Foucault and social and penal historians. The dual role of accounting in the french penal colonies of the nineteenth century
Fabre, Antoine; Labardin, Pierre (2019), Foucault and social and penal historians. The dual role of accounting in the french penal colonies of the nineteenth century, Accounting History Review, 29, 1, p. 1-37. 10.1080/21552851.2018.1527704
TypeArticle accepté pour publication ou publié
Journal nameAccounting History Review
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Abstract (EN)This study sheds light on the role of accounting in the French penal colonies of Guiana in the nineteenth century. The historiography of prisons is characterised by a dichotomy: On the one hand, Foucauldian studies focus on the changes in the methods used to govern prisoners in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, the social historiography highlights practices that differed greatly from the normalising practices highlighted by Foucault’s work on discipline and governmentality. Our research demonstrates how accounting was part of this two-faceted dynamic: A reading of accounting practices used by the mother country corroborates Foucauldian research by showing how accounting was used to influence French public opinion by presenting penal colonies as a moralising and profitable utopia. Conversely, local practices, which contrasted sharply with the mother country’s intentions, show that accounting contributed to a widespread system of corruption that kept the penal colonies under control. Our study highlights the dual role of accounting to reconcile the contradictions between the mother country and the penal colonies, and to link the moral rehabilitation of individuals to the profitability of the penal colonies.
Subjects / KeywordsPenal colony; French Guiana; Foucault; corruption; morality
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