June Book Talk: ‘Multiracial Identities in Colonial French Africa’

Rachel Jean-Baptiste headshot, UC CDavis faculty, and "Multiracial Identities in Colonial West Africa" book cover
  • Multiracial Identities in Colonial French Africa: Race, Childhood and Citizenship
  • Cambridge University Press (May 2023)
  • By Rachel Jean-Baptiste, associate professor, Department of History, and associate dean, UC Education Abroad Program
  • WHAT: Book talk presented by Aggie Black Excellence and co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies; UC Davis and UC Davis Health African American Faculty and Staff associations; Global Affairs; UC Davis Humanities Institute; and the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art
  • WHEN: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, in person  
  • WHERE: Manetti Shrem Museum

In what the publisher describes as “an original history of race-making, belonging and rights,” Jean-Baptiste investigates the fluctuating identities of “métis,” referring to the multiracial children born mostly to African women and European men amid French colonial rule in West Africa after World War I. She delves into the debate within French society about the status of multiracial people (dubbed by historians as “the métis problem”), and how debates like these have shaped the histories of Africa and the African diaspora, indeed, global history. Drawing on extensive archival and oral history research in Gabon, Republic of Congo, Senegal and France, Jean-Baptiste centers claims by métis themselves to access French social and citizenship rights, as fathers refused to acknowledge their children’s lineage, and demonstrates the diverse ways in which métis individuals and collectives carved out visions of racial belonging as children and citizens in Africa, Europe and internationally.

This wonderful book opens up the question of race in Africa in two ways: departing from colonial visions of métissage, it follows instead how multiracial Africans themselves lived, conceived and debated their identities in the French empire. Secondly, Jean-Baptiste demonstrates that local actors acted first and foremost as global thinkers, inventing forms of multiracial internationalism that still matter enormously today. — Florence Bernault, professor of history, Centre for History, Paris Institute of Political Studies, or Sciences Po

The UC Davis Books Blog, a project of News and Media Relations, announces newly published books by faculty and staff authors, and awards and events related to books by faculty and staff authors. Contact the books blog by email.

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Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556, dateline@ucdavis.edu; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932, kitaura@ucdavis.edu.

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