Monsters and Revolutionaries

Colonial Family Romance and Metissage

Monsters and Revolutionaries

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 5 illustrations Published: June 1999

History > European History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Psychoanalytic Theory

In Monsters and Revolutionaries Françoise Vergès analyzes the complex relationship between the colonizer and colonized on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion. Through novels, iconography, and texts from various disciplines including law, medicine, and psychology, Vergès constructs a political and cultural history of the island’s relations with France. Woven throughout is Vergès’s own family history, which is intimately tied to the history of Réunion itself.
Originally settled by sugar plantation owners and their Indian and African slaves following a seventeenth-century French colonial decree, Réunion abolished slavery in 1848. Because plantation owners continued to import workers from India, Africa, Asia, and Madagascar, the island was defined as a place based on mixed heritages, or métissage. Vergès reads the relationship between France and the residents of Réunion as a family romance: France is the seemingly protective mother, La Mère-Patrie, while the people of Réunion are seen and see themselves as France’s children. Arguing that the central dynamic in the colonial family romance is that of debt and dependence, Verges explains how the republican ideals of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment are seen as gifts to Réunion that can never be repaid. This dynamic is complicated by the presence of métissage, a source of anxiety to the colonizer in its refutation of the “purity” of racial bloodlines. For Vergès, the island’s history of slavery is the key to understanding métissage, the politics of assimilation, constructions of masculinity, and emancipatory discourses on Réunion.


“[T]he book makes an important contribution to the fields of postcolonial and Francophone studies. . . . Monsters and Revolutionaries will . . . prove to be a key text for future anthropological studies of colonialism and post-colonialism.” — Paul Silverstein , Anthropological Quarterly

“[Vergès’s] richly textured exploration of ‘metissage’ as a discursive strategy of identification, assimilation, and resistance is driven by a fluent engagement with concepts drawn from contemporary criticism, history, psychoanalysis, and philosophy and has the broadest implications right across the postcolonial world. A major innovative study that will shape the field.” — Stuart Hall, Emeritus Professor, The Open University and Goldsmith’s College, London

“A brilliant piece of work. . . . Monsters and Revolutionaries promises to be an important intervention in the fields of political history and postcolonial discourse.” — Ali Behdad, University of California at Los Angeles


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Françoise Vergès is a Lecturer at the School of European Studies at the University of Sussex. She recently collaborated with Isaac Julien on a film about Frantz Fanon.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations ix

Preface: Bitter Sugar's Island xi

Acknowledgments xix

The Family Romance of French Colonialism and Métissage 1

Contested Family Romances: Slaves, Workers, Children 22

Blood Politics and Political Assimilation 72

"Oté Debré, rouver la port lenfer, Diab kominis i sa rentré": Cold War Demonology in the Postcolony 123

Single Mothers, Missing Fathers, and French Psychiatrists 185

Epilogue: A Small Island 246

Notes 251

Bibliography 353

Index 389
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2294-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2262-7
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