Administering Vaccination in Interwar Algeria

Medical Auxiliaries, Smallpox, and the Colonial State in the Communes mixtes

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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Compulsory smallpox vaccination was introduced to Algeria by decree on 27 May 1907. After World War I, the combination of public health crises, racialized fears of contagion, and the objective of mise en valeur prompted the colonial state to make Muslim villagers in the communes mixtes a more systematic target of smallpox vaccination. This was achieved in large part thanks to the efforts of Muslim medical auxiliaries. This article reconstructs the kinds of training, labor, and clerical skills embodied in these agents’ administration of vaccination. It also examines the accommodation and contestation of their presence by officials, politicians, and villagers. The author argues that the administrative bureaucracy generated by vaccination may have preceded and enabled the expansion of state registration in rural areas during the interwar period, but ultimately was more effective at disciplining the medical auxiliary than it was at controlling villagers or the smallpox virus.