Colonizer or Colonized introduces two colonial stories into the heart of France's literary and cultural history.
The first describes elite France's conflicted relationship to the Ancient World.
As much as French intellectuals aligned themselves with the Greco-Romans as an "us," they also resented the Ancients as an imperial "them," haunted by the memory that both the Greeks and Romans had colonized their ancestors, the Gauls.
This memory put the elite on the defensive-defending against the legacy of this colonized past and the fear that they were the barbarian other.
The second story mirrored the first. Just as the Romans had colonized the Gauls, France would colonize the New World, becoming the "New Rome" by creating a "New France." Borrowing the Roman strategy, the French Church and State developed an assimilationist stance towards the Amerindian "barbarian." This policy provided a foundation for what would become the nation's most basic stance towards the other.
However, this version of assimilation, unlike its subsequent ones, encouraged the colonized and the colonizer to engage in close forms of contact, such as mixed marriages and communities. This book weaves these two different stories together in a triangulated dynamic.
It asks the Ancients to step aside to include the New World other into a larger narrative in which elite France carved out their nation's emerging cultural identity in relation to both the New World and the Ancient World.