Dr Berny Sèbe Maîtrise (Aix-en-Provence), D.Phil (Oxon), FRGS

 

Lecturer in colonial and post-colonial studies

Department of Modern Languages: French Studies

Photograph of Dr Berny Sèbe

Contact details

Ashley Building
Room 305
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

About

My research interests revolve around the colonial and post-colonial encounters between European and non-European worlds, in particular in the cultural and political realms. My recent works look at the making of imperial heroes in Britain and France since the era of 'New imperialism' (second half of the nineteenth century), the history of the conquest and decolonization of the Sahara, Franco-African relations since the Second World War as well as the 'Echoes of Empire' which resonate in the European project. I also engage regularly in comparative studies of French, British and Spanish imperialisms.

Biography

I was born in Nice (Provence, France) and partly brought up in the Sahara desert, where I have been travelling since I was a child. For that reason, I was educated through the CNED (National Centre for Distance Learning, France). During that period, I became closely associated to the activities of my father, the French desert photographer and publisher Alain Sèbe, with whom I still regularly publish photographic books. I studied for my first degree (licence) and Master’s (maîtrise) at the University of Aix-en-Provence, and for my doctorate at the University of Oxford (D.Phil in Imperial and Commonwealth History). During my time there, I also organised the Oxford University Expedition to Mauritania. My first full-time academic position was at the university of Durham, where I was a lecturer in African and imperial history (2007-8).

Teaching

I teach for both the French Department and the European Studies programme. In French, I teach a final-year option on ‘Franco-African relations from de Gaulle to Sarkozy’ and I contribute to the teaching of the ‘Cinema, Media and Visual Culture’, ‘Politics, Culture and Society’ and ‘France moderne’ modules. Some terms, I also teach prose to fourth-year students. For European Studies, I teach on, and am the convenor of, the first-year undergraduate module 'Approaches to European Cultures', and I teach on the first-year module 'Media, Culture and Communication and on the second-year modules ‘Cultural Theory: Analysis and Application’ and ‘European Media Culture’. At postgraduate level, I also contribute occasionally to MA (taught) modules, such as ‘Nations and their neighbours’ or ‘Cultural inquiry’. I co-supervise two PhD students.

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Sèbe is happy to offer postgraduate research supervision in the following fields:

  • Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
  • British and French imperial history
  • Decolonisation and the End of Empire
  • Colonial memory
  • Nineteenth and Twentieth French History

 He supervises or co-supervises MA dissertation students, and co-supervises two PhD students :

  • Claire Peters, 'Interdisciplinary approaches to the cultural memory of the Occupation and the Algerian War: Representations of the City in Modiano, Haneke and Maspero'
  • Sophie Tanniou, 'Postcolonial Francophone Literature from West and Equatorial Africa: Colonial Heritage and Postcolonial Histories

Research

My research interests lie mainly in the history of nineteenth and twentieth century European imperialisms, decolonization and post-colonialism, with particular emphasis on the popular reception of imperialism and Empire-related subjects in the metropolitan centres.

My doctoral research looked at the processes of selection, construction and promotion of colonial heroes in Britain and in France between 1870 and the Second World War. It has led me to consider the variety of media which were used to promote the imperial idea in the metropolises, the networks of producers and systems of patronage which sustained them, and the reception of heroic propaganda by various types of audience. Drawing upon a variety of unpublished archives, it also analysed the various political, economic and individual interests which these cultural constructions served. I am currently revising this work for publication.

With colleagues from the European Studies Centre (University of Oxford), and as part of the ‘Re-Thinking Europe in a Non-European World’ project, I work on the legacy of Europe’s colonial past upon the EU and in its relations with the rest of the world. Developing comparative approaches to European imperialisms allows us to evaluate the extent to which colonial expansion stemmed from a core of shared assumptions and values while exacerbating political and economic rivalries, and how these conflicting roots and effects are negotiated in the post-colonial world against which the EU took shape.

On a more general level, I am interested in the history of Third- and Fourth-Republic France, and in Franco-British relations since the mid-nineteenth century. My next project looks at the practice and effects of colonial and post-colonial photography in Africa from the 1860s until the 1970s.

I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and a member of the American Historical Association. In Birmingham, I am an active member of the FRANCOPOCO Network, of the Centre for Second World War Studies and of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary History. I also co-ordinate the Postcolonial Birmingham initiative.

Areas of interest

  • British and French imperial history; decolonisation; post-colonialism
  • British and French popular imperialism
  • Comparative European colonialisms
  • History of the Sahara from 1880 to the present
  • Late modern French history; Franco-British relations

Other activities

I regularly feature on regional, national and international radio and TV programmes, commenting on a range of topics related to French history and politics; European colonial and imperial history; post-colonialism; the history of West Africa and the Sahara as well as current events in the Middle East and North Africa (the 'Arab Spring' and its aftermath).

