a state in the U.S.

The event is the only one of its kind in Europe and the United States to mark this anniversary.
Conference participants will discuss the rationales for departmentalization and the continued significance and usefulness of these territories to France’s self-identity and to the affected populations.

Issues will be discussed from a variety of perspectives, including literary reflections, political implications and the impact of continued globalization on territories that are in one place politically and in another geographically.

Twenty scholars, critics and writers from abroad will attend, including Martinican novelist Suzanne Dracius. The two top U.S. critics in French and Francophone studies, Francoise Lionnet of UCLA and J. Michael Dash of New York University, also will take part.

“It is a testament both to the U. of I. and to the importance attached to this event that we have been able to attract scholars of this caliber,” said Adlai Murdoch, the principal conference organizer and a Caribbean specialist in Illinois’ French department.

“The social, economic and political implications of having non-independent Caribbean and Indian Ocean territories as members of the European Union, particularly in this age of globalization and international migration, raise many questions related to national identity, dependency, belonging and the movement of peoples and cultures,” Murdoch said, adding that he expects many of the conference presentations to “address and illuminate these and other issues.”

Sponsors include the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Center for Advanced Study and MillerComm, department of history, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, African-American Studies and Research Program, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, European Union Center, International Programs and Studies and the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.

The conference program will soon be available online.