Few scholars today question the binary relationship between imperialism and violence, and French historians are no exception. In recent years, a multitude of studies have appeared concerning the violence inherent in the conquest of the nineteenth-century Gallic empire, the maintenance and defense of the colonial system, and the decolonization process—massacres and torture during the Algerian War, for example. Such works often reflect Etienne Balibar’s definition of “structural violence”: an essential component of a repressive system, maintaining unequal social relations while defending “the interests, power positions, and forms of social domination.”1 This hegemony took various guises at different times throughout the history of French imperialism, operating in tandem with assaults on the indigènes (the term adopted by the authorities for natives). It could involve surveillance and intelligence gathering, security forces, and judicial-penal institutions employed to harass and control the colonized. Yet it also resulted from the forced pacification of native peoples (Alice Conklin refers to this policy as an “act of state-sanctioned violence”) and the imposition of the indigénat—the loose collection of rules that granted extraordinary police and disciplinary powers to the colonial administration, along with the imposition of forced labor and taxation.2 The ultimate defense of this system, and indeed its brutal apogee, emerged during the wars of decolonization, in which tens of thousands of the colonized were killed in Algeria and Indochina, while countless others were subjected to torture and incarceration.
Focusing on the gendarmerie forces of the three French Maghreb territories, this article explores the relationships between paramilitary policing, the collection of political intelligence, and the form and scale of collective violence in the French Empire between the wars, and considers what, if anything, was specifically colonial about these phenomena. I also assess the changing priorities in political policing as France's North African territories became more unstable and violent during the Depression. The gendarmeries were overstretched, under-resourced, and poorly integrated into the societies they monitored. With the creation of dedicated riot control units, intelligenceled political policing of rural communities and the agricultural economy fell away. By 1939 the North African gendarmeries knew more about organized trade unions, political parties, and other oppositional groups in the Maghreb's major towns, but they knew far less about what really drove mass protest and political violence: access to food, economic prosperity, rural markets, and labor conditions.
Workers, Colonial Subjects, and the Affective Politics of French Romantic Socialism
Naomi J. Andrews
During the 1830s and 1840s, romantic socialists in France wrote about three subjugated groups in the French empire: metropolitan workers, slaves in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean colonies, and Algerian civilians. Although these three groups ostensibly shared similar conditions of deprivation and violent treatment at the hands of the French state, socialists depicted them in importantly different terms, with the effect of humanizing workers and slaves, while dehumanizing the Algerians suffering French conquest and colonization. This article explores these presentations and examines the way they worked together to champion the socialist priority, the emergent working classes of the July Monarchy, and to indirectly endorse the settler colonial project in Algeria.
Representing the Self, “the Other,“ and Rival Empires in the English and French Illustrated Press, 1880-1905
H. Hazel Hahn
The English and French illustrated press between 1880 and 1905 depicted Europeans as superior to non-Europeans and rarely questioned the colonizing right of Europeans. The illustrated press, such as news magazines The Illustrated London News, The Graphic, and L'Illustration, as well as the newspaper Le Petit Journal, was consumed by colonial news, reported as a series of crises, battles, and frontier troubles, and represented colonial officers and soldiers as heroes. However, a series of imperial rivalries increasingly undermined any collective “European“ understanding of the imperial mission. By implicitly and explicitly questioning and criticizing other empires' motives and capacity for colonization, the press came to portray colonization as a power dynamic. Heroism was increasingly tied to nationalism rather than to broader moral principles. The rhetoric and imagery of imperialism were thus fraught with paradoxes and double standards. The press coverage also reveals close links between war and tourism imaginaries.
Remembering and Forgetting World War II Indochina
M. Kathryn Edwards and Eric Jennings
This article analyzes the complex memorial stakes of the events that unfolded in French Indochina during World War II. It first considers the wartime years and analyzes the French frameworks for understanding the Vichy period and the Japanese takeover. It then delves into two memorial trends: the rehabilitation of the French resistance in Indochina and the commemoration of victims of the 9 March 1945 Japanese coup. These trends have produced a double elision: the focus on resistance to the Japanese has displaced previous allegiance to Vichy, and the emphasis on the victimhood of the French settler community has overshadowed responsibility for colonial violence.