Publications

Doctoral thesis & book

  • “Celebrating” British and French imperialism: The Making of Colonial Heroes Acting in Africa (1870-1939), D. Phil, University of Oxford, 2007, supervised by Dr John Darwin, examined by Professors Judith M. Brown and John M. MacKenzie. Under contract; publication planned for the Spring 2013 under the title Heroic Imperialists in Africa.

Edited book

  • Co-editor with Prof. Kalypso Nicolaïdis of a volume entitled ‘Echoes of Empire: The Legacy of Europe’s Colonial Past’, which combines methodologies from history and political sciences to examine the impact of Europe’s imperial past upon contemporary political and cultural relations. (Forthcoming)

Book chapters

  • Forthcoming: ‘Explorers and (Self-)Promoters: The Making of British and French Legends of Exploration, 1821-1914’, in Dane Kennedy (ed.), Exploration: Reassessing the West’s Encounter with the Rest (forthcoming: Oxford University Press, 2011). Ca. 20 pp.
  • Forthcoming: 'A fragmented and forgotten decolonization: the end of European empires in the Sahara and their legacy’, in T. Chafer and A. Keese (eds.), Francophone Africa at Fifty (forthcoming: Manchester University Press, 2013).
  • Forthcoming: ‘Enemy Brothers? The British and French Sea-Borne Imperial Experiences’, in Kalypso Nicolaïdis and Berny Sèbe (eds.), Echoes of Empire: The Legacy of Europe’s Colonial Past (forthcoming). Ca. 20 pp.
  • Forthcoming: ‘Les Etats-Unis et la décolonisation du Sahara français : une non-intervention bienveillante ?’, Démonter les empires coloniaux, Daniel Lefeuvre and Jacques Frémeaux (eds.) (forthcoming: Editions Riveneuve, 2013). Ca. 30 pp.
  • Forthcoming: ‘Itinéraires intellectuels et méthodologiques en Grande-Bretagne : de la « Imperial History » aux « Postcolonial Studies » en passant par les « French Studies »’, in M. Suchet et al., Postcolonial Studies: mode d’emploi (forthcoming: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2013).
  • ‘The Selling of British and French Imperial Heroes in Africa, 1870-1939’, in Wm. R. Louis (ed.), Resurgent Adventures with Britannia (London: IB Tauris, 2012), pp. 45-60.
  • ‘Justifying “New Imperialism”: The Making of Colonial Heroes, 1857-1902’, in Jo Fox et al. (eds.), Justifying War (forthcoming: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 46-67.
  • ‘Exalting imperial grandeur: the French Empire and its metropolitan public’, in John M. MacKenzie (ed.), European Empires and the People (Manchester University Press, 2011), pp. 19-56.
  • ‘La puissance de l’Empire britannique, 1815-1931’, in Michel Rapoport (ed.), Les mondes britanniques, 1815-1931 (Editions Atlande (Paris), 2010), pp. 97-131.
  • ‘Colonial celebrities in popular culture: Heroes of the British and French empires in the media, 1850-2000’, in R. Clarke (ed.), Celebrity Colonialism (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), pp. 37-54.
  • ‘Aventurières et voyageuses en Afrique de l’Ouest’, in R. Little (ed.), Actes du Colloque international Lucie Cousturier, Les tirailleurs sénégalais et la question coloniale, (L’Harmattan (Paris), 2008), pp. 163-186.
  • ‘From Thoissey to the Capital via Fashoda: Major Marchand, partisan icon of the Right in Paris’, in J. Irons (ed.), Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006).

Articles

  • ‘In the shadow of the Algerian war: the United States and the Common Organisation of Saharan Regions/Organisation commune des régions sahariennes (OCRS), 1957-62’. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 38:2 (June 2010), pp. 303-322.
  • ‘Porte-drapeaux de l’Empire : la promotion des héros coloniaux français et britanniques de la conquête de l’Afrique à la Seconde Guerre mondiale’. Synergies Royaume-Uni et Irlande 2 (2009), pp. 81-92.
  • Book reviews for the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, H-France, British Contemporary History, La Revue historique and Global War Studies.

Selected non-academic publications

  • Sahara au jour le jour (with Alain Sèbe) (Paris, 2010).
  • Tibesti, Sahara interdit (ed., with Alain Sèbe) (Vidauban, 2005).
  • Sahara, the Atlantic to the Nile, photos Alain Sèbe (London, 2003).
  • Saharas, entre Atlantique et Nil, photos Alain Sèbe (Paris, 2001).
  • Redjem, Libye des grands espaces, photos Alain Sèbe and Berny Sèbe (Vidauban, 2000).
  • Alain Sèbe, L’Image du Sahara (Vidauban, 1999).

