WISH Seminar at WiSER: Amy Niang on the Franco-African Union

« A Community out of Empire: the French Union (1946-58) as a postcolonial experiment in multinational polity »

WISH seminar at WISER from 3:00 to 4:30pm

Abstract: The decolonisation period is arguably the most exciting and fertile moment in the history of postwar global politics. It spawned various attempts to think a post-imperial order that would make the requirement for self-determination the constitutive principle of a new global engagement. The institutional forms in which however self-determination could be translated were very much up for debate and negotiation. This paper revisits the rhetorical appeal and the political valence of an idea of a global community, democratic and plural. The Franco-African Union was an instance of political experimentation that mobilised the intellectual energies of both former colonisers and formerly colonised. The underlying rationale of the Union was an attempt to map an emancipated political identity onto a non-territorial(ised) space. To conceive therefore of African independence movements strictly in territorial or ‘national’ terms would be missing an important point for independence was also a matter of will and capacity to reinvent a (common) future.


The Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities is a widely interdisciplinary and lively research forum.  Its objective is to strengthen and enrich the interaction between local research and global scholarship, and to make this a more productive dialogue.  The seminar works on the basis of the participants’ careful and critical reading of a pre-distributed paper.  It is typically an animated, demanding and constructive forum.  Participants are particularly encouraged to frame their work and questions theoretically and to think sympathetically beyond their own disciplinary and regional specialisations.