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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Cherchez la femme': African gendarmes, quarrelsome women, and French commanders in French West Africa, 1945-1960
Author:Ginio, RuthISNI
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies (ISSN 0361-7882)
Geographic terms:West Africa
Subjects:colonial forces
black soldiers
married women
Abstract:This paper examines the presence and special status of women as civilians living in military space, in particular in the African gendarmerie and the French colonial army. It focusses on the ways in which the presence of African women in the gendarmerie bases disrupted military routine and drew massive attention and energy from the French commanders. The explanation of this phenomenon is discussed in the paper by relating it to two different contexts: as a reflection of wider social concerns regarding the growing independence of women and as a reflection of the ongoing colonial military paternalism towards African soldiers and gendarmes. The process of modernization and urbanization in the colonies is illustrated by discussing the fear of the loss of control of the African women by the gendarmerie. The inability of African men to 'control' their women and the need for the French commanders' involvement is seen to compromise French efforts to control the federation in a time when the empire was gradually slipping out of their hands. The excessive attention given to the gendarmes' wives therefore reflects a much larger colonial problem. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]