Decolonisation Without Independence? Breaking with the Colonial in New Caledonia (1946–1975)
A settler colony which has remained under French sovereignty, New Caledonia was integrated into the French Union in 1946 before joining the generic category of ‘Overseas territory’ under the Vth Republic. Throughout this period, local political leaders made various attempts to overcome the fundamental double tension underlying the Caledonian colonial situation: the relationship between the archipelago and France (a political link between territories) and the relationship between settlers and the colonised Kanaks (a social link between populations). One of the most notable examples was the Union Caledonienne (UC), a political party that held office between the 1950s and 1970s, whose founders conceived it as a local embodiment of the French Union project. They envisaged the decolonisation of the archipelago within the French state, via the 1956 loi cadre, in the name of a ‘Caledonian people’ unifying former settlers and the indigenous population. It was only after the Gaullist shift of the 1960s towards a recentralisation of power around the French nation-state that local usage of the term ‘decolonisation’ changed: henceforth it came to refer to the independence demands of the ‘Kanak people’. The example of New Caledonia raises questions about the meaning of decolonisation, or ‘breaking with the colonial’, in specific historical contexts: in this case, a form of settler colonialism that resembles the Anglo-Saxon settler states (North America, Australia and Canada) as much as that of the wider French empire.