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Poster for the Colonial Exhibition, Marseille, 1906; Color lithography, Museum of Decorative Arts; Source: Wikimedia


Andrew W. Mellon Lecture

Colonialism, Propaganda, and Postcolonial Legacies

Dominic Thomas, Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French in the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, University of California at Los Angeles

Followed by a discussion with Hakim Abderrezak, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Minnesota, and Laila Amine, Associate Professor of English, University of Wisconsin at Madison

The conflict in Ukraine has brought renewed critical attention to the ways in which propaganda can undermine democratic principles, bolster extremist far-right parties, and amplify polarizing, “post-truth” rhetoric. Indeed, iconography has always played a role in propaganda; studying it thus offers unique insights into how propaganda helped to form our colonial past, and how generations of colonizing and colonized subjects unwittingly came to see themselves. Many of these colonial imaginaries continue to impact society today, and there is considerable evidence that stereotypes, ethnological references, and lasting benign myths continue to shape contemporary debates on multiculturalism and immigration in Europe. The recent French Presidential elections show, individuals and groups still harbor forms of nostalgia for the country’s colonial past. As political positions have become increasingly polarized, some forms of activism seek to destroy the signs and symbols of a painful history, while others bemoan the loss of a glorious era. In this talk, Dominic Thomas examines and decodes various forms of colonial representation to better understand how iconographic propaganda was instrumentalized to legitimize and enforce colonial rule.

Dominic Thomas is Letessier Professor of French in the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies at UCLA and CNN European Affairs Commentator. He is Associate Member of the Centre of International History and Political Studies of Globalization at the University of Lausanne, the recipient of a Fulbright Commission Summer Award to Germany, elected to the Academy of Europe, and appointed to the Global Diplomacy Lab. He is author, co-author, editor or co-editor of more than thirty works on European politics and African culture and society, memory, identity, colonial history, racism, propaganda, immigration, and museology, most recently Vers la guerre des identités (2016), The Colonial Legacy in France (2017), Sexe, race et colonies (2018), Sexualités, identités, et corps colonisés (2019), Visualizing Empire (2021), and Colonisation & Propagande (2022). He edits the Global African Voices series at Indiana University Press, which focuses on translations of African literature into English. Thomas has held fellowships, residencies, and visiting professorships internationally and provides expert evaluations to international learned or professional societies, notably the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, European Science Foundation, Swiss National Science Foundation, FWF Austrian Science Fund, Agence Nationale de la Recherche, National Science Foundation, and the Leverhulme Research Fellowships.

This event is a part of the Andrew W. Mellon Workshop Im/Mobilities: New Directions in the Humanities, chaired by Hakim Abderrezak and Laila Amine, and is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation.

After the lecture and discussion, you are cordially invited to a reception at the American Academy.

If you want to attend in person, please register using the fields on the left side of this website. If you would like to follow this event online via Zoom, please register here.

In accordance with local regulations, we no longer require guests to present proof of vaccination or recovery status or a negative antigen test. FFP2 masks are required at all times except during the seated dinner. Thank you for your understanding.

Please note that this event will be photographed, filmed, and recorded for use in our public relations. By attending, you consent to the possible use of your likeness in publicity materials and press coverage. American Academy data processing information:

16 Jun 22
19:00 - 20:30
American Academy in Berlin
Am Sandwerder 17-19
14109 Berlin-Wannsee

This event took place on June 16, 2022.

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