In 1928, the French government created a bureau in Marseille to both control and help North African migrants, an organization eventually called the Bureau des Affaires Musulmanes Nord-Africaines (BAMNA). Throughout the BAMNA's many name changes and structural reorganizations over the years, Mohamed Ben Hadj remained constant as the bureau's only North African employee. This article traces Ben Hadj's career within the BAMNA, using his professional trajectory to explore the mechanisms and disfunction of colonial governance in the metropole. Ben Hadj created his own role as an urban, metropolitan intermediary, leveraging his personal connections to build a sphere of influence in Marseille's North African community. Ben Hadj's rise to power within the BAMNA reveals the importance of this type of intermediary for understanding imperial control in the metropole.
Danielle Beaujon is an Assistant Professor in the department of Criminology, Law, and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her PhD with distinction from New York University's joint program in History and French Studies. She is a historian of policing, race, and power in a global context. Her current research examines the daily interactions between the police and North Africans in Marseille and Algiers, two key port cities of the French Mediterranean Empire.