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Re-Imagining the Guyanas

 | 
Lawrence Aje
, 
Thomas Lacroix
, 
Judith Misrahi-Barak

Emancipating Memory

‘Bagne pas mort’: Exploring Penal Heritage in French Guiana

Charles Forsdick

Texte intégral

  • 1 See Anderson, Claire, and Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish. ‘Convict Labour and the Western Empires, 1415–1 (...)
  • 2 Although it does not feature in Pierre Nora’s original edited collection of essays on les lieux de (...)

1The bagne was abolished definitively in French Guiana in the interwar period, having already ceased to function in New Caledonia over three decades previously towards the end of the nineteenth-century. The penal colony nevertheless retains a contested status in the postcolonial French-speaking world. Meanings and memories of the institution are fragmented not only according to the scattered locations in which the vestiges of penal heritage sites are now located, but also in the light of the multiple groups with which they have been (and currently still are) associated. The local circumstances in which the institution is to be understood are regulated by particular politics, economics and social issues. Specific contexts have impacted heavily on ways in which the bagne has been remembered or forgotten, has been preserved, or has often been subjected to processes of postcolonial neglect and ruination. Despite the recent efforts of scholars such as Ann Laura Stoler to integrate the penal colonies into wider patterns of oppression and incarceration, and of historians such as Claire Anderson and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart to elaborate a more transnational and even global history of the institution,1 the bagne remains marginalized in discussions of postcolonial memory–and of the lieux de mémoire (or more aptly lieux d’oubli) with which it is associated.2

  • 3 For an overview, see Toth, Stephen A. Beyond Papillon: The French Overseas Penal Colonies 1854–195 (...)

2In order to grasp how and where the bagne is situated in contemporary postcolonial memoryscapes, there is an initial need to understand the history of the institution. This history is one of numerous waves of development and of progressive geographical marginalization, as places of incarceration and hard labour originally situated in France itself were slowly displaced towards a colonial periphery.3 This shift away from a metropolitan location fulfilled multiple functions: it permitted those considered socially or politically undesirable to be sent elsewhere, beyond France; it contributed to active political and commercial attempts at settlement and colonization of overseas territories in the context of the post-revolutionary colonial empire; and crucially, it provided the workforce required to construct, develop and maintain the infrastructure sustaining such expansion.

  • 4 For a study of these processes in the context of Port Arthur and related sites, see Young, David. (...)
  • 5 For a discussion of the historic links between transportation and penal colonies in the British an (...)

3Colonization and incarceration are also entangled in the complex geographical afterlives of the bagne. Penal colonies often trigger tensions between social and ethnic groups within individual locations, but can also create links between colonized spaces across the globe. The French penal colonies are nevertheless distinct from convict sites in Australia, whose inscription by UNESCO on the World Heritage List in 2010 firmly drew narratives of transportation and forced labour into national memory discourses (whilst also ensuring their active integration into the tourist industry).4 The ruins and other traces of the bagne in former French colonies—most notably those of French Guiana, on which I focus in this chapter—have not yet lent themselves to any such form of consensus or exploitation.5 Indeed they continue to evolve as sites that encapsulate various strands of postcolonial conflict and contestation.

  • 6 For more detailed accounts, see Sanchez, Jean-Lucien. À perpétuité. Relégués au bagne de Guyane. P (...)

4The French had instituted systems of political exile in North Africa and French Guiana during the revolutionary period, but it was not until the beginning of the Second Empire that Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte established a bagne in 1852 with the initial aim of detaining political opponents of the Second Empire. The colony began to receive convicts following the 1854 decree relating to forced labour. Central to this decree was the principle of doublage or double peine, meaning that those condemned to a sentence of fewer than eight years were obliged to spend a second, extended period in the colony equivalent to their initial period of incarceration, and those with longer sentences were sent for life. The conditions in French Guiana were poor, for bagnards and officials alike, and the mortality rate as a result rate high. The transport of convicts there was suspended in 1867, with prisoners sent to the supposedly less harsh conditions of New Caledonia in Melanesia between 1863 and 1897. Transportés from the French colonies (especially Algerians) continued nevertheless to be sent to French Guiana throughout this period. From 1887, French convicts with sentences longer than eight years were once again sent there, alongside a new category of convict, the relégué, often guilty of relatively minor (but repeated) crimes. French Guiana continued to serve as a penal colony well into the twentieth century. Among those it received were also prisoners from elsewhere within the French Caribbean (known as réclusionnaires coloniaux), as well as political activists from Indochina who were deported in the interwar period: transportation was abolished in 1938, relegation in 1945, and the last group of convicts (former and current) returned to Marseilles in 1953.6

  • 7 Cherubini, Bernard. ‘Imprisoning ethnic heritage in French Guiana: the seduction of a penal colony (...)

5The afterlives of the bagne now form an increasingly evident part of French Guiana’s complex Creole heritage. Literature and popular culture have played a key role in sustaining the visibility of the prison colony, both in France and overseas, and in creating specific and often (despite its overtly hybrid history) singularized meanings of it. This chapter explores, however, the contested status of the penal colony as a postcolonial lieu de mémoire in the French-speaking world, and elaborates on Bernard Cherubini’s claim that various memorial practices surrounding the bagne can only be understood in the frame of the representations that often motivate them: ‘tourists also come to Guiana to walk in the footsteps of the convicts they heard about in their youth through literature and cinema and through the stories, testimonials and biographical accounts of former political prisoners or transported convicts’.7 Although, by way of comparison (and as a result of the entangled histories of penal culture alluded above), there will be passing reference to the bagne in New Caledonia, the main focus in this chapter will be on the representation and often associated memorialization of sites in French Guiana. The first part of the study will explore the ways in which the Guianese penal colony has entered popular culture through a series of refigurings that have generated a significant memorial capital relating to the sites: these range from naval officer Frédéric Bouyer’s travel narrative La Guyane française : notes et souvenirs d’un voyage exécuté en 18621863 (1867) to Henri Charrière’s Papillon (1969; popularized internationally in a film version made by James Franklin Schaffner in 1973), passing via Albert Londres’s 1923 reportage Au bagne (a text often credited with reforming the institution) and a whole cluster of other texts, of various degrees of sensationalism, produced in the interwar period. The concluding part of the chapter, however, discusses the ways in which this extensive corpus alluded to by Cherubini and others is complemented by texts produced in the twentieth century in the Francophone Caribbean itself, which often seek to disrupt dominant narratives by highlighting their implicit colonial and postcolonial dimensions, not least in relation to the entangled stories and communities with which the bagne is associated.

