To see is to know : postcards from French West Africa and the presentation of colonial progress, 1900-1918
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This study examined French colonial postcards at the turn of the twentieth century. The postcards provided the French with a vivid illustration of the progress of the "civilizing mission" of Europeans abroad. Europeans generally believed Africans were less civilized and needed European guidance to advance. These ideas dominated academia and permeated French popular culture. Africans entertained Parisians on stage, in ethnographic exhibitions, and at universal expositions. These exhibits displayed foreign people and featured their exotic qualities. Anthropology emerged as a science and began using photography to document cultures. Postcard photographers imitated anthropological photographers to increase the commercial appeal of their work, thus reinforcing common stereotypes. Postcards also showed the possibilities for urban renewal in Africa in an age of urban decline in Europe. Africans who viewed the postcards remembered the French presence and control in the region. The postcards ultimately served as a means of clarifying power relationships in Africa.