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Interview with French Colonial Historical Society President

Started by Nuruddeen, June 06, 2006, 09:47:58 PM

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(Dakar, Friday 19th, 2006. 4:30 p.m)

Sue Peabody is associate professor at Washington  State University, Vancouver. She is an accomplished professional historian and academician of international repute and high standing. The fact that her history training cuts across the globe, Sue developed a special interest in the study of French colonies, which she said about thirty years ago, was confined within the boundaries of French republic. Even though, some historians were interested in the colonies but they were not accepted in the main society. Therefore, the quest to cross this huddle became a matter of concern for historians such as Sue. Hence, the idea of forming a society that would allow discussion and understanding of the French colonial history within and outside the boundaries of France emanated. The French Colonial Historical Society was then created in order to encourage interest in the scholarly study of all French colonizing activity(s).

In this exclusive interview Professor Sue told us during the just concluded society?s international conference in Dakar her mission, vision and plans as the new president of this strong body. Jibo Nura, the only Nigerian representative and Desert Herald?s columnist was there. Excerpts.

Question: Ma, may I know your name and brief history?

Answer: My name is Sue Peabody. I come from Washington D.C and as well grew up in Washington D.C United States. I am a history professor for ten years at Washington D.C University.

Question: You work for the French colonial historical society. What are the main activities of the society in terms of cultural, traditional and historical development?

Answer: This is a professional society for professors of history and students of history. Our work is to study French colonial history sometimes from as early as 1600 to the 21st century. The most important activity we gather once every year in annual meeting such as the one here in Dakar. We also publish the best papers that are presented in the conference.

Question: Now the French colonial historical society is doing a very good job in promoting French culture and colonial history within and in diaspora. How do you come about the idea of forming a formidable society like this?
Answer: Its interesting question. In the United States about thirty years ago, the study of French history was limited within what we called the hexagon boundaries or frontiers of French republic and some historians were interested in questions about the colonies, but they could not be accepted in the main society. So they created their own society that would allow them to discuss and understand and present papers to one another. They talk specifically on colonial history. However, within the last decade I would say, the interest in colonial society is very high now. So in the older society in the U.S and Canada?Am I talking too much? (Laughter).The Canadian and U.S scholars, threw interested questions but now they are much more presence I would say, in the historical talk of the profession.

Question: As the incoming president, what will be your first line of action?

Answer: There is an interesting generational shift taking place within the society. And I think it is my job as someone between the older generation and younger students who are coming up to try and ensure the success of the society by bringing new people into the society and then particularly we had very good luck over last two-four or five years in internationalizing the society and its something that was very interesting. And it?s so exciting to be here in Dakar, because it?s the first time that the society has come to the African continent to hold a meeting and we hope very much to be able to include more African scholars within our society as we continue to meet.

Question: Before, there were a lot of fears from the society as to come to Africa and hold its meeting. In fact, this is the very first time that such a meeting is holding in Africa. What do you think about Africa as a continent?Answer: Interesting question! I think many people in education understand that Africa is a very changing society, and very developing in important ways that offers the society to struggle with the history of colonialism even in the point of death. And I think as scholars and as teachers, we can improve the awareness in the U.S about the realities of African society, then we will be doing a very important thing.

Question: Now you have experienced Dakar and have started seeing the realities about Africa as a people?Answer: (Cuts in) A little bit! (Laughter).

Question: But, before the society was lackadaisical about having this meeting in Africa. So what are the main objectives that you want to achieve, I mean what are the objectives at stake?Answer:  Well, as I said before, I do hope that we can continue with the international dialogue. It is very important. I think I can speak as a teacher and as American student. America is terribly ignorant about the rest of the world. For example, one of the things that we have to do is to be able to create a fund to bring students from outside Europe and  U.S to come to some of our meetings in order to help and promote the society.

Question: What could you say about the issue of inviting other people to the society, for instance, inviting Nigerians like me, and considering the fact that Nigeria is an Anglophone country, Are we really welcome?

Answer: I would say absolutely. Especially the society is about French colonial history except that it?s something that the society is really professional society but for scholars who want to study French history in Nigeria absolutely are welcome.

Question: Is there opportunity for people other than historians in the society? For example, I am an engineer by training as well as a journalist.Answer: Am actually, the society is specifically for professional historians and for somebody who is primarily an engineer and a journalist, I think?

Question :( Cuts in) But journalism is history in hurry (laughter).

Answer: Yeah! You are right. My husband says it (laughter). Okay I understand. There is opportunity for intelligent capable people in Nigeria in Dakar.

Question: If I may ask, where do you reside?Answer: I reside in Vancouver, Washington D.C. United States.

Question: Ma, I don?t want to delve into the matters of personal importance but you said you are married?
Answer: Yes! I am married with two children

Question: It is my pleasure.
Answer: It?s my pleasure too. Thank you very much.
o try and fail is atleast to learn. That will save one the inestimable loss of what might have been (positive or negative).