Kristen Stromberg Childers

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20082009 Forum on Change

Kristen Stromberg Childers

Assistant Professor of History

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

In 1946, the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe voted to transform their status as colonies to become integral departments of France. With this vote for change, Martinique and Guadeloupe prompted a massive experiment in the fusion of cultures, histories, and identities that were at once entwined and vastly different. The people of the Antilles hoped to partake in the financial, social, and cultural benefits of association with the “mother country” to counteract the powerful memories of a slave past, while the French hoped to assimilate Antilleans into a “universal” culture that ignored racial and ethnic difference. This transformative process reveals much about the realities of decolonization and the human, political, and cultural costs of overcoming a violent history and creating inclusive democracies today.