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Introduction

France’s Great War from the Edge

Susan B. Whitney

World War I has been studied extensively by historians of France and for good reason. Waging the first industrial war required mobilizing all of France's resources, whether military, political, economic, cultural, or imperial. Politicians from the left and the right joined forces to govern the country, priests and seminarians were drafted into the army, factories were retooled to produce armaments and other war material, and women and children were enlisted to do their part. So too were colonial subjects. More than 500,000 men from France's empire fought in Europe for the French Army, while another 200,000 colonial subjects labored in France's wartime workplaces. The human losses were staggering and the political, economic, and cultural reverberations long-lasting, both in the metropole and in the colonies. More than 1.3 million French soldiers and an estimated 71,000 colonial soldiers lost their lives, leaving behind approximately 1.1 million war orphans and 600,000 war widows.

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Randolph Miller

Abstract

The popularity of Ultramontanism and the political energy provided by Sacred Heart piety gave French Catholicism of the post-Commune era a militant posture, one that republican socialists saw as antagonistic to their political objectives. This article shows that socialists responded by emasculating their Catholic opponents. Drawing on the materialist tradition that emerged from the Enlightenment and Revolution, and highlighting the resignation and emotive nature of radical Catholic piety, republican socialists maintained that religious belief was evidence of inadequate virility. Speaking to the anxieties of the period, which included concerns about racial degeneration and the adequacy of France on the world stage, this gendering of epistemological convictions allowed socialists to argue for the exclusion of religion and the religious male from French politics.

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Agricultural Fire or Arson?

Rural Denizens, Forest Administration, and the Colonial Situation in Algeria (1850–1900)

Antonin Plarier

Abstract

This article focuses on fire management practices in Algeria during the colonial period. Focusing on environmental usages of fires in Algerian rural society, this article shows that these practices were submitted to varied and opposite interpretations resulting in significant and durable conflicts. These conflicts exploded under the French colonial forestry administration, which forcefully imposed new legislation to criminalize existing agricultural practices, including fires. Despite this ban, these practices continued. The administration interpreted this persistence as rebellion and responded with severe sanctions. This only aggravated the situation, resulting in a real war of attrition. On the one hand, this situation does not diverge from the rural violence typical of the nineteenth century. On the other, the responses of the administration in colonial Algeria represent specific digressions compared to the policies carried out in metropolitan areas.

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Baya Hocine's Papers

A Source for the History of Algerian Prisons during the War of Independence (1954–1962)

Sylvie Thénault

Abstract

In 1958, a search of the Barberousse Prison in Algiers led to the confiscation of the journal, notes, and correspondence of Baya Hocine, a 17-year-old female detainee who had been sentenced to death for an attack. Written in the intimate style of a personal diary, Hocine's papers are a valuable source for the historiography of prisons during the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962). The purpose of this article is to reconstruct the trajectory from prison to the French Archives, where they appear in typed form, as well as to shed light on the circumstances under which they were written. While they may be insufficient to reconstitute the actual conditions of life in the prison because they communicate private thoughts, they highlight the radical specificity of Barberousse in these wartime years as a place where people who had been sentenced to death were detained and executed and where death was omnipresent.

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Investigating the Investigators

French Colonial Attempts to Supervise Its Policing System during the 1930s*

Ruth Ginio

Abstract

Three cases of re-opened murder investigations in French West Africa are at the heart of this article. My aim is to examine these cases as a lens into everyday colonial policing that was not directly linked to major anti-colonial protests. All three inquiries into low-ranking colonial officers and the way they conducted their investigations took place during the 1930s, in Mauritania, Senegal, and Dahomey. While their circumstances were different, the cases reflect the flawed and unprofessional character of colonial investigations. They also demonstrate that murder investigations—as well as criticism of them—were powered by two crucial French colonial notions: the maintenance of public order and the ideology of the civilizing mission.