6It is possible to read these two bodies of material contrapuntally, and key to such an approach is Léon Gontran Damas’s travel narrative and ethnographic study Retour de Guyane (1938), one of the first texts to reflect seriously on the persistent interdependency of the bagne and the colony in which it was situated. Damas’s writings have been largely eclipsed by the other two authors associated with the emergence of Negritude, Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor, whose status as poet-politicians ensured their prominence while they were alive and has served also to consolidate their posthumous reputations. The centrality of poetry to Negritude has, however, led to the privileging of Damas’s own poetic output, but one of his first works, published the year after his initial poetry collection Pigments, was a hybrid text, mixing ethnographic report with anti-colonial essay, entitled Retour de Guyane. The colonial authorities banned Damas’s book and allegedly burned 1000 copies of it (of a print-run, at the author’s own expense, of only 1500). The book is nevertheless a major text in the corpus of literary representations of French Guiana. This is due, in large part, to the fact that Damas’s work emphasizes the overlapping histories and intersecting trajectories which characterize his homeland, and which any study of the representation of the bagne must necessarily take into account.

7In the section entitled ‘Bagne pas mort’, which this chapter takes as its title, Damas alludes to the beginning of the penal system in the mid-nineteenth century and underlines the brutality of the conditions imposed on those first transported to the colony:

  • 8 Damas, Léon Gontran. Retour de Guyane : suivi de Misère noire: et autres écrits journalistiques. (...)

Trois cents condamnés constituaient le premier convoi. Rien ne fut fait, au préalable, pour recevoir la cargaison. Aucun camp ne fut installé. On répartit les envahisseurs sur les îles qui, bien qu’elles présentassent des avantages certains pour touristes en mal d’exotisme, étaient par trop exiguës et impropres au moindre essai de colonisation.8

  • 9 The juxtaposition of convict and tourist is common in other penal heritage sites in the French-spe (...)

8The lack of facilities and preparation serve as proof for Damas’s central thesis, namely that the failure of the bagne—which played an integral role in the vicious circle of under-population and under-development of the colony—was evident from the start of the institution, arguably in its very conception. Referring to touristes en mal d’exotisme’, he appears to foresee the future of the prison and the way in which it has gradually evolved into a so-called ‘dark’ tourist destination. In Damas’s account of it, the prison is to be imagined, in ways that resonate with many other representations of the site as an overdetermined place—simultaneously hell and paradise, utopia and dystopia. Here, even if the convict and the tourist have not tended to co-exist (although the bagne has become a popular destination for travel writers), the one can still succeed the other at the same site, as is happening in contemporary French Guiana.9

  • 10 For a discussion of dark tourism in the Francophone context, see Ravi, Srilata. ‘Home and the “Fai (...)
  • 11 On this subject, see Asquith, Wendy and Forsdick, Charles. ‘“Dark tourism”: the emergence of a fiel (...)
  • 12 See Petit-Quencez, Blandine, ‘L’histoire du patrimoine lié au bagne en Nouvelle-Calédonie, du non- (...)
  • 13 Redfield, Peter. Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana. Berkeley, CA: Un (...)
  • 14 On the specific circumstances of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, see Léobal, Clémence Saint-Laurent-du-Ma (...)

9Penal tourism is linked to the phenomenon of ‘dark travel’, the practice of travelling to places that are associated with death, suffering and disaster, including many prisons such as Montluc in Lyon, the Château d’If off Marseilles, or the Poulo Condor bagne [now known as Côn Đảo Prison] on Côn Sơn Island in southern Vietnam. Dark travel is becoming increasingly common and is associated more and more with forms of penal heritage and memorial tourism.10 Analysis of this form of mobility is more evident in the Anglophone world. However, there is a need for sustained comparison with similar practices in the Francophone world where dark tourism (‘le tourisme sombre’ or ‘macabre’) is increasingly in evidence,11 as is made clear by the recent collection by the French photographer Ambroise Tézenas entitled Tourisme de la désolation (2014). Unlike New Caledonia, where the politicization of sites relating to penal heritage has, since the 1980s, become increasingly evident,12 what is striking in French Guiana is the ways in which this ‘touristification’ of the former sites of the bagne has evolved relatively randomly, in large part because official policy has tended to privilege ecotourism above other forms of visiting. Moreover, Guiana’s economy depends primarily on the Ariane Space Centre in Cayenne, an institution that the anthropologist Peter Redfield situates in the social and political context of the penal colony and its persistent colonial logic.13 The key sites of the Guianese penal colony—i.e., île Royale, île Saint-Joseph, île du Diable and the Camp de la Transportation at Saint-Laurent du Maroni (recently opened as a centre d’interprétation de l’architecture et du patrimoine’)—are now firmly part of the official French patrimoine, but their local integration into a wider tourist infrastructure could be seen as slow in comparison to other contexts of penal heritage, and even as part of the collective amnesia regarding the institution discussed at the opening of this chapter.14

10The literary site in which that amnesia has been challenged—albeit often with a set of repeated tropes that sensationalize the penal colony—is travel writing. A corpus of texts on the Guianese bagne, stretching now across two centuries, may be seen to serve as a lieu de mémoire in its own right, with certain elements of it made even more visible by its re-interpretation in visual culture, notably film and a recent proliferation of bandes dessinées. In the emergence of the early modern travelogue, the Guianas already played a key role, with The Discovery of Guiana, Walter Raleigh’s 1596 text, serving as one of the founding texts of the modern genre. There is also a rich body of subsequent literature devoted to French Guiana, especially since the failure of the Kourou exhibition (the first attempt at settlement in 1763) and the transformation of the colony into a place of political exile during the 1789 Revolution. With Voyage à Cayenne, dans les deux Amériques, et chez les antropophages (1805), Louis-Ange Pitou inaugurated a French Guianese penal travel narrative tradition in which narrators, recounting their deportation, describe a forced or involuntary journey, but also provide an account of the conditions they find on arrival in South America.

