Françoise Vergès

Françoise Vergès is the Chair of Global South(s) at the « Collège d’études mondiales, Fondation des sciences de l’homme » in Paris, a position she has held since its creation 2014. “South” in this context is not necessarily a geographical term but rather a process that spreads using different “regimes”: colonial power; forms of colonization, racialization, and predation; self-segregation of identity-related communities; and counter-hegemony strategies. The methodological approach is that of decolonized thought, of the denationalization of stories and periodizations, of a revision of the elaborate cartography based on and in relation to the West – a vision which has marginalized other routes of exchanges and encounters and undervalued the dynamic creation of other centers and peripheries. Racism is analyzed as a problem constituting certain social relationships, as a social construct and not as a question of morality.

Françoise Vergès grew up on La Réunion in a family of feminist anti-colonialists, before leaving for Algiers where she obtained her « baccalauréat ». After settling in Paris in the mid-1970s, she abandoned her studies to dedicate herself to the feminist and anti-racist militarism of the era, while training under various women to become a journalist and editor. Later, for her publishing company, she traveled to countries suffering under military dictatorships (Chile) or totalitarian regimes (Soviet Union) to record stories of women in their struggles. In 1983, she moved to the United States, where she resumed her studies in 1987 at San Diego State University. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies. She then received her Ph.D. in political theory from the University of California, Berkeley. Her thesis, “Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Métissage,” was published in 1999 by Duke University Press. Returning to Europe, she began to teach at Sussex University, then at Goldsmiths College in London.

Françoise Vergès has published works in French and English on Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, memories of slavery, postcolonialism, the postcolonial museum, the process of creolization in the Indian Ocean region, and de-colonial feminism. She has done significant research on women in the Commune of Paris, colonial and postcolonial psychiatry, the colonialism of the French republic, racism, slavery, and museums. She collaborates with artists, such as Isaac Julien on his film “Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks” (1996), and contributes to exhibition catalogs, such as that of Yinka Shonibare at the « Musée du quai Branly ». She was also a commissioner of the platform “Creolization” for Documenta 11, and created the guided tour « L’esclave au Louvre : une humanité invisible » for the Paris « Triennale » in 2012. She has screen written two films:
« Maryse Condé une voix singulière » (2011) and « Aimé Césaire face aux révoltes du
monde » (2013). From 2009 to 2012, she was president of the « Comité pour la mémoire et l’histoire de l’esclavage » in France.

Since 2004, she has been working on the creation of a museum of 21st-century postcoloniality on La Réunion. She and her team have considered the visualization of a history, of lives, and of cultures which have left behind few traces – namely of slaves, the colonized people of La Réunion – and have proposed a temporality and spatiality differing from those of the French colonial history, by replacing the island in its historical and culture context, in the Indian Ocean, and in its long-standing relations with Africa and Asia. She has suggested the construction of a « musée sans objets », and “museum without objects,” which would signify a commitment to purpose. The project was vetoed by conservatives, who were victorious in the 2010 elections. On her return to France, she continued to publish.

In her latest work, « Le ventre des femmes: Capitalisme, racialisation, féminisme » (Albin Michel, March 2017), she turns to the thousands of non-consensual abortions and sterilizations which occurred on La Réunion in the 1960s and 1970s to analyze more generally the controlling of the bodies of women in the South and the blindness and ignorance of French feminism.