Conference and seminar papers

  • 'Outposts of Conquest: the fortresses of the Steppe and the Sahara in comparative perspective', Oxford Centre for Global History, University of Oxford, 7 November 2012.
  • 'Re-thinking the Decolonization of the Sahara beyond Nation-states', Africa History and Politics Seminar, University of Oxford, 5 November 2012.
  • 'A fragmented and forgotten decolonization: the end of European empires in the Sahara and their legacy’, Modern Maghreb Research Workshop, University of Oxford, 11 May 2012.
  • ‘Heroic Imperialists : Promoting the Heroes of the British and French Empires in Africa (1870-1939)’, University of Newcastle, 10 May 2012.
  • ‘The call of the desert in the Western world’, ‘Café des sciences humaines et sociales’, Cultural Services of the French consulate in Shanghai, 29 April 2012.
  • ‘Le Sahara et ses habitants dans l’imaginaire français’, University of Nankin, Nankin, 26 April 2012
  • ‘L’appel du désert dans le monde occidental’, Alliance Française, Shanghai, 25 April 2012.
  • ‘Les forts sahariens et la pacification du « Grand Sud » algérien (1883- 1930)’, international conference ‘Les Administrations coloniales et la « pacification », XIXe-XXe siècles’, Institut d’histoire du temps présent & Ecole militaire, Paris, 23-24 March 2012
  • ‘The making of the ‘hero of Fashoda’ and the ‘Sudan machine’: Metropolitan celebrations of Marchand and Kitchener as ‘imperial sites of memory’, international conference Imperial Sites of Memory Conference, University of St Andrews, 4-5 September 2011.
  • ‘Imperial dialogues: British and French conceptions and interpretations of Empire’, international conference Colonial Circulations: Colonialism in Comparative Perspective. University of Bristol, 4-5 July 2011
  • 'Pour un dialogue franco-britannique autour du passé colonial : les empires comme préalable à la mondialisation ?’, Cultures in Dialogue international conference, French  Institute, London, 14 May 2011
  • ‘Representations of Shaykh Ma al Aynin in French and Spanish colonial writings and official discourse between the 1880s and the 1930s’, Modern Morocco Research Workshop, University of Oxford, 12 March 2011
  • ‘“Celebrating” British and French Imperialism: The Making of Colonial Heroes acting in Africa, 1870-1939’, History Seminar, University of Lancaster, 16 February 2011.
  • ‘People of the Veil: Depicting the Sahara and its Inhabitants’, CWAS Research Seminar, University of Birmingham, 15 February 2011
  • ‘“Celebrating” British and French Imperialism: The Making of Colonial Heroes acting in Africa, 1870-1939’, Birmingham Contemporary History Seminar, University of Birmingham, 26 January 2011
  • ‘Europe and its Colonial Legacies: Negotiating Europe’s place in a post-imperial world’, with Steffen Prauser, Jose Lingna Nafafe and Natalia Sobrevilla, ERI Cross-College Event organised by Tim Haughton, University of Birmingham, 8 December 2010.
  • ‘Les revues britanniques et françaises et l’idée impériale : perspectives croisées ?’, Journée des revues organised by the Réseau Culture F-B, Institute of Historical Research, London, 26 November 2010.
  • ‘A fragmented and forgotten decolonization: the end of the French empire in the Sahara’, 1960: the ‘Year of Africa’ and French decolonisation re-visited A ‘French solution’ for sub-Saharan Africa? conference, University of Portsmouth, 6 September 2010.
  • ‘No More Heroes Anymore’, Group for War and Culture Studies Seminar, University of Westminster, 23 June 2010.
  • ‘La décolonisation du Sahara français (1957-1962) : une « fin d’empire » à la croisée des chemins’, Annual conference of the French Colonial History Society, 19 June 2010.
  • ‘Itinéraires intellectuels et méthodologiques de la « imperial history » aux « Postcolonial Studies » (en passant par les « French Studies »)’, Postcolonial Studies: directions for use conference, Ecole Normale Supérieure Langues et Sciences Humaines, Lyon, 4 juin 2010.
  • ‘Colonial Partition, End-of-Empire Unification and Chaotic Independence: The Postcolonial Fragmentation of the Sahara and its Peoples, 1951-1989’, Seminar ‘Independence and Decolonization’, Institute of Historical Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 15-17 April 2010.
  • ‘An image under colonial influence: the legend of Ma Al Aynin in Spain and in France’, ‘Modern Morocco Research Workshop’, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, 12 March 2010.
  • ‘Les Etats-Unis et la décolonisation du Sahara français : une non-intervention bienveillante?’, Conference Démonter les empires coloniaux, Archives d’outre-mer d’Aix-en-Provence, 4-5 March 2010.
  • ‘Imperial heroes in British and French popular culture, 1850-1939’, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, 30 November 2009.
  • ‘Francophone Postcolonial Studies and Imperial/Colonial History: The merits of cross-fertilization’, Annual Conference of the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies, London, 20-1 November 2009.
  • Celebrating British and French imperialism: the Making of British and French colonial Heroes actin in Africa’, University of Birmingham, 17 November 2009.