11Pitou’s is the first in a series of texts on French Guiana produced during the nineteenth century, but it was from the later nineteenth century that a subgenre of the bagne-related travelogue became increasingly popular. The evolution of this corpus reveals major shifts across the body of texts written during the nine decades that the penal colony existed. These works invariably privilege the external, exoticizing perspective of visiting travellers and naval officers. They range from numerous exposés (by journalists and by convicts themselves) which contributed to the eventual abolition of the deportation system between 1924 and 1938, to postcolonial reflections on the sites of the bagne now (often as these undergo processes of postcolonial ruination). These diverse texts, produced over a period of a century and a half, permit tracking not only the history of the bagne but also of its role in the political and cultural imaginary in Guiana, France and elsewhere. They also contribute to particular, often ethnicized forms of remembrance that privilege certain narratives whilst condemning others to oblivion:

The memory of the penal colony is that of the white European heroes, a trope which made positive emotional echoes in the United States, as well as readers, admirers and scientists who became passionate about confinement conditions in Guiana, the escapes and stories of nomads and the rhetoric that is specific to these tales. (Cherubini 2015: 85)

12During the interwar period, as the bagne was on the point of closure, French Guiana began to attract the investigative and often sensationalist attention of journalists and other travel writers. These texts drew public attention in particular to the poor conditions of the convicts incarcerated there. French Guiana had long featured in earlier travel narratives, as a key text such as La Guyane française : notes et souvenirs d’un voyage exécuté en 18621863 by the naval officer Frédéric Bouyer (1867) makes very clear. The author demonstrates the way in which the prison serves as an unavoidable point of reference in travelogues devoted to the country from the mid-nineteenth century. From the moment of the traveller’s arrival, the colony is defined in terms of its associations with expatriation and deportation:

  • 15 Bouyer, Frédéric. La Guyane française : Notes et souvenirs d’un voyage exécuté en 18621863. Par (...)

Me voilà donc à la Guyane, en ce pays dont le décret du 8 avril 1852 a fait la terre d’expatriation des déportés de toute catégorie ; réservoir dans lequel la France écoule toute salie; colonie privilégiée au profit de laquelle la mère patrie se débarrasse non-seulement de l’écume de ses prisons et de ses bagnes, mais encore de tous ceux qui, à quelque titre que ce soit, sont pour elle un sujet de gêne ou de crainte, une menace pour l’avenir ou une difficulté pour le présent.15

13Bouyer claims that professional sensitivity prevents him from reflecting on the relationship between the prison and the future of the colony, but in an example of captatio benvolentiae— a staple device in the travelogue—with which the narrative begins, the author already recognizes the temptation of sensationalism, and seeks to negotiate it:

j’espère pouvoir trouver encore à la surface d’un pays vierge, où la nature est si riche et si bizarre, quelques sujets de récits intéressants et neufs. Et si, par hasard, l’histoire de la transportation se présente sous ma plume, illustrée de ses drames lugubres et sanglants, dont le bruit a passé la mer, je tâcherai de concentrer la morale de mes faits divers dans la sphère exclusive des intérêts de la société coloniale. (Bouyer 1867: 37–38)

14The frontispiece of the volume is nevertheless a lurid engraving illustrating the trope of ‘forçats cannibales.’ This is a subject to which Bouyer also devotes an entire chapter towards the end of the book, where he indulges in those same narrative excesses that he claimed to refuse at the opening of the text:

15Que de drames sanglants inconnus des hommes se sont accomplis ainsi sous l’œil de Dieu, dans ces déserts de feuillage, à l’ombre de ces arbres séculaires! (Bouyer 1867: 265).

16The representation of the bagne by Bouyer remains, therefore, a profoundly contradictory one, not least because any critical account of the penal system might have been seen to constitute a critique of the colonizing impulse more generally. Negotiating these ideological traps, any dystopian vision of certain transported convicts is complemented by a full acknowledgment of the reformability of others, possible agents of a renewal of the colony, ‘chez qui la contagion criminelle n’a pas dépassé l’épidémie, et qui peuvent se régénérer par l’expiation’ (Bouyer 1867: 311). The result is an active questioning of the representation of the convict:

En France, on n’aperçoit les forçats que de loin, à travers les grilles du bagne, chargés de chaînes, entourés d’argousins, revêtus de la livrée jaune et rouge et coiffés du bonnet vert. [. . .] À la Guyane, on les coudoie chaque jour, leur costume ne diffère guère de celui des autres hommes, leurs travaux quotidiens les mêlent à la vie des matelots, des soldats et des fonctionnaires libres. On s’accoutume à les voir, et ce laisser-aller dégénère peut-être en une téméraire confiance. Il n’est pas rare de voir embarquer sur des navires de guerre, dont l’équipage est fort restreint, soixante et cent transportés. Ils y sont comme des passagers ordinaires, libres et sans fers, sans gardes. On dirait de bons bourgeois voyageant pour leurs affaires ou leurs plaisirs. (Bouyer 1867: 207)

17The description is a double-edged one: Bouyer alludes to the supposedly dauntless courage of the adventurer, but by association implies a de-exoticization of the convict, who is transformed into a bourgeois traveller. There is a levelling of different social categories in the colony, not to show an entropic and ultimately dangerous erosion of such distinctions, but to suggest how the penal colony and the colony in which it is located can complement each other—i.e., how the former could contribute to the development of the latter—in a process of reformability that would ultimately remain out of reach.

  • 16 Londres, Albert. Au bagne. 1923. Paris : Le Serpent à plumes, 2002; 83.

18In subsequent travel narratives and reportages of the interwar period, it becomes clear that the autonomy and distinctiveness of the prison at the heart of the colony, already detected by Bouyer, tend to increase. According to Damas, the complementarity of the prison and the colony is now a distant dream as the prison has become ‘l’État dans l’État’, ‘autonome et sans contrôle’ (Damas 2003 [1938]: 50, 53). Albert Londres’s slightly earlier narrative, Au bagne, also suggests that the increasingly divergent lives of colony and prison contribute to the dehumanization of the convict population. For the traveller who views the îles du Salut from a distance, the site remains picturesque: ‘À vue d’œil, c’est ravissant’,16 but on closer inspection the prison system upsets the natural order of l’ailleurs—according to the observation of an interlocutor whom Londres meets: ‘le monde est fait de trois choses: le ciel, la terre et le bagne’ (Londres 1997 [1923]: 95).

