Françoise Vergès spent her childhood in La Réunion, and has lived in Algeria, France, Mexico, England and the United States. After having worked as a journalist and editor in the women's liberation movement in France, she moved to the United States in 1983, where she worked before enrolling in university. She obtained a dual Bachelor's degree summa cum laude in Political Science and Women's Studies in San Diego, then a Doctorate in Political Science at the University of Berkeley, California (1995). Her thesis Monsters and Revolutionaries. Colonial Family Romance, for which she obtained the award for the best thesis in political theory, was published by Duke University Press (1999). She obtained her HDR (licence to direct research) at the EHESS under the direction of Michel Wieviorka in 2005. She has taught at Sussex University and Goldsmiths College in England.
She became a member of the Comité pour la mémoire et l’histoire de l’esclavage (Committee for the remembrance and history of slavery) in 2004 (Taubira Act of 2001), and was its president from 2009 to 2012. Between 2003 and 2010, she developed the scientific and cultural programme for a museum for the 21st century on the island of La Réunion. She is also a member of several institutions working to prevent discrimination and racism; she sits on the board of the Galerie Bétonsalon and on the Scientific Council of the Fondation Lilian Thuram against racism.
Her areas of research are: postcolonial studies, South-South exchanges, coloniality and independence policies, feminism, etc.
She has published, in French and in English, works and articles on Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, the ambiguities of abolitionism, colonial and postcolonial psychiatry, slavery remembrance, the processes of creolisation in the Indian Ocean, and new forms of colonisation and racialisation. She regularly works with artists, has produced exhibitions, is the author of documentary films on Maryse Condé and Aimé Césaire, and was project advisor for Documenta 11 (2002) and the Triennale de Paris (2011).
Françoise Vergès was Chairholder of the Global South(s) Chair from 2014 to 2018. The aim of the Global South(s) Chair is to consider the study of the South(s) as spaces and temporalities created by today's globalisation. It does not consider the 'South' as merely a geographic concept, but seeks to identify and analyse the processes taking place on different levels: new forms of colonisation, racialisation and predation, inward-looking cultural attitudes, new configurations of abstract universalism and counter-hegemonic strategies. This research chair receives multi-annual support from the French Ministry of national education, higher education and research, and from the French Ministry for overseas territories.
She has published many works and articles in French and in English on slavery remembrance, colonial psychiatry, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, the economy of predation and globalisation, the postcolonial museum, and the processes of creolisation in Indian Ocean communities.
Her latest publications include: Le Ventre des femmes, Albin Michel, 2017 (english translation Duke University Press) ; Exposer l’esclavage : méthodologies et pratiques. (Exposing slavery: methodologies and practices) Paris: Africultures, 2013 ; L’Homme prédateur. Ce que nous enseigne l’esclavage sur notre temps (Predatory humans. What slavery tells us about our era), Paris: Albin Michel, 2011; Ruptures postcoloniales (Post-colonial rupture), with Nicolas Bancel, Florence Bernault, Pascal Blanchard, Ahmed Boubakeur and Achille Mbembe, Paris: La Découverte, 2010.
Françoise Vergès has also produced films, Aimé Césaire face aux révoltes du monde (Aimé Césaire against world revolt) (2013) and Maryse Condé. Une voix singulière (Maryse Condé. A singular voice) (2011) and has advised on several films. As an independent curator, she also organised, at the Louvre, L’esclave au Louvre : une humanité invisible (The slave at the Louvre: an invisible humanity) in 2013 and the exhibitions Dix femmes puissantes (Ten powerful women) (2013) and Haïti, effroi des oppresseurs, espoir des opprimés (Haiti, fear of the oppressors, hope of the oppressed) (2014) for the Mémorial de l’abolition de l’esclavage de Nantes. She regularly works with artists, such as on the occasion of the workshop “Cartographie de l’espace postcolonial" (Mapping of the post-colonial space).