Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Empire on the Seine: Surveillance, Citizenship, and North African Migrants in Paris (1925–1975)
by Prakash, Amit, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2010, 340; 3447977
Abstract (Summary)

Decolonization transformed traditional police concerns about migrants in France. While the French police monitored and classified foreigners in different ways since the seventeenth century, they viewed colonial migrants as a different category altogether. By focusing on the state surveillance and administration of North Africans in Paris, this thesis aims to trace the impact of citizenship reforms on Algerian migrants living in the imperial capital.

In 1947, Algerians were granted full French citizenship and accorded the same rights and duties as indigenous French citizens. However, colonial ideas about the violent propensities of North Africans followed them across the Mediterranean and occupied the Parisian police imaginary. It was believed that these migrants demanded a particular style of policing. The creation, operations, and durability of an official or unofficial North African Brigade in the Prefecture of Police of Paris from 1925 to 1962 and beyond underscores a chasm between policy and its execution.

This brigade was given official sanction and an institutional identity depending on the political climate in France, with the Brigade's collaboration during Vichy being an important impediment to its legitimacy. However, with the FLN's launch of military operations in the metropole in 1958, not only was the brigade reconstituted, to it was added a constellation of police services that married the provision of social services with surveillance. After Algerian independence in 1962, these services were generalized and applied to all migrants, but there remained special attention to Algerians.

From 1962-1975, police surveillance targeted North African enclaves in central Paris, the suburbs, and in the slums (bidonvilles) that peppered the Paris region. The French state deployed urban design as a medium for making these migrants into Frenchmen, which had the paradoxical effect of institutionalizing urban segregation. Continued surveillance and socio-spatial separation emptied citizenship of its meaning and laid the groundwork for the ethnic politics that took hold in the early 1970s. North African migrants, by then increasingly permanent residents, created associations to fashion alternative citizenships and combat housing policies and police surveillance they deemed unjust. This history of the policing of decolonization in Paris elucidates how racism and surveillance worked symbiotically to create the conditions for the social unrest of the 1980s, 1990s, and, most recently, the riots of 2005.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mazower, Mark
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: European history, Criminology, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Algerian, France, Housing, Migrants, North African, Paris, Police, Surveillance
Publication Number: 3447977
ISBN: 978-1-124-53311-7
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