Following tirailleurs sénégalais’ deployments in West Africa, Congo, Madagascar, North Africa, Syria-Lebanon, Vietnam, and Algeria from the 1880s to 1962, Militarizing Marriage West African Soldiers’ Conjugal Traditions in Modern French Empire (Ohio UP, 2021) historicizes how African servicemen advanced conjugal strategies with women at home and abroad. Sarah J. Zimmerman examines the evolution of women’s conjugal relationships with West African colonial soldiers to show how the sexuality, gender, and exploitation of women were fundamental to the violent colonial expansion and the everyday operation of colonial rule in modern French Empire. These conjugal behaviors became military marital traditions that normalized the intimate manifestation of colonial power in social reproduction across the empire. Soldiers’ cross-colonial and interracial households formed at the intersection of race and sexuality outside the colonizer/colonized binary. Militarizing Marriage uses contemporary feminist scholarship on militarism and violence to portray how the subjugation of women was indispensable to military conquest and colonial rule.
Sarah J. Zimmerman is an associate professor in history at Western Washington University. Her research focuses on the experiences of women and the operation of gender in West Africa and French Empire. She has published articles in the International Journal of African Historical Studies and Les Temps modernes. Zimmerman is currently Vice President of the French Colonial Historical Society and will serve as President from 2022 to 2024.
Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California. Follow Mike on Twitter: @MichaelGVann .
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