2017 Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize
Christopher Church, Paradise Destroyed: Catastrophe and Citizenship in the French Caribbean (University of Nebraska Press)
In Paradise Destroyed: Catastrophe and Citizenship in the French Caribbean, Christopher Church explores how disasters - from fires to cyclones to volcanic eruptions - shaped the politics of belonging and exclusion in the early Third Republic. Church’s focus is Martinique and Guadeloupe, whose populations lived the tensions between the “fantasy of assimilation” and the marginalizing logics and practices of economic extraction and racism against citizens of color. Church shows how disasters, and the political crises that followed, both laid bare the Third Republic’s de facto "civic disparity" while simultaneously intensifying “an inclusive ‘language of citizenship’ that underscored compatriotism and national community.” The vision of colonial nationalism that emerged, he argues, “meant not independence but integration into the French nation,” a political project with ongoing implications for the contemporary relationship between metropolitan France and its Caribbean departments.
Paradise Destroyed is an important contribution to the field of French colonial history on multiple fronts. Its close examination of the place of the Antilles in the politics of the early Third Republic is an important corrective to a periodization in French colonial history too-often structured around the evolution from an “old” French empire to a “new” one. It offers a powerful example of the causal role of environmental factors in the politics of empire. It also serves as a model for moving beyond the binary logic of the “metropolitan/colonial” divide by situating the French Caribbean at the heart of a “dual process of ‘internal colonization’ and ‘national imagination’” that shaped the politics of the early Third Republic. It is, finally, written with grace and verve. For these reasons and more, we are happy to award Paradise Destroyed the 2018 Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize.
Other Books Submitted:
Daniel Brückenhaus, Policing Transnational Protest: Liberal Imperialism and the Surveillance of Anticolonialists in Europe, 1905-1945 (Oxford University Press).
Fabien Deshayes and Axel Pohn-Weidinger, L’amour en guerre: Sur les traces d’une correspondance pendant la guerre d’Algérie (Bayard).
Marcus Filippello, The Nature of the Path: Reading a West African Road (University of Minnesota Press).
Aaron Freundschuh, The Courtesan and the Gigolo: The Murders in the Rue Montaigne and the Dark Side of Empire in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Stanford University Press).
Harry Gamble, Contesting French West Africa: Battles over Schools and the Colonial Order, 1900-1950 (University of Nebraska Press).
Ruth Ginio, The French Army and its African Soldiers (University of Nebraska Press).
Eric Jennings, Perspectives on French Colonial Madagascar (Palgrave Macmillan).
Gavin Murray-Miller, The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity (University of Nebraska Press).
Nguyen Thuy Phuong, L’école française au Vietnam de 1945 à 1975: De la mission civilisatrice à la diplomatie culturelle (Encrage).
Cyrus Schayegh, The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard University Press).