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Registration and RecognitionDocumenting the Person in World History$
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Keith Breckenridge and Simon Szreter

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265314

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265314.001.0001

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Voting, Welfare and Registration: The Strange Fate of the État-Civil in French Africa, 1945–1960

Voting, Welfare and Registration: The Strange Fate of the État-Civil in French Africa, 1945–1960

Chapter:
(p.385) 15 Voting, Welfare and Registration: The Strange Fate of the État-Civil in French Africa, 1945–1960
Source:
Registration and Recognition
Author(s):

Frederick Cooper

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197265314.003.0016

In 1946, the French constitution made colonial subjects in Africa into citizens. Having been content to rule ‘tribes’ via their ‘chiefs’, at that point it had to track individuals entitled to vote and receive social benefits. The new citizens retained their personal status — regulating marriage, filiation, and inheritance — under Islamic law or local ‘customs’ rather than through the civil code. That posed a dilemma for French officials, for the état-civil did not just record life events, but symbolized the integration of all into a single body of citizens. French officials and legislators — including African representatives — could not agree on whether the multiple status regimes necessitated two états-civils or one. In the end, officials were too torn between their recognition of difference among peoples under French rule and their desire for singularity to put in place a consistent policy of identification, registration, and surveillance. They bequeathed the problem to their successors.

Keywords:   citizenship, état-civil, colonialism, personal status, identification, registration, surveillance, marriage, differentiation, France

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