Peter Caswell

Humanities Scholars Program Postdoctoral Associate


I am a literary and cultural studies scholar whose research focuses on the afterlives of colonialism and race in the French and Francophone contexts. My work dialogues with the ongoing discussions surrounding race and colonial memory in France, more specifically the renewed national conversations on the issue of race-blind universalism and its ties to State prejudice and historical erasure. I especially seek to foreground the Republican roots of atomic modernity in France, its racial and settler colonial entanglements in Algeria and French occupied Polynesia as sites of cultural and geobiophysical memory, and Indigenous struggles against nuclear imperialism in the age of climate change.
My dissertation interrogates the role that colonialism and race played in fashioning modern Republican universalism as a State discourse during the Third Republic (1870-1940) and shows how these two structuring elements have subsequently been repressed and reinvested into a colonial nuclear complex. Through an analysis of political, legal, and theoretical works, this project examines the place of France’s colonial memories in the relationship between Republicanism and nuclear imperialism in Oceania as well as the literary response that has emerged from Indigenous writers in French-occupied Polynesia.
My work has been featured in French Cultural Studies and Nouvelles Études Francophones. With funding from the Cornell University Library and the Society for the Humanities, I have also produced a Digital Humanities project titled “Nuclear Cartographies” (available at: which documents four layers of the French atomic circuit: uranium mines, atomic tests, nuclear power plants, and nuclear waste repositories.