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« Nous ne voulons pas de Blancs dans le pays »

l'insurrection des populations de la Haute-Sangha et la pacification de l'espace rebelle (1928–1931)

Patrick Dramé

Cet article se propose d'étudier à l'aune du concept de « commandement » et des notions de « pacification » et de résistance, l'insurrection des populations de la Haute-Sangha et, plus particulièrement, des Bayas du territoire colonial de l'Oubangui-Chari entre 1928 et 1931. La révolte est imputable aux nombreuses contraintes induites par l'encadrement administratif et la « mise en valeur » économique coloniale de l'Afrique Équatoriale Française (AEF). La dissidence est alors centrée autour d'un messianisme incarné par Karinou dont l'objectif ultime est le recouvrement de l'ordre précolonial. D'où la mobilisation d'une variété de modes de résistance vis-à-vis du colonisateur. Or, la détermination de l'État colonial à rétablir l'ordre l'amène à user de la violence armée et de la répression judiciaire afin de venir à bout de l'insurrection.

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Policing the French Empire

Colonial Law Enforcement and the Search for Racial-Territorial Hegemony

Samuel Kalman

Commenting on the colonial setting in its twilight during the Algerian War of Independence, Frantz Fanon famously observed: “Le travail du colon est de rendre impossible jusqu'aux rêves de liberté du colonisé. Le travail du colonisé est d'imaginer toutes les combinaisons éventuelles pour anéantir le colon (the task of the colonizer is to make impossible even the dreams of liberty of the colonized. The task of the colonized is to conceive of every possible strategy to wipe out the colonizer).”

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“Purely Artistic”

Police Power and Popular Culture in Colonial Algerian Theater

Danielle Beaujon

Abstract

Following World War II, French police surveillance in Algeria increasingly focused on the threat of Algerian nationalism and policing theater proved no exception. The police assiduously investigated the contents of plays and the background of performers, seeking to determine whether a performance could be considered “purely artistic.” In cracking down on theater, the police attempted to produce “pro-French” art that could influence Algerian loyalties, a cultural civilizing mission carried out by the unlikely figure of the beat cop. Ultimately, their mission failed. Live performances presented an opportunity for spontaneity and improvisation that revealed the weakness of colonial policing. In this article, I argue that in trying to separate art from politics, the police created an impossibly capacious idea of the political, giving officers justification for inserting themselves into intimate moments of daily life. The personal, the interpersonal, and the artistic became a realm of police intervention.

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The Return of N'Guyen Van Binh

Exile and Injustice in the French Empire, 1866–1876

Geoff Read

Abstract

This article explores the case of N'Guyen Van Binh, a South Vietnamese political prisoner exiled for his alleged role in “Poukhombo's Rebellion” in Cambodia in 1866. Although Van Binh's original sentence of exile was reduced to one year in prison he was nonetheless deported and disappeared into the maw of the colonial systems of indentured servitude and forced labor; he likely did not survive the experience. He was thus the victim of injustice and his case reveals the at best haphazard workings of the French colonial bureaucracy during the period of transition from the Second Empire to the Third Republic. While the documentary record is entirely from the perspective of the colonizers, reading between the lines we can also learn something about Van Binh himself including his fierce will to resist his colonial oppressors.

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Cross-Generational Abuse

Priests, Parishioners, and the Catholic Church in New Spain

Zeb Tortorici

Abstract

This article analyzes the influence of confessional manuals on Catholic priests who solicited sexual favors from parishioners during confession throughout colonial New Spain. It proposes that we think about centuries of sexual encounters between priests and parishioners through the concept of cross-generational abuse, which describes intersecting forms of priestly exploitation based on chronological age differentials, allegorical power relations based on the rhetoric of spiritual kinship, and priests’ own abilities to profess redemption years after conviction and thereby regain positions of authority over parishioners. The plurality of these forms of abuse move beyond the usual associations of cross-generational sex solely with the question of age. It opens up the category of cross-generational sex and enlarges its potential to be a topic for historical reflection.