Source: (2008) International Journal of Francophone Studies. 11(3):365-386.

This article charts the parallel evolution of the memory of slavery and the political status of French people from the vieilles colonies in relation to the problem of justice and reparation in a post-slavery society. By examining legal texts and political discourse produced at three critical junctures in the history of France’s overseas departments: the 1848 abolition, the 1946 law of departmentalization and the 1998 national commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in French territories, the author situates the current will to remember in the context of a history in which slavery has been, in the words of one prominent Caribbean writer, a ‘crime without process’. The aim is to demonstrate the ways in which both the official recollection and the forgetting of slavery have been instrumental to attempts on the part of the French state and of the framers of departmentalization to resolve or to displace the question of France’s possible obligations – legal, ethical, material and symbolic – towards those it once enslaved, as the political status of these groups has changed over time. The French case is considered with respect to current theoretical debates around questions of memory, law and reparation of gross human rights violations. (author's abstract)