Ann Laura Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies at The New School for Social Research and the author and editor of many books, including
Colonial Aphasia: Disabled Histories and Race in France
This chapter examines how colonial entailments have been erased from French national history. It addresses the issue of occlusion in a particular site, France, and specifically with respect to its racial register, to ask how such a history can be rendered irretrievable, made available, and again displaced. Conceptualizing this irretrievability as aphasia—a condition in which words become irretrievable to speakers to the point that it becomes difficult to comprehend what is seen and spoken—is an effort to address when some “abnormality or failure” signals a breakdown in conduct and when the retreat to ignorance is not excuse enough. Colonial aphasia is conceived here as a political condition whose genealogy is embedded in the space that has allowed Marine Le Pen and her broad constituency to move from the margin and extreme—to which her father was banished—to a normalized presence in contemporary France.