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The stereotypes confirmed: Marshal H. Pétain’s visit to the French West Africa in 1925

Magadeev Iskander

This article aims to give an answer to the question about the influence which the foreign journey had on the perceptions of the Self and the Other. Author pursues this aim basing on the research of the little-known episode from the Marshal H. Pétain’s biography, i.e. his visit to the French West Africa in January–March 1925. The Marshal’s notebooks, which he held during the journey, are the main source of the article; their published version was compared to the archival originals. To put the visit into the historical context, the author used the evidence from the French newspapers and the publications of the contemporaries. The article concludes that Pétain’s West African mission rather confirmed than changed the conceptions of the Marshal, which he had used earlier to analyze the situation in the French colonies and the perspectives of their development. Pétain, who was feebly acquainted with the African realities by his previous life and career, strengthened his ideas. The important part of the latter was permeated by paternalism, contemptuousness, and racism. The fact that the Marshal didn’t know local languages and cultures and communicated chiefly with the Frenchmen who had similar views, made the “informal bubble” even more solid. Though he thought seriously about the instruments to stimulate the West African economic development, Pétain saw in these colonies not the aim per se but the instrument to consolidate the European positions of France.

Keywords: France, image of the Other, colonial history, empire, racism, Citroën
Link: Magadeev I. The stereotypes confirmed: Marshal H. Pétain’s visit to the French West Africa in 1925 // Annual of French Studies 2022: The French outside of France.М. P. 205-222.

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