19From the very opening sections of his reportage, Londres underlines the growing complexity of the penal colony during the interwar period, including its global dimensions: the ship which landed the convicts, for instance, previously serviced the Algiers-Marseilles line and now provides transportation between French Guiana and Trinidad. The context as presented is firmly transcolonial, but the role of the prison in the colonial system is far from evident: ‘pas une machine à châtiment bien définie, réglée, invariable. C’est une machine à malheur qui travaille sans plan ni matrice’ (Londres 1997 [1923]: 31). On entering the forest to observe the construction of a road, this impression is confirmed for Londres: ‘Ce n’est pas un camp de travailleurs, c’est une cuvette bien cachée dans les forêts de Guyane, où l’on jette des hommes qui n’en remonteront plus’ (Londres 1997 [1923]: 73). As his investigation unfolds, Londres is committed to collecting individual and human stories, and he creates the impression for readers that they are accompanying the reporter for the travel narrative is dominated by the voices of the bagnards themselves. This accumulation of diverse narratives signals the approach adopted by Londres: ordering what he hears would, in his view, be tantamount to betrayal; the reporter draws the reader into total chaos from which all logic is absent.

20One of the principal functions of Londres’s reportages was to contribute to public awareness of the penal colony in the interwar period, but they also seek to campaign for an improvement of the conditions of detention. In his writings, the prison appears for what it was: ‘épouvantable’ (Londres 1997 [1923]: 89) and ultimately failing to achieve any of its objectives. When the articles appeared in book form, the author added an open letter to Albert Sarraut, Minister of the Colonies: ‘Ce n’est pas des réformes qu'il faut en Guyane, c’est un chambardement général’ (Londres 1997 [1923]: 202), and in September 1924, Londres wrote in Le Petit Parisien that the prison had finally been closed. This was not strictly true, but the measures proposed in the letter to Sarraut relating to the separation of convicts according to the severity of their punishment, the treatment of illness, the remuneration of labour and the elimination of double peine had all been accepted. However, it was only after a series of other reports (by Louis Roubaud for Le Petit Parisien in 1925, for instance, and by Georges Lefèvre for Le Journal in 1926) that a 1938 decree eventually ordered the formal end of deportation to French Guiana.

  • 17 For a discussuion of the nature of return in Retour de Guyane as a ‘cheminement vers le savoir’, s (...)
  • 18 Lézy, Emmanuel. ‘De la Guyane blanche à la Guyane noire, l’éternel retour de Léon Damas’, in Léon- (...)

21This body of writing achieved genuine reforms and played a key role in the abolition of the penal colony. The contribution of this corpus to the memorial afterlives of the bagne has now also been well established: Londres’s narrative—and the accompanying text, L’Homme qui s’évada, his account of the escape from the penal colony of the French anarchist Eugène Dieudonné’s—was one of a number of interwar works that catered for a public appetite for first-hand accounts of the penal colony whilst at the same time actively questioning the bagne system and the forced labour on which it depended. It remains in print, and is, alongside Henri Charrière’s later novel Papillon, a recurrent point of reference in accounts of the Guianese bagne. Léon Gontran Damas’s slightly later work—Retour de Guyane, published in the same year as the abolition of transportation to the penal colony—went one step further by actively highlighting the overtly colonial context of the prison, and revealing what its author calls ‘le problème guyanais dans son intégralité’. Damas travelled to Guiana on behalf of the Musée de l’Homme to study the ‘hostilité des Marrons et Amérindiens à toute pénétration étrangère’, but quickly abandoned this project (although still depositing 120 artefacts in the museum’s collections on his return) in order to address instead the paradoxes of the contemporary state of the country: i.e., its condition as ‘la plus misérable colonie française sur le plus riche territoire du monde. . ..17 Retour de Guyane belongs to a diptych of texts produced by Damas, complemented in this structure by Veillées noires, with these works presenting respectively—in Emmanuel Lézy’s terms—‘la Guyane du jour’ et ‘la Guyane de la nuit’.18

22Londres’s humanitarian and reformist aim throughout his reportages—shared by other reporters of the interwar period—had been to explore social underworlds and to reveal social flaws. Damas envisaged something more overtly political and included a thorough colonial critique that seeks to highlight the incompetence of the French administration without going so far as to undermine the rationale for empire: ‘Aussi bien dans l’intérêt du condamné lui-même, dans celui du contribuable métropolitain, que dans l’intérêt de la Guyane qu’elle paralyse, infeste, c’est une sinistre plaisanterie’ (Damas 2003 [1938]: 54). Challenging the customarily racialized symbolism of colonial expansion that denigrates the perceived threat of the indigenous population, Damas presents the penal colony and the convicts themselves as an ‘infestation’ (Damas 2003 [1938]: 57). Retour de Guyane belongs to the emerging Negritude movement, and as such contains clear blindspots, relating not least the Amerindian genocide and the atrocious conditions in which the bagnards were living (Lézy 2015: 227-29). His conclusion, according to a logic of infiltration, is that bagne and colony have interpenetrated each other and become more and more dependent on one another, not in terms of the complementarity that nineteenth-century travellers such as Bouyer imagined might be possible, but to the extent that the removal of the penal system becomes ‘tout à fait secondaire’ to another more fundamental question: ‘coloniser la Guyane ou l’évacuer (Damas 2003 [1938]: 64). Already in 1938, the demise of the penal regime was unavoidable, but Damas directs his attention towards the spectral role of the institution following its abolition and the presence of its afterlives:

Pour préciser, le bagne disparaîtra fatalement de la colonie de la Guyane par l’excès même de ses erreurs. On peut seulement spéculer sur les chances qu’il y a : ou bien l’abcès soit opéré et la colonie vidée, ou bien que malencontreusement la colonie crève. (Damas 2003 [1938]: 64)

  • 19 Chamoiseau, Patrick and Hammadi, Rodolphe. Guyane : Traces-mémoires du bagne. Paris : Caisse nati (...)

