Challenges in preserving and presenting colonial French heritage in India: the case of Puducherry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

As the former capital of French India, the city of Puducherry (formerly Pondichéry) constitutes an internationally little known case in the colonial history of India; but the heritage of French rule is very much alive in present-day Puducherry. Following its decolonisation and merger with the Indian Union (de facto in 1954, de jure in 1962), the Indo-French heritage of Puducherry has been instrumental both in political identity-making in the Union State Territory of Puducherry and in its growing tourism industry, especially in the capital with its well-preserved colonial townscape which displays a mix of French and Tamil vernacular architecture. For an Indian tourist market in particular, the French elements of Puducherry’s heritage provide an exotic attraction, which has seen Puducherry marketed as “the Quintessence of French Culture, India’s ‘Little France’”; and tourism provides a significant part of Puducherry’s income. Nonetheless tensions remain in local approaches to Puducherry’s French heritage. Historiography tends to portray two competing and conflicting master narratives of French colonialism and decolonisation in India: One of enduring fraternity and positive intercultural relations; and one of French colonial oppression and Indian resistance; and some elements of Puducherry’s townscape, such as the prominent statue of the French governor general Francois Dupleix, who in the mid-18th century came close to creating a French empire rivalling the British in India, have been controversial. The paper shows how heritage conservation in Puducherry is shaped by postcolonial dynamics, and asks: what is the scope for intercultural dialogue in this process, and can the spectre of potential neocolonialism be exorcised?

Details

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPreserving Transcultural Heritage: My Way or Your Way?
Subtitle of host publicationQuestions on Authenticity, Identity and Patrimonial Proceedings in the Safeguarding of Architectural Heritage Created in the Meeting of Cultures
EditorsJoaquim Rodrigues dos Santos
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
EventPreserving Transcultural Heritage: Your Way or My Way? - chool of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon (Portugal), Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 5 Jul 20178 Jul 2017

Conference

ConferencePreserving Transcultural Heritage
CountryPortugal
CityLisbon
Period5/07/178/07/17

Keywords

  • French India, post/colonial heritage, neocolonialism, tourism, intercultural dialogue