Centre College professors Marc Démont, visiting assistant professor of French and humanities, and Christian Wood, assistant professor of French, are bridging two study abroad trips—the summer 2019 program to Tahiti for French minors and majors and the CentreTerm 2020 course in Pondichéry, India, for French and humanities students—under the title “Post-Colonial French Identities.”
“We want students to go beyond the glossy and chic image of France and French people and to look at France and French language in relation to its colonial history,” Démont said. “By bridging these two trips and looking at post-colonial identities and how they are constructed and reclaimed, we offer the students a fantastic opportunity to not only develop more complete and complex ideas about French identities but also to redefine their relation to the language they are learning by discovering that learning French can lead them as far as India or Tahiti.”
The “Performing Post-Colonial Identities in Tahiti” trip is an immersion course based on French and Francophone studies. Students will conduct research in the domain of representations of Tahitian culture and identities, which are shaped by French and European discourses, especially colonial. The research will address the reclaiming of the colonial gaze through analysis of culture and artistic productions, particularly in the ways they inform Tahitian identities in a post-colonial context.
The “Cultural Hybridities in Pondichéry, India” trip will focus on how the hybrid Francophone identities both draw upon different cultural sources and resist traditional French narratives. During the course, the students’ research project consists of understanding the regional Pondichérian identity in function and in contrast to its diverse cultural influences.
Students in the course will explore the exceptional cultural and historical diversity of Pondichéry and South India. Those enrolling for Humanities 200, will focus particularly on the historical and cultural diversity of South India, whether it is in terms of religious syncretism, literary influences, art forms, or even sciences—the integration of Northern Ayurveda in the southern marman medicine, for instance.
Those who enroll in the French part of the course will focus on the hybrid identity of Pondichéry and its history. This often-overlooked history of French colonialism in India, as well as the resulting exceptional blending of French and South Indian identities will be the course focus. Students participating in this exploration will not only benefit from a firsthand intercultural and francophone experience but will also participate in an innovative approach to francophone studies.
“I think Dr. Wood and I are very excited to share cultures that we both know well, but we are also very interested in seeing how this encounter with radically new cultures and people will impact students’ perceptions of themselves and of the world around them,” Démont said. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover French identities that are usually little known or disregarded. To my knowledge, no one else in the U.S. looks at French post-colonial identities that way.”
The deadline to apply for the summer program in Tahiti is Feb. 15, and the deadline to apply for the trip in Pondichéry, India, is Feb. 6.
by Kerry Steinhofer
February 6, 2019