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

Frederick Cooper

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    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.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationRegistration and Recognition
    Subtitle of host publicationDocumenting the Person in World History
    PublisherOxford University Press
    ISBN (Electronic)9780191760402
    ISBN (Print)9780197265314
    StatePublished - Jan 30 2014


    • Citizenship
    • Colonialism
    • Differentiation
    • France
    • Identification
    • Marriage
    • Personal status
    • Registration
    • Surveillance
    • État-civil

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities


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