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“One of the things I’ve heard most frequently in attending and working with and participating with ACHAC at different events, is to hear young people, and even adults, say, ‘I had no idea. I did not know that back at this particular historical juncture, my ancestors were put on display in the city, in these parts, for entertainment.'”

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, France taught its citizens about its overseas territories in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and Asia through commonplace, mass-produced items including postcards and board games. Through these materials, the government attempted to capture and publicize a grand image of France’s empire while also justifying colonization. These same objects are now critical for understanding the often-violent story of French colonialism and its lasting impact on immigration, race relations, and nationalism. Many such items are held in the Getty Research Institute’s collection of the Association Connaissance de l’histoire de l’Afrique contemporaine (ACHAC, the association to foster knowledge on contemporary Africa).The new book Visualizing Empire: Africa, Europe, and the Politics of Representation analyzes this fascinating archive.

In this episode, Visualizing Empire editors Rebecca Peabody, head of Research Projects and Programs at the Getty Research Institute; Steven Nelson, dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and Dominic Thomas, the Madeleine L. Letessier Professor and chair of the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, discuss French imperialism, its legacies, and how these everyday objects might be used to reexamine and even decolonize this narrative.
Book cover for Visualizing Empire with title in a brown box at the bottom over a caricatured image of a Black African playing a drum.

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Visualizing Empire: Africa, Europe, and the Politics of Representation buy the book

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
DOMINIC THOMAS: One of the things I’ve heard most frequently in attending and working with and par...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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