Making the Colonial Subject: Law and Violence in the French Empire

On February 26, 2015, the French Graduate Student Association Conference keynote by Emmanuelle Saada

In 1881, the French colonial State instituted a Code de l’indigénat (Native Code) in Algeria, a penal code applicable only to the subjects of the French Empire. The Code was a “judicial monster” in the words of one French deputy—a break with basic principles of French due process and penal law. It also provided the basic framework for extending and enforcing the colonial order, from the regularization of violence and expropriation to the administrative management of native populations, in the catastrophic context of the conquest. This talk will analyze the role of the Code de l’indigénat on the making of the “colonial subject” focusing on Algeria but also tracking its extension throughout the empire and into present day debates about the legacies of colonial rule.

Emmanuelle Saada is Associate Professor of French and History at Columbia University. Her main field of research is the history of the French empire in the 19th and 20th century, with a specific interest in law.