CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – “Are you a subject or are you a citizen?” That was an important question for many Senegalese men during World War II, when they joined the Colonial French Army. In their everyday lives, these individuals saw little difference between supporting the French Government and merely living within its colonial borders. But as soldiers, they quickly realized where they ranked in the government’s eyes.
“There were blatant dissimilarities in the way African citizens and subjects were treated: lodging in barracks, terms of enlistment, level of pay, uniforms and food all depended on one’s status in the colonial system,” Dr. Jacqueline Woodfork, Whitman College assistant professor of history, wrote. “The army got what it needed: it trained men not only to fight for the country but to become loyal to France at the same time.”
At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, Woodfork will delve deeper into this subject with her lecture “How Senegalese Soldiers Became French: 20th Century Identity Politics,” during the Austin Peay State University Asanbe Diversity Symposium. The lecture will take place in room 303 of the Morgan University Center, and a panel discussion, titled “Africa in the 21st Century,” will follow at 2:30 p.m.
The symposium, sponsored and organized by the APSU Department of Languages and Literature, was established 19 years ago in memory of Dr. Joseph Asanbe, who was the first professor of African and African-American literature at APSU. The event is co-sponsored by the APSU Office of Academic Affairs, the APSU Diversity Committee, the APSU African-American Studies Program, the APSU International Studies Program, the APSU Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the APSU Honors Program and the APSU Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center.
Woodfork specializes in Modern Francophone Africa. She has published on the French colonial military in western Africa and the role of African soldiers in the French colonial army. Her article, “It is a Crime To Be a Tirailleur in the Army: The Impact of Senegalese Civilian Status in the French Colonial Army During the Second World War," appeared in The Journal of Military History in 2012. She published her first book, “Cultures and Customs of the Central African Republic,” in 2006, and is currently finishing a book manuscript on Senegalese soldiers during the Second World War.
The Asanbe Diversity Symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the APSU Department of Languages and Literature at 221-7891.