23Following the abolition of transportation to the penal colony (in 1938) and the abolition of detention (in 1945), the bagne persisted in the French national imagination—not least in a series of popular expressions relating to it—as a lieu de mémoire associated with what Londres had called an ‘usine à malheur’. The perpetuation and further ornamentation of this version of the sites of the penal colony was disseminated through narratives such as Henri Charriere’s Papillon (1969). The cinematic version of Papillon, directed by James Franklin in 1973, ends with a vision of the penal colony gradually succumbing to postcolonial ruination and being overgrown by nature. These scenes are an iconic representation of the site’s reduction—in the words of Patrick Chamoiseau‘au bagne de l’oubli’.19

24After its closure, the penal colony nevertheless remained central to travelogues relating to the region, ranging from Hassoldt Davis’s The Jungle and the Damned (1952; French translation, 1953) to John Gimlette’s Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge (2011). Meanwhile, the site has slowly but actively been transformed into the thanatouristic destination as well as a site of memory. In French Guiana, this ‘dark’ tourism is simultaneously a form of memorial tourism, and the aim of this chapter has been to explore the transformation of the French Guianese penal colony from a site of exoticism and reportage into a place associated with potential or emerging postcolonial memory which can be situated in the three-Guyanas frame, both comparatively and transnationally.

  • 20 Gimlette, John. Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge. London: Profile Books, 2012; (...)

25Damas focuses in Retour de Guyane on French Guiana, and shows little interest in ‘l’unité de la grande Guyane’ (Lézy, 2015: 220). More recent texts have sought, however, to create connections across the three Guyanas. In Wild Coast, for instance, a text that focuses heavily on the bagne in what its author calls the ‘last of the colonies’, John Gimlette travels up the Essequibo river and describes in passing ‘what was said to be the most beautiful prison in the world: the Mazaruni Penal Settlement’.20 He dwells briefly on the site, established as a penal colony for Guyanese criminals sentenced to more than two months of hard labour in 1842. It is still functioning today as Guyana’s high-security prison facility and the object of recent attention as the government seeks to release pressure on the prison in Georgetown by extending facilities at Mazaruni. The focus in Wild Coast is on celebrity prisoners, Cheddi Jagan and the nineteenth-century German explorer Carl Appun, as well as the harsh conditions endured by inmates; yet what Gimlette fails to explore is the way in which the prison at Mazaruni ultimately reveals a very clear difference between the Guyanas. Unlike in French Guiana, this penal site was never a reflection of the colony in its entirety. Mazurani became self-sufficient through the deployment of convicts in the development of quarrying, agriculture and logging (forced labour allowed, for instance, the construction of the colony’s 280-mile sea wall). The colony of British Guiana remained, however, primarily an agrarian settlement that hosted some prisoners from the country itself as well as from elsewhere in the Anglophone Caribbean, whereas French Guiana rapidly became a prison colony that was also home to some scattered French settlers. As the single-purpose colony surrounding Cayenne became home to increasing numbers of bagnards, it shifted from being a colony to become a ‘possession’, meaning that the exceptional status of the country identified by Damas and others was consolidated.

26Traces of these fundamental differences persist in contemporary regimes of mobility. Part of the slow construction of the French Guianese bagne as a tourist attraction draws on the different ways in which the country known as the ‘Green Hell’ has been imagined. These processes combine ecotourism with dark tourism, and invite identification with convicts who turned the source of their suffering—i.e., the extremes of the environment in which they were imprisoned—to their advantage as they sought escape to Surinam and other neighbouring countries. Fuelled by popular narratives by former convicts (most notably Charrière’s Papillon but also by René Belbenoit, Eugène Dieudonné and others), fugitives are cast as Robinson Crusoe-like figures and seen as white European heroes, and contemporary tourism may be seen as affording an opportunity to follow in their footsteps. The phenomenon of contemporary tourism—green, dark or memory-related–invites reflection of the layering of mobilities, both historical and contemporary, as the meaning of place is generated by the network of itineraries with which it is associated, by the movement or (in the case of the bagnard) the immobility of those passing through.

27In the context of the Guyanas, historicization of these flows is essential, not least because transportation is closely and sequentially linked to other forms of mass displacement and unfree labour, most notably slavery and indenture. At the same time, the sites of the bagne need to be understood in terms of their historical layering and their association with multidirectional memories to which this leads: penal sites away from the coast were regularly located, for instance, in places associated with maroon communities, and although the historic ethnic discriminations of the penal colony appear to feature only rarely in the tourist imaginary, their contemporary afterlives remain apparent. Maroons from Surinam were only ever a small minority in the Camp de la Transportation, but Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni became a refuge for many of Maroon descent during the civil war across the border in the 1980s, creating a significant influence on popular music and culture in the area. These different strands of heritage converge in an event such as the Trans-Amazonian Festival, organized in the former camp in 1997.

  • 21 Anderson, Claire. ‘Global mobilities’, in World Histories from Below: Disruption and Dissent, 1750 (...)
  • 22 Anderson, Claire. ‘The politics of comparison: writing a global history of punishment’, http://sta (...)

28Claire Anderson has recently called for a writing of the history of global mobilities ‘from below’, suggesting that such an approach would disrupt our ‘Global North-centric understanding of migration’ by emphasising the role of captivity, confinement and restriction as opposed to any freedom of movement.21 A major part of her argument, rooted in an attempt to write a global history of penal transportation, focuses on the intra-imperial and circulatory nature of mobility, an aspect highly evident in the Guyanas. Although often ignored in popular perceptions of the bagne, North African and Indochinese prisoners (political, military and civil) were relatively prominent among the bagnards. From 1852, Mazaruni was itself in part also intended, not without local controversy for fear that British Guiana would itself become a convict colony, as a destination for prisoners from elsewhere in the British Caribbean. Its staff were themselves subject to circulation in a wider imperial space. To give just one prominent example, George Bott, superintendent of convicts in the 1840s on the notorious Norfolk Island in Australia, was posted as stipendiary magistrate at Mazurani where he was tasked to draw on his previous experience to introduce reform and a code of regulations.22

