McKinney, Mark. Redrawing French Empire Comics. Columbus, The Ohio State University Press, 2013. 304 pages. 9780814212202

Christopher O'neill

    Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article reviewpeer-review


    The history of France and its empires is one that has been well trodden, particularly the French occupation, and subsequent war, in Algeria. In this companion to his earlier work, 2011’s The Colonial Heritage of French Comics,McKinney attempts to examine the reconstruction of French national identity in the wake of decolonisation through the medium of Francophonecomics. He endeavours to study the colonial affrontier (3), the space in which France and its colonies are connected and divided, where they seek to confront each other, or to seek peace and the removal of the division. McKinney argues this affrontier can be found most strongly in the Francophone comics produced dealing with the French colonial experience in Algeria, as well as that of Indochina,and does so from both sides of each conflict. McKinney examines in detail the French colonisation of Algeria (1830sonwards), the French war in Indochina (1946–54) and the Algerian war (1954–62), and his work is the first to approach these well-covered areas of research through the medium of comics. The resulting work takes the form of an investigation into the five forms of genealogical inquiry utilised in comics regarding these conflicts. His approach investigates the familial, ethnic, national, artistic and critical forms of genealogy relating to colonialism and imperialism from a variety of viewpoints, including the previously overlooked perspective of the pieds noirs. He aims to highlight both those cartoonists that critique the colonial ideology, as well as those cartoonists who to some extent attempt to gloss over or even romanticise the French empire, strengthening the affrontier. He positions himself alongside Foucault in seeing genealogy as a useful means of establishing ‘historical knowledge of struggles’ (Foucault1980, 85), but McKinney looks at the colonial representation in a popular medium,including the recent increase in comics produced which consider the French colonial experience. He argues that this consideration of the present, as well as European imperialism, is absent in the work of Foucault. The text is accompanied by a number of black and white facsimiles of pages from the comics he analyses to illustrate the different and often conflicting positions of cartoonists on these issues. Overall, McKinney’s work is a welcome addition to the study of the French colonial experience, which separates its elf from the rest by using Francophonecomics as lenses through which to look at these already well-trodden areas of study. He succeeds in determining if and how cartoonists critique colonial ideology and representations on both sides of the conflicts, a task in which he is unarguably successful. McKinney’s work, however, is unfortunately let down by typo graphicerrors, which occur throughout the text.Nevertheless, McKinney’s work is another important work in the field of Bande Dessine ́e scholarship, and useful for anyone interested in the representations of colonialism and imperialism in French comics, accompanied by anencyclopaedic bibliography of comics produced on this topic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)559-560
    Number of pages2
    JournalModern and Contemporary France
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2014


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