Date Thesis Awarded

4-2018

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

History

Advisor

Guillaume Aubert

Committee Members

Gérard Chouin

Oludamini Ogunnaike

Abstract

Over the course of the French Third Republic (1870-1940), a period of roughly seventy years, public opinion and colonial policy oscillated widely between a range of approaches to the so-called the métis question. The métis question, put simply, was the debate over what should be done about the thousands of mixed-race children fathered by French soldiers, administrators, and merchants in colonies around the world. This thesis examines four facets of the métis question in West Africa: imperial policy, paternity, motherhood, and the lives of métis individuals. The first section will deals with the relationship between métis and the French imperial project, or the ways in which French legislators and colonial administrators envisioned the role of métis children and how these perceptions changed over time. The second section, paternity, will center around the French fathers of métis children in French West Africa. The third section focuses on motherhood and will consider both the African mothers of mixed-race children and how French women consciously took on the role of surrogate mother. The fourth and final section will revolve around métis children themselves. I will argue that the way métis were understood and treated by the French colonial apparatus is reflective of wider intersections of race, gender, and colonialism.

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