Kimihko sîmpân iskwêwisâkaya êkwa sihcikêwin waniskâpicikêwin
Kari Dawn Wuttunee, Jennifer Altenberg and Sarah Flicker
A small group of Indigenous girls and their allies came together to make ribbon skirts to reclaim teachings, resist gender-based and colonial violence, and re-imagine our collective futures. Based on the personal reflections of the organizers and the girls involved gathered through individual semi-structured interviews and directed journal writing, we share lessons about the process and outcomes. Learning about the historical and cultural significance of ribbon skirts gave these girls a stronger connection to their culture, community, and each other. Wearing their ribbon skirts became an embodied act of resistance to violence in promoting resilience and self-determination. This case study illustrates how Indigenous girls and their allies can engage in resurgence practices to challenge gender-based violence through reclaiming and adapting cultural teachings and practices.
Indigenous Girls' Presencing as Decolonizing Force
Sandrina de Finney
This article calls for a reconceptualization of Indigenous girlhoods as they are shaped under a western neocolonial state and in the midst of overlapping forms of colonial violence targeting Indigenous girls. By disrupting the persistent construction of Indigenous girl bodies as insignificant and dispensable, I explore alternative conceptualizations of trauma, place, and girlhood that might enact a more critical, politicized girlhood studies. I link this analysis to Leanne Simpson's (2011) notion of “presence” as a form of decolonizing resurgence. Drawing from participatory research studies and community-change projects conducted with and by Indigenous girls between the ages of 12 and 19 years in western British Columbia, Canada, girls' everyday processes of resurgence and presencing are highlighted in the hope of expanding understandings of their cumulative effects as decolonizing forces.
Settler colonialism is a form of domination that violently disrupts human relationships with the environment. Settler colonialism is ecological domination, committing environmental injustice against Indigenous peoples and other groups. Focusing on the context of Indigenous peoples’ facing US domination, this article investigates philosophically one dimension of how settler colonialism commits environmental injustice. When examined ecologically, settler colonialism works strategically to undermine Indigenous peoples’ social resilience as self determining collectives. To understand the relationships connecting settler colonialism, environmental injustice, and violence, the article first engages Anishinaabe intellectual traditions to describe an Indigenous conception of social resilience called collective continuance. One way in which settler colonial violence commits environmental injustice is through strategically undermining Indigenous collective continuance. At least two kinds of environmental injustices demonstrate such violence: vicious sedimentation and insidious loops. The article seeks to contribute to knowledge of how anti-Indigenous settler colonialism and environmental injustice are connected.
The Pedagogic Execution in French Colonial Indochina
Michael G. Vann
While there is a large body of literature on violence in colonial history, most studies have looked at either the bloodshed of conquest, major revolts, or decolonization. Despite the undeniable importance of such moments in the history of empire, an over-emphasis on these events creates a punctuated narrative where violence enters the story line, rears its ugly head, and then retreats. This paper argues that a complete understanding of the colonial encounter requires us to look at the violence in the many days between the arrival of the colonizers' expeditionary forces and the final achievement of national liberation. By examining the intersection between a rebellious band of pirates, a colonial state bent on revenge, and an opportunistic postcard maker, the portrait that emerges is one of a colonial society where violence was not just commonplace but an essential technique in maintaining the colonial order. Be it in the form of criminal violence that challenged French rule, the institutionalized violence of the state execution, or the symbolic reminders of such violence in the form of cheap postcards for sale in the city streets, acts, images, and memories of colonial violence were omnipresent. Importantly, the colonial state publicized its violence, making its ability to punish known to all. This violence terrorized the conquered native population and reassured the vulnerable white community. It is only in this context that other topics in colonial history such as educational reforms, city planning, and economic development can be understood.