29At the same time, Anderson and Maxwell-Stewart focus on intersecting and often overlapping regimes of mobility, most notably enslavement, indenture and convict labour, which they see as elements in a ‘continuum of unfree labour practices that underpinned overseas European expansion’ (Anderson and Maxwell-Stewart 2013: 102). In French Guiana, Anderson notes elsewhere, as in Portuguese Angola, French convicts worked alongside people of African heritage into the twentieth century, revealing clearly ‘blended flows of coerced labour’ and clear evidence of a historically creolized culture (Anderson 2016: 179). This convergence of different regimes of mobility and labour is evident in accounts of the bagne, with Bouyer noting the location of more remote penal sites in places where maroon communities had existed under slavery and Londres highlighting the substantial presence in the colony of prisoners from North Africa. In the Guyanas, as in the wider Caribbean, indenture—and the kala pani—generates an additional form of demographic change, and, as I have suggested, significant overlaps between regimes of mobility and labour often considered to be discrete. What remains striking, however, are the discrepancies, evident in a clear politics of historical convict location, and their demographic, cultural and political repercussions. In terms of indentured migrants, primarily from India and China, British Guiana received 239,000 people, Surinam 34,000, and French Guiana a negligible number, statistics that may be seen to relate directly and in inverse proportion to the importation of convict labour. Such a history of global mobility from below allows us to understand the situation in French Guiana both comparatively, in trans-Guyanese terms, but also in wider frames, not only of the Francophone Caribbean (in contrast in particular to Guadeloupe and Martinique) but also of a global imperial context (including, but of course not restricted to, New Caledonia).

  • 23 Akkouche, Mouloud. Cayenne, mon tombeau. Paris : Flammarion, 2001.

30Postcolonial representations of the bagne in Francophone narratives have foregrounded these entangled, transcolonial trajectories often previously downplayed in accounts of the institution. In Cayenne, mon tombeau, for instance, the novelist Mouloud Akkouche describes a contemporary French protagonist of Algerian origin, Richard Benoucif, who following the death of his father decides to travel to French Guiana to discover his father’s convict past.23 The novel mixes three locations: France, Algeria and Guiana, and juxtaposes two moments of narration: the narrative present (1998) and the period of Mohamed Benoucif’s own incarceration (1927-1951). The novel recounts multiple journeys: those of Mohamed himself, a soldier in the French colonial army who is condemned to hard labour following his killing of two men in a fight in a bar, and who returns to Algeria and then resettles in France following the abolition of the bagne; and then those of his son Richard, first to Algeria to bury his father and then to Guiana, where he goes to understand his own relationship to France and to French history as much as to find traces of his father’s own period of incarceration. Akkouche provides a detailed account of Mohamed’s deportation on board the ship La Martinière, whose departure from Algiers Albert Camus had described in his journalism in 1938. The novel outlines his arrival in the alien environment of Guiana, and his absorption into the carceral universe—as evoked by Londres, Damas and others—that this entails. It captures the everyday brutality of the place, the uneasy implementation of the reforms through which it was passing, and the relationships between the multiple ethnic groups present in the colony. The novel focuses also on the period following Mohamed’s sentence before his return to Algeria, under the Guianese practice of doublage.

31The son Richard’s return to the penal colony nearly four decades later, during which he discovers the existence of a half-sister, provides a frame for his reflection on his uneasy relationship with both French and Algerian cultures, and suggests parallels between the structures of incarceration in French Guiana and those in the banlieue in contemporary France. It is, however, not the work’s documentary value that is of importance, although it is evident that the novelist has drawn on some of the numerous sources available on the bagne in the period in question. What is more striking and even disruptive is the way in which Cayenne, mon tombeau takes the multiple itineraries it describes to challenge the traditional trans-mediterranean focus of many Algerian novels and to plot alternative, transcolonial, transatlantic axes. This is a multidirectional work, linking colonialism, penal servitude and debates regarding contemporary Franco-Algerian identity. It is a fiction that contributes to the writing of the more global history of convict labour and transportation, and challenges received wisdom about sites such as French Guiana, persistent in the popular imagination and often replicated in heritage practices.

  • 24 For a full analysis of the work, see Silverman, Max. ‘Memory Traces: Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolp (...)

32What, in conclusion, are the implications of these emerging entangled histories, complex inter- and intra-colonial transportation flows and the multidirectional memories as well as multi-layered sites to which they give rise? Guyane: Traces-mémoires du bagne, a photo-essay by Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi, proposes one of the most sustained reflections on these tensions relating to memory. In this book, the challenge posed initially by Damas regarding the postcolonial presence of the prison begins to find an answer.24 Chamoiseau’s reflection on the writing of colonial history shows how the site is not necessarily best approached as a place of colonial memory, i.e., as a lieu de mémoire, but is arguably better defined according to postcolonial traces-mémoires by which the present continues to be linked to the past in the Americas, and in which entangled memories and itineraries can be seen in terms of what have been seen as nœuds de mémoire.

  • 25 See Leobal, Clémence. ‘Politiques urbaines et recompositions identitaires en contexte postcolonial (...)

33The photo-essay has attracted legitimate criticism, not least because of its tendency to write out the population of Surinamese maroon origin who were forced to dwell in the Camp de la Transportation.25 However, Chamoiseau and Hammadi’s book is based primarily on a critique of the formal memorial landscape of the territory, the ethnicized and predominantly white dimensions of which are accentuated in official memorialization. The result is that:

ces édifices [. . .] ne témoignent pas des autres populations (Amérindiens, esclaves africains, immigrants hindous, syro-libanais, chinois . . .) qui, précipitées sur ces terres coloniales, ont dû trouver moyen d’abord de survivre, puis de vivre ensemble, jusqu’à produire une entité culturelle et identitaire originale. (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994: 13-14)

34Cherubini has noted that ‘the tourist imaginaries cultivated prior to an actual trip to French Guiana continue to silence and hide the country’s Creole heritage’ (Cherubini 2015: 89), and the goal of the Chamoiseau and Hammadi’s project is, according to this logic, to underline this same diversity of origins and experiences that the singularizing term bagnard tends to obscure, as well as the other populations and social groups with which the convict co-existed.

