New Books Network

Kathleen Keller

Colonial Suspects

Suspicion, Imperial Rule, and Colonial Society in Interwar French West Africa

University of Nebraska Press 2018

New Books in African StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network April 1, 2019 Roxanne Panchasi

Kathleen Keller’s new book, Colonial Suspects: Suspicion, Imperial Rule, and Colonial Society in Interwar French West Africa (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) is teeming...

Kathleen Keller’s new book, Colonial Suspects: Suspicion, Imperial Rule, and Colonial Society in Interwar French West Africa (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) is teeming with mysterious persons, foreigners, misfits, and the surveillance of numerous figures who appeared to threaten the stability of empire. In this detailed and compelling study of what the author has termed the “culture of suspicion” of the years between the world wars, readers are exposed to a range of colonial personalities, practices, and anxieties. Another great title in the University of Nebraska Press’s series, “France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization,” the book is a history of intrigue in a distinct region of the French empire that was connected to a more global circulation of bodies and ideas in this period.

Focused on suspects and surveillance in the port city of Dakar in Senegal, the book traces a variety of ways in which colonial authorities sought to suppress forms of political activity including communism, pan-Africanism, anticolonialism, black radicalism, and pan-Islamism. Reading carefully a set of sources generated by imperial administrators fearful of a rising resistance to French rule from different quarters, the book explores the attitudes and representations of authorities while pursuing the life stories and experiences of the suspects themselves. Offering readers a fascinating new account of a pivotal period in the history of French empire, Colonial Suspects makes exciting contributions to the historiographies of French West Africa, the interwar years, the movement of people and politics, as well as the study of imperial authority and the colonial imagination more broadly.


Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send an email to: panchasi@sfu.ca.

*The music that opens and closes the podcast is an instrumental version of Creatures, a song written by Vancouver artist/musician Casey Wei (performing as hazy). To hear more, please visit https://agonyklub.com/.