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Colonial Encounters and Divergent Development Trajectories in the Mediterranean

Colonial Approaches to Governance in the Periphery: Direct and Indirect Rule in French Algeria


December 1, 2016
2:15pm - 4:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
December 1, 2016
2:15pm - 4:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall

When European imperial powers expanded into Africa, Asia, and the Americas, they began ruling diverse populations that differed from them along ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines. To manage this diversity, they articulated two distinct ideologies: direct and indirect rule. Advocates of direct rule envisioned a colonial project that would modernize and transform colonial territories; proponents of indirect rule favored preserving tradition and working with local authorities. Recent scholarly work on the legacies of colonial rule has coded direct and indirect rule in former colonies, arguing that the type of colonial rule has important long-term consequences. This paper examines how the concepts of direct and indirect rule have been defined and measured in the social science literature. It argues that the distinction between the two has been overstated. Drawing on the case of colonial Algeria, it points to a gap between colonial rhetoric and actual colonial governance. Through considering the Algerian case, it suggests new ways of understanding why and how colonial strategies varied over time and place.

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