35Chamoiseau refers to a body of representations of the bagne (some of which have undoubtedly been the subject of this chapter), but focuses instead an attempt to ‘percevoir ce que les Trace-mémoires nous murmurent’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994: 23, 24). The photographs on which the essayist comments indirectly are presented in the context of a new digressive approach: ‘non pas en visite mais en errance, non pas en flânerie mais en divagation’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994: 43). Towards the end of his text, Chamoiseau evokes the context of tourism, both dark and heritage-related, of the sites to which he refers and encourages the expulsion from these places of ‘les industriels du tourisme’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994: 45). Conservation will become a poetics, and curators will belong to ‘l’engeance des poètes’. Chamoiseau’s text takes as its epigraph a text from Victor Segalen, and it is from the early twentieth-century author that he draws a critique of entropy. What the author proposes instead is a rejection of transformation of the site into a dark tourism destination, into a site of formal Republican memory, into a monument with guided trails: ‘Je ne peux – et ne veux pas – vous indiquer le sens de la visite, ni désigner la porte d’entrée, ou pire: vous dresser procès-verbal métrique des espaces et des murs’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994: 22). Chamoiseau proposes a rethinking of what Londres and Damas had suggested, namely a rendering of voice to a variety of bagnards, but unlike his predecessors, he does not then go on to impose his own story. He advocates instead renewed commitment to the ongoing task of recovering des histoires dominées, des mémoires écrasées’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994: 16).

36This chapter was written while Charles Forsdick was Principal Investigator of an AHRC/LABEX project, in collaboration with Professor Annette Becker of Université Paris Nanterre, on ‘“Dark Tourism” in Comparative Perspective: Sites of Suffering, Sites of Memory’ (AH/N504555/1). The author records his gratitude for this support.

Bibliographie

Akkouche, Mouloud. Cayenne, mon tombeau. Paris : Flammarion, 2001.

Anderson, Claire. ‘Global mobilities’, in World Histories from Below: Disruption and Dissent, 1750 to the Present, Antoinette burton and Tony ballantyne, eds. London: Bloomsbury, 2016; 169–195.

Anderson, Claire. ‘The Politics of Comparison: Writing a Global History of Punishment’, http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/carchipelago/2015/02/05/the-politics-of-comparison-writing-a-global-history-of-punishment/. Accessed on November 20, 2017.

Anderson, Claire, and Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish. ‘Convict Labour and the Western Empires, 1415–1954’, in The Routledge History of Western Empires, Robert Aldrich and Kirsten McKenzie, eds. New York and London: Routledge, 2013; 102–117.

Asquith, Wendy and Forsdick, Charles. ‘“Dark Tourism”: the Emergence of a Field’. Mémoires en jeu 3 (2017): 46–54.

Blérard, Monique, lony, Marc and Gyssels, Kathleen. eds. Léon-Gontran Damas: poète, écrivain patrimonial et postcolonial, Matoury : Ibis Rouge, 2014.

Bouyer, Frédéric. La Guyane française : Notes et souvenirs d’un voyage exécuté en 1862-1863. Paris : Hachette, 1867.

Chamoiseau, Patrick and Hammadi, Rodolphe. Guyane : Traces-mémoires du bagne. Paris: Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites, 1994.

Cherubini, Bernard, ‘Imprisoning Ethnic Heritage in French Guiana: the Seduction of a Penal Colony’, in The Making of Heritage: Seduction and Disenchantment, Camila de Mármol, Marc Morell and Jasper Chalcraft, eds. New York and London: Routledge, 2015; 79–98.

Damas, Léon Gontran. Retour de Guyane : suivi de Misère noire : et autres écrits journalistiques. 1938. Paris : J.-M. Place, 2003.

Emina, Antonella. Léon-Gontran Damas : cent ans en noir et blanc. Paris : C.N.R.S. Éditions, 2014.

Forster, Colin. France and Botany Bay: The Lure of a Penal Colony. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996.

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Ho tai, Hue-Tam. ‘Remembered Realms: Pierre Nora and French National Memory’. The American Historical Review 106.3 (2001): 906–922.

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Lézy, Emmanuel. ‘De la Guyane blanche à la Guyane noire, l’éternel retour de Léon Damas’, in Léon-Gontran Damas, Antonella Emina, ed.; DATE 217–243.

Londres, Albert. Au bagne. 1923. Paris : Le Serpent à plumes, 2002.

Matela, Buata. ‘Violence et cheminement vers la Guyane, ou la “méthode”-Damas’, in Léon-Gontran Damas : poète, écrivain patrimonial et postcolonial, Monique Blérard, Marc Lony and Kathleen Gyssels. eds.; 233–244.

Petit-Quencez, Blandine, ‘L’histoire du patrimoine lié au bagne en Nouvelle-Calédonie, du non-dit à l’affirmation identitaire’. Criminocorpus blog, 24 June 2016, https://criminocorpus.hypotheses.org/18816. Accessed on November 20, 2017.

Ravi, Srilata. ‘Home and the “Failed” City in Postcolonial Narratives of “dark return”’. Postcolonial Studies 17.3 (2014): 296-306.

Redfield, Peter. Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

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Sarge, Kristen. ‘De Léon Aline à Léon-Gontran Damas : retour en Guyane (1934)’, in Léon-Gontran Damas, Monique Blérard, Marc Lony and Kathleen Gyssels. eds.; 337–364.

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Spieler, Miranda Frances. Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Stafford, Andrew. ‘Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi in the penal colony. Photo-text and memory-traces’. Postcolonial Studies 11.1 (2008): 27–38.

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Notes

1 See Anderson, Claire, and Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish. ‘Convict Labour and the Western Empires, 1415–1954’, in The Routledge History of Western Empires, Robert Aldrich and Kirsten McKenzie, eds. New York and London: Routledge, 2013; 102–117, and Stoler, Ann Laura. Duress: Imperial Durabilities in our Times. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

2 Although it does not feature in Pierre Nora’s original edited collection of essays on les lieux de mémoire (1984–1993), the bagne was initially a metropolitan site of memory associated with the port cities of Brest, Rochefort and Marseille, in each of which there were bagnes métropolitains. To these are to be added the bagnes agricoles, most notably that of Mettray, made famous by its inclusion by Jean Genet in his Miracle de la rose (1946) as well as by its discussion by Michel Foucault in Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (1975). Despite this visibility, the bagne itself retains an ambiguous status as a lieu de mémoire, in part because traces of the institution in France itself are relatively rare, in part because of its predominantly extra-metropolitan location. Nora’s collection has been criticized for its exclusion of sites relating to colonial and postcolonial memory. See Ho Tai, Hue-Tam. ‘Remembered Realms: Pierre Nora and French National Memory’. The American Historical Review 106.3 (2001); 906–922.

