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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Erasing the Empire through the Restitution of Military Land: Military Bases and Processes of Re-appropriation in French Polynesia

  • Author(s): Ledderucci, Claudia
  • et al.

Following several years of tense worldwide protests against nuclear testing, the French campaign in the Pacific ended in 1996. In the years that followed, military facilities in French Polynesia, at least those most strictly connected with nuclear activities, shut down. After the exploitation and detonation of the atolls Moruroa and Fangataufa (and symbolically of the Polynesian minds and bodies), land is finally being given back to French Polynesians. Military bases are closing and military personnel are returning to France. Some of these building complexes are now property of local towns. The questions raised in this article revolve around the symbolic power of military bases’ dismantlement, which can be interpreted as the erasure of the French empire. What do such erasures of military facilities represent? Is it just an economic reorganization of the national defense or does it represent the will to materially erase colonial and nuclear history? Moreover, I argue that these ongoing processes can be analyzed as a form of re-appropriation of land by the Polynesian communities and a new form of sovereignty.

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