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Pomona College Professor Gary Wilder Receives $195,000 Fellowship

Gary Wilder, an associate professor of history at Pomona College, has received a $195,000 New Directions Fellowship, from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to research the links between colonialism and today’s trend of capitalist globalization. The Fellowship was only one of 10 awarded nationally for 2006.

Wilder is the author of The French Imperial Nation-State: Negritude and Colonial Humanism between the World Wars (University of Chicago Press, October 2005), which analyzes France between the world wars as an imperial nation-state. The book examines governmental strategies in French West Africa organized around economic development, social welfare, and cultural preservation as well as a community of African and Caribbean colonial elites living in Paris who formulated a new type of cultural nationalism.

The New Directions Fellowship will fund research for Wilder’s new project “Parasites and Parastates: Mercenary Imperialism from Decolonization to Neoliberalism.” The book-length project will explore “parastates” such as colonial development projects and penal colonies, postcolonial oil companies, and current security and mineral conglomerates that are at once commercial and governmental, public and private, bureaucratic and despotic, and visible and covert. This includes the role played by transnational groups of semi-private mercenaries, both military and financial, in France and Francophone Africa since decolonization and the novel forms of postcolonial imperialism that are developing today.

Among the areas of special focus are the parastatal networks surrounding Elf Oil, the French state, and the international arms market through which French foreign policy in postcolonial Africa was conducted during the cold war, through analysis of a string of recent corruption trials regarding Elf and Total Oil companies. He will also examine the emergence of private military corporations (PMCs), since the end of the Cold War, in relation to the restructuring of global capitalism, and the worldwide proliferation of neoliberal policies and ideology. The latter will include analysis of the international human rights campaign against PMCs conducted through the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, and African non-governmental organizations.

Ultimately, Wilder says, he plans to trace a genealogy of state-sanctioned extra-parliamentary international intervention from the period of romantic mercenarism during decolonization, through the postcolonial years of non-military corporatism, to the current moment of fully privatized military corporations. It will seek to link the eras of late colonialism, the Cold War, and current global transformations.

A member of the Pomona College faculty since 1998, Wilder teaches the courses Race and Racism in Modern Europe; Europe from the Periphery: Imperial Projects and Colonial Societies; Postcolonial France; and Topics in Modern Europe; among others. He earned his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago and his B.A. from Cornell University.

Pomona College, founded in 1887, is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges. Located in Southern California, its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a wide range of opportunities for student research. Pomona is also one of a handful of colleges that meet the full financial need of every accepted student.