From colonial to post-colonial?: the case of the OCRS

Suggitt, Kelsey Fleur (2013) From colonial