while the eviction of the sans-papiers from the Church of Saint
Bernard in Paris’s predominantly African Goutte d’Or neighborhood
marked a new low in French–African relations, the 1990s also wit-
nessed the dedication of a monument to West African troops in the
hexagon.∞ At Fréjus in 1994, an association of former military o≈cers,
aided by the national and municipal governments, inaugurated a
monument that plays on the statue in Bamako dedicated to the sol-
diers of the First World War. In it, the heroic pose of the 1920s has
given way to a loose cluster of individual figures whose faces express
confusion, pain, and su√ering. The unanticipated ambivalence of the
sculpture begs the question of what exactly it is meant to commemo-
rate. Are the soldiers whose figures are depicted foreigners or locals?
What role do they have in Fréjus or in the larger national community?
Is the monument meant to remind local people of the African role in
their liberation or to accuse them and their government of having
broken a bargain painfully hammered out over decades?
One thing is clear. Forty years after independence, memories of the
tirailleurs continue to spark fundamental questions about history, ob-
ligation, and political community in the wake of empire. Invoking
them allows West Africans to recast a colonial history in which they
or their elders are much more than victims. It permits veterans, immi-
grants, and others to make powerful claims on the French state, and it
enables immigrants, activists, and allies on the French left—or, at least,
those advocating greater integration of people of African origin or
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