3 For an overview, see Toth, Stephen A. Beyond Papillon: The French Overseas Penal Colonies 1854–1952. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

4 For a study of these processes in the context of Port Arthur and related sites, see Young, David. Making Crime Pay: The Evolution of Convict Tourism in Tasmania. Hobart: Tasmanian Historical Research Association, 1996.

5 For a discussion of the historic links between transportation and penal colonies in the British and French empires, with an emphasis on the Pacific, see Forster, Colin. France and Botany Bay: The Lure of a Penal Colony. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996.

6 For more detailed accounts, see Sanchez, Jean-Lucien. À perpétuité. Relégués au bagne de Guyane. Paris : Vendémiaire, 2013, and Spieler, Miranda Frances. Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2012.

7 Cherubini, Bernard. ‘Imprisoning ethnic heritage in French Guiana: the seduction of a penal colony’, in The Making of Heritage: Seduction and Disenchantment, Camila de Marmol, Marc Morell and Jasper Chalcraft, eds. New York and London: Routledge, 2015; 79–98; 83.

8 Damas, Léon Gontran. Retour de Guyane : suivi de Misère noire: et autres écrits journalistiques. 1938. Paris : J.-M. Place, 2003; 48.

9 The juxtaposition of convict and tourist is common in other penal heritage sites in the French-speaking world. In a study of the île de Ré, Jean-Marie Renouard focuses on this juxtaposition. See Renouard, Jean-Marie. Baigneurs et bagnards : tourismes et prisons dans l'île de Ré. Paris : L’Harmattan, 2007.

10 For a discussion of dark tourism in the Francophone context, see Ravi, Srilata. ‘Home and the “Failed” City in Postcolonial Narratives of “Dark Return”’. Postcolonial Studies 17.3 (2014): 296–306. In this article, she focuses on the dynamics of return, studying two texts that might be located in relation to a tradition initiated by Damas’s Retour de Guyane and Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal: Haitian writer Dany Laferrière’s L’Énigme du retour and Malagasy-French author Michèle Rakotoson’s Juillet au pays : Chroniques d’un retour à Madagascar. Laferrière and Rakotoson represent the capital of Haiti, Port au Prince, and the Indian Ocean island capital of Antananarivo in Madagascar respectively.

11 On this subject, see Asquith, Wendy and Forsdick, Charles. ‘“Dark tourism”: the emergence of a field’. Mémoires en jeu 3 (2017); 46–54.

12 See Petit-Quencez, Blandine, ‘L’histoire du patrimoine lié au bagne en Nouvelle-Calédonie, du non-dit à l’affirmation identitaire’. Criminocorpus blog, 24 June 2016, https://criminocorpus.hypotheses.org/18816 Accessed on November 20, 2017.

13 Redfield, Peter. Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

14 On the specific circumstances of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, see Léobal, Clémence Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni : une porte sur le fleuve. Matoury: Ibis Rouge, 2013.

15 Bouyer, Frédéric. La Guyane française : Notes et souvenirs d’un voyage exécuté en 18621863. Paris: Hachette, 1867; 36.

16 Londres, Albert. Au bagne. 1923. Paris : Le Serpent à plumes, 2002; 83.

17 For a discussuion of the nature of return in Retour de Guyane as a ‘cheminement vers le savoir’, see Matela, Buata. ‘Violence et cheminement vers la Guyane, ou la “méthode”-Damas’, in Léon-Gontran Damas : poète, écrivain patrimonial et postcolonial, Monique Blérard, Marc Lony and Kathleen Gyssels. eds. Matoury: Ibis Rouge, 2014; 233–244. On the purpose of the journey and the activity conducted, see Sarge, Kristen. ‘De Léon Aline à Léon-Gontran Damas: retour en Guyane (1934)’, in Léon-Gontran Damas, Monique Blérard, Marc Lony and Kathleen Gyssels. eds.; 337–364.

18 Lézy, Emmanuel. ‘De la Guyane blanche à la Guyane noire, l’éternel retour de Léon Damas’, in Léon-Gontran Damas, Antonella Emina, ed. Paris : C.N.R.S. Éditions, 2014 ; 217–243; 217.

19 Chamoiseau, Patrick and Hammadi, Rodolphe. Guyane : Traces-mémoires du bagne. Paris : Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites, 1994 ; 18.

20 Gimlette, John. Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge. London: Profile Books, 2012; 152.

21 Anderson, Claire. ‘Global mobilities’, in World Histories from Below: Disruption and Dissent, 1750 to the Present, Antoinette Burton and Tony Ballantyne, eds. London: Bloomsbury, 2016; 169–195; 169.

22 Anderson, Claire. ‘The politics of comparison: writing a global history of punishment’, http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/carchipelago/2015/02/05/the-politics-of-comparison-writing-a-global-history-of-punishment/. Accessed on November 20, 2017.

23 Akkouche, Mouloud. Cayenne, mon tombeau. Paris : Flammarion, 2001.

24 For a full analysis of the work, see Silverman, Max. ‘Memory Traces: Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi’s Guyane: Traces-mémoires du bagne’. Yale French Studies 118/19 (2010): 225–238; and Stafford, Andrew. ‘Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi in the penal colony. Photo-text and memory-traces’. Postcolonial Studies 11.1 (2008): 27–38.

25 See Leobal, Clémence. ‘Politiques urbaines et recompositions identitaires en contexte postcolonial : les marrons à Saint-Laurent du Maroni (1975-2012)’. Rapport de recherche, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, 2014.

Auteur

Charles Forsdick is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool. He is currently Arts and Humanities Research Council theme leadership fellow for ‘Translating Cultures’. He has published on a range of subjects, including travel writing, colonial history, postcolonial and world literature, and the memorialization of slavery. Recent publications include The Black Jacobins Reader (Duke University Press, 2016) and Toussaint Louverture: Black Jacobin in an Age of Revolution (Pluto, 2017). Forsdick co-edited Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empire (Liverpool University Press, 2008) and curated with ACHAC the exhibition ‘Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage’ in Liverpool in 2016. A member of the Academy of Europe, Charles Forsdick was Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, 2010–13. He currently leads an international project on ‘“Dark Tourism” in Comparative Perspective: Sites of Suffering, Sites of Memory’.

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