  • ‘Under Livingstone’s shadow? The making of French imperial heroes under the Third Republic’, Modern French History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 11 May 2009.
  • ‘The Conquest of the French Sahara’, ‘New directions in French/Algerian history’, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, 1 May 2009.
  • ‘Strategies of Conquest in the Sahara’, National History Center panel, American Historical Association Annual Meeting, 4 January 2009.
  • ‘Justifying “New Imperialism”: The Making of Colonial Heroes, 1857-1898’, Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and War in the Modern Age conference, University of Kent, 10 July 2008.
  • ‘Confronting or endorsing French late colonial designs? Algerian and American reactions to the Organisation Commune des Régions Sahariennes, 1957-1962’, Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of French History (SSFH), Aberystwyth, 4 July 2008
  • ‘La gloire des empires français et britannique : les représentations des héros coloniaux en Afrique (1870-1939)’, Centenary of the Franco-British Exhibition (London 1908) International Conference, Arts et cultures au tournant du siècle, Institut Français du Royaume-Uni (IFRU), London, 25-27 June 2008.
  • ‘Aventurières et voyageuses en Afrique de l’Ouest’, Colloque international Lucie Cousturier, Les tirailleurs sénégalais et la question coloniale, Espace culturel de Port-Fréjus, Fréjus, 13-14 June 2008.
  • ‘Perspectives on European sea-borne imperialisms: the British and French experiences’, Conference “Echoes of Imperialism: Re-Thinking European Colonialisms”, University of Oxford, 9 May 2008.
  • ‘British and French popular culture of Empire’, Departmental Seminar, University of Durham, 20 February 2008.
  • 'Explorateurs et conquérants du Sahara’, Villa aurélienne, Fréjus, 20 November 2007.
  • 'L'inscription des héros coloniaux dans le quotidien français et britannique’, Marc Bloch Centre for Social Sciences (in partnership with the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Berlin, 6 July 2007.
  • Celebrating British and French imperialism: The Making of Colonial Heroes acting in Africa, 1870-1939’, Imperial History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 5 February 2007.
  • ‘Icons of Empire: British and French Imperial Heroes, 1870-1930’, 1st Conference in Imperial and Commonwealth History, Sheffield Univeristy, 25 May 2006.
  • ‘Spreading universalities: British and French imperial heroes, 1850-1940’, Sixth Harvard Graduate Student Conference, Harvard University, 17-18 March 2006.
  • ‘L'appel du désert’, Ecole Supérieure de Commerce, Clermont-Ferrand, 12 May 2005.
  • ‘The Making of British and French Imperial Heroes (1870-1930)’, Cambridge World History Workshop, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge University, 3 February 2005.
  • ‘Imperial marketing and entente coloniale: The making of French colonial heroes (1870-1930)’, Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies, Second annual conference, London, Institut français, 26-27 November 2004.
  • ‘Celebrating British and French Imperial Heroes, 1870-1930’, Commonwealth History Seminar, Faculty of Modern History, Oxford University, 7 March 2003.
  • I have also co-convened the conference ‘Echoes of Imperialism: Re-Thinking European Colonialisms’ (9-10 May 2008, Faculty of Modern History, Oxford University), the Durham Colonial and Post-Colonial Centre Seminar series (Epiphany and Easter terms 2008) and the Commonwealth History Research Seminar (Hilary term 2006, Faculty of Modern History, Oxford University).
  • I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and a member of the American Historical Association. In Birmingham, I am a member of the Centre for Second World War Studies and a founding member of both the 'Francopoco' and 'Postcolonial Birmingham' research networks.

Expertise

European imperialisms in Africa; historical, political and contemporary issues relating to North and West Africa; the Middle East ,especially the Arab Spring and its consequences; crises in the Sahel region of West Africa involving the Tuareg and the Tubu populations,Northern Mali in particular; French history, politics and current affairs;  history of the British Empire since the early nineteenth century; popular imperialism in Europe, the memory of colonialism and postcolonialism.

Languages and other information

  • French
  • Spanish

Media experience

Berny has been a prominent media commentator on the Arab Spring, writing a number of articles on the poltical and social implications of the wave of revolution across North Africa and the Middle East.

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office

Expertise


European imperialisms in Africa; historical, political and contemporary issues relating to North and West Africa; the Middle East, especially the Arab Spring and its consequences; crises in the Sahel region of West Africa involving the Tuareg and the Tubu populations,Northern Mali in particular; French history, politics and current affairs;  history of the British Empire since the early nineteenth century; popular imperialism in Europe, the memory of colonialism and postcolonialism.

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office

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