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Adventurers and Agents Provocateurs

A German Woman Traveling through French West Africa in the Shadow of War

Jennifer Anne Boittin

Keywords: colonialism; gender; interwar period; national identity; race; Rosie Gräfenberg; sexuality; Ullstein A Air

When Dr. Rosie Gräfenberg traveled to French West Africa in 1929, she set the French security and intelligence service on high alert. Rumors preceding her arrival suggested she might be a Russian agent, a communist agitator, and a German spy, among other things. She, however, presented herself as a German journalist. This article contrasts Gräfenberg's autobiography and newspaper articles with French police archives to consider why the stories surrounding her life diverged so greatly and what variations in detail, fact, and tone reveal about how Franco-German relations influenced considerations of race, nation, gender, and sexuality in the French Empire. In part because her trajectory was so outlandish, Gräfenberg's writings help us to consider the influence of World War I upon interwar colonial politics, procedures, and presumptions.

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