Seeking Imperialism's Embrace
National Identity, Decolonization, and Assimilation in the French Caribbean

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Language: Anglais
Cover of the book Seeking Imperialism's Embrace

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288 p. · 16.4x24.1 cm · Hardback
In 1946, at a time when other French colonies were just beginning to break free of French imperial control after World War II, the people of the French Antilles?the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe?voted to join the French nation as departments (Départments d'outre mer, or DOMs). For Antilleans, eschewing independence in favor of complete integration with the metropole was the natural culmination of a centuries-long quest for equality with France and a means of overcoming the entrenched political and economic power of the white minority on the islands, the Békés. Disappointment with departmentalization set in quickly, however, as the equality promised was slow in coming and Antillean contributions to the war effort went unrecognized. In analyzing the complex considerations surrounding the integration of the French Antilleans, Seeking Imperialism's Embrace explores how the major developments of post-WWII history?economic recovery, great power politics, global population dynamics, the creation of pluralistic societies in the West, and the process of decolonization?played out in the microcosm of the French Caribbean. As the French government struggled to stem unrest among a growing population in the Antilles through economic development, tourism, and immigration to the metropole where labor was in short supply, those who had championed departmentalization, such as Aimé Césaire, argued that the "race-blind" Republic was far from universal and egalitarian. Antilleans fought against the racial and gender stereotypes imposed on them and sought both to stem the tide of white metropolitan workers arriving in the Antilles and also to make better lives for their families in France. Kristen Stromberg Childers argues that while departmentalization is often criticized as a weak alternative to national independence, the overwhelmingly popular vote among Antilleans should not be dismissed as ill-conceived. The disappointment that followed, she contends, reflects more on the broken promises of assimilation rather than the misguided nature of the vote itself.
Kristen Stromberg Childers is Associate Professor of History at Eastern University.