French History @ IHR: Guyane, Félix Éboué and the politics of memory

Date & Place: Monday 28 November, Pollard Room, IHR, North block, Senate House

Speaker: Sarah Wood (University of Barcelona)

Paper Title: ‘Reclaiming Félix Eboué: Départmentalisation and Commemoration in Guyane, 1944-2012’

Click HERE to listen to an mp3 recording of the paper (right click to save).

Félix Éboué is known for being the first colonial Governor (of Tchad) to come out in support of De Gaulle in 1940. This would tie his memory and legacy to French nationalism, the resistance and also Gaullism in a variety of ways. In her paper, Sarah Wood showed the great complexities of his memory and his legacy in his native Guyane. Focussing on three separate events – his Pantheonisation in Paris in 1949; the erection of his memorial statue in 1957 in Guyane; the inauguration of the Félix Eboué Airport in Cayenne – Wood showed how his memory was mobilised in the post-war period. Over the years, it would be re-shaped to fit the current political concerns, which often had to do with the relationship between Guyane and the metropole itself. The last inauguration was particularly important: by naming the airport after him – and not by the anti-colonial figure suggested by local students – Éboué’s memory was deliberately used to reaffirm the ties between the Guyanais and France. Indeed, in 1946 Guyane became a French department, and the relationship between this centre and the periphery would need to be cultivated, not least through the politics of memory. The individuals who make up Guyane’s small political and intellectual elite peppered the talk, showing the importance of personal connections in this process of memory politics. Wood’s talk opened our eyes to a little known region, and her research certainly contributes to our understanding of the complicated relationships between France and its Départements d’outre-mer.


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