[P6516] Fraud in the Colonial Archive: Writing a Social History of the Modern Maghrib

Created by Danielle Beaujon
Tuesday, 11/30/21 11:30 am


Scholars of the colonial Maghrib often rely on state-mediated documents, rich sources for understanding the realities of French imperialism in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Yet utilizing these French archives also comes with evident pitfalls, including a tendency to center the French state or privilege French perspectives. How can one write a social history of the Modern Maghrib when working with such biased sources? In this panel, the presenters will explore different approaches to answering this question. The papers will examine incidents of scandal, corruption, or fraud in colonial Maghrebi history. How do histories of fraud and criminality offer different readings of colonial archives? In uncovering these contentious moments, the papers will explore sources and methodologies that push back against state narratives.

The panel will move chronologically, taking case studies from Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria from the Interwar period to the 1950s. The first paper looks at 1930s colonial archives on money in Tunisia. This paper examines French anxieties around currency trafficking and counterfeit money circulating across the Tunisian Protectorate in order to uncover the modes of governing through money. In particular, the paper argues that the policing of money, its form and its circulation, helps uncover French anxieties around the limits of their rule. The second essay uses colonial press sources to study cannabis trafficking in the 1930s Moroccan Protectorate. It explains the reasons behind colonial newspapers’ coverage of police arrests and court trials related to illegal cannabis. The next paper moves to Algeria, examining connected histories of policing the black market in Marseille and Algiers during World War II. Challenging the official police narrative, the paper examines how discriminatory policing narrowly focused police energy on North African traffickers, rather than combatting the true scope of the black market. The final paper turns to the Mayor of Oran’s odd attempt to force the merger of the European and Muslim Charity Offices in his city by nominating a troublesome figure to the head of the Muslim Charity Office. This paper highlights the consequences of the Mayor’s push for this merger for poor relief in Oran, especially for the Muslm population and the employees of the Muslim Charity Office.The presentations will grapple with the objects and subjects of fraud found in archival texts, attending to the different sources that illustrate the social history of the Maghrib and offering an alternative reading of colonial history.


American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS)


Hist; Hist; Anthro; Hist; Anthro; Hist; Anthro; Hist; Anthro; Hist



Julia Clancy-Smith

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Myriam Amri

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Danielle Beaujon

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Brooke Durham

(Stanford University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

John Dieck

(University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;