In her most recent work, Catherine Gallouët, Professor of French and Francophone Studies and the John Milton Potter Professor of the Humanities, looks at African resistance to colonialism and its lingering effects.
Gallouët recently reviewed a new biography of Queen Njinga, the 17th century ruler of Ndongo (now Angola) who resisted colonizing forces and left a legacy that still resonates throughout the African diaspora.
In Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen, Gallouët writes, the biographer places the queen “in the same rank as Elizabeth I of England and Catherine I of Russia, whose ambivalent reputations are singularly similar to hers. [Njinga’s] influence extends beyond Africa, in the diaspora, especially in Brazil where [she] is the object of a cult.”
In her article on La Vie des Idées (The Life of Ideas) —the College de France website that describes itself as an “intellectual cooperative, place of debate and workshop of knowledge” — Gallouët describes the book’s efforts “to reconstruct Njinga’s life in the greatest detail, and to confront it with these major issues that represent the history of Africa, gender, power, resistance to colonization, and so on.” Ultimately, she writes, the book exposes “the fate of this exceptional woman, a figurehead of resistance to foreign influence and colonization.”
Meanwhile, in a book chapter published this year, Gallouët continues her exploration of resistance and other post-colonial themes. The chapter highlights and questions the “remarkable consistency” among the speeches by African protagonists, recorded in a range of European texts, which amount to “a strange configuration allowing authentic speech to surface despite the context of its production,” Gallouët writes.
The chapter, “Les paradoxes des discours de dissidence dans la représentation des Africains des récits des Lumières,” appears in the book Les Illusions de l’autonymie. La parole rapportée de l’Autre dans la literature, edited by Marie-Françoise Marein, Bérengère Moricheau-Airaud, Christine Copy and David Diop.
Gallouët is the author of several books and some 50 articles and book chapters examining culture, race and the French Enlightenment through the lens of 18th century French literature. Her research focuses on the author Pierre de Marivaux and the construction of race in 18th century European culture. She is currently working on the rhetoric of resistance in fictional African representations, the giraffe as the object of European naturalist discourse, and is editing a special issue of Topiques. Etudes satoriennes on “Eating and drinking in narrative fiction.”
Gallouët organized the 2018 SATOR annual meeting (Société d’Analyse de la Topique Romanesque) and the 2009 NEASECS annual meeting (North East American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies), both at HWS; she was also co-organizer of the 2014 “Marivaux” conference at the Université Aix-Marseille, as well as the 2018 “L’Afrique des savants européens – The Africa of European Scholars (17th-20th centuries)” international conference at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Sénégal. She was the principal organizer of the international SATOR conference, held at HWS in 2018.
Recipient of the 2002 Faculty Prize for Excellence in Research and two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, Gallouët was awarded the 2014-15 John Readie and Florence B. Kinghorn Global Fellowship by her colleagues in recognition of her exemplary global citizenship on a continued basis. She is a member of the executive committee of the research groups GRREA (Groupe de Recherches sur les Représentations Européennes de l’Afrique et des Africains aux 17e et 18e siècles,) and SATOR (Société d’Analyse de la Topique Romanesque.)
Before joining the HWS faculty in 1986, Gallouët earned her doctorate and master’s from Rutgers University, her B.A. cum laude from Hope College and her Bacalauréat, with honors, from Académie de Grenoble. Several times chair of the French and Francophone Studies Department, she served as dean of William Smith College from 2014 to 2017.