Research is at the heart of what we do here at the IFS. From summer projects to doctoral research, our students and faculty are encouraged to pursue their academic interests in diverse public and academic venues.
Our faculty member Liz Fink is editor of the journal French Politics, Culture and Society, which explores modern and contemporary France from the perspectives of the social sciences, history, and cultural analysis as well as examines France's relationship to the larger world, especially Europe, the Untied States, and the former French Empire.
Additionally, doctoral students have the opportunity to apply to become a FPCS / Berghahn Books - Academic Publishing and Journal Fellow in which they would use their personal interests as a framework to dive into the world of academic publishing as well as assist with editorial work and public programing related to the journal. The fellowship application cycle opens again in Fall 2023. For more information, check out the doctoral fellowships page here.
For my summer 2023 research, I will explore the history of the Martinican rum distillery, JM Rhum, as well as the memorialization and legacy of slavery/forced labor at the modern-day distillery. JM Rhum is a striking group of bright red buildings located in the forest of the small northern town of Macouba on the island of Martinique, a French overseas department in the Caribbean. The distillery was founded by a Jesuit priest in 1790 and has been owned since 2002 by the Bernard Hayot group, a conglomerate led by a prominent béké (descendants of the white French colonists of Martinique).
Today, JM Rhum and most of the other distilleries on the island function as tourist attractions in addition to producing the world-renowned and AOC-designated rhum agricole. While visiting these beautiful distilleries with expansive cane fields, I was struck by the lack of historical recognition given to the forced labor and enslavement that contributed to the production of rum on the island.
Upon further research, I discovered that this lack of historical recognition has been an ongoing fight against JM Rhum and its owner Bernard Hayot. For years, Martinican people have been demanding that the distillery reckon with its history of enslavement and forced labor, especially with Hayot as the owner, a béké who controls much of the island’s economy to the detriment of the majority of the population. This ongoing fight demonstrates that the memory of slavery is deeply entwined with the history of rum distilleries in Martinique and requires recognition by the modern-day distilleries, like JM Rhum, so it is not erased or forgotten. This summer, by visiting archives in Aix-en-Provence, I hope to construct a historical narrative that can uncover this legacy and link it to ongoing fights for historical reckoning.