Keywords: Mauritania, Spanish Sahara, decolonization, armed forces, law enforcement policies
From Empires to States: Ordinary Border Control and the Making of Identities (Mauritania - Spanish Sahara, 1958-1975)
During her doctoral research conducted at Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne, at the Institut des Mondes africains, Camille Evrard worked on the military history of Mauritania between 1909 and 1978, showing the specificity of the colonial army in the Sahara and examining the conditions of the colonial legacy in the structure of the Mauritanian armed and security forces. After having completed her PhD in 2015, two postdoctoral fellowships in France and a research contract obtained by a Canadian team, allowed her to broaden her approach by combining a comparative perspective and the study of individual trajectories. This work, which is still ongoing, is aimed, on the one hand, at the comparative history of the creation of the armed and security forces of three Sahelo-Saharan States (Niger, Mali, Mauritania). This work is based on a corpus of political and military archives and interviews with the most renowned actors, and, on the other hand, through more discreet trajectories, on the specific integration of men from the Saharan regions into the armed institutions of these States whose first governments built very contrasting relations with the nomadic world.
The purpose of this project is to identify, analyze and highlight the useful sources in documenting a history of ordinary cross-border control, as well as law and order policies in the Western part of the Sahara, between the independence of Mauritania and the departure of the Spanish authorities from their Saharan province. The questions raised will focus on the interactions between these policies and the restructuring of local identities, whether familial, tribal, professional, "rebel" or national. The research also has the broader ambition to contribute to the debate on the territorial and national issues of the postcolonial State in the Sahara. The methodology of the research will enhance the combined use of institutional archives, interviews with actors and witnesses of the cross-border history of this period, and published source (memoirs and press). This is in order to observe, at ground level, the impact of the political and territorial redefinitions induced by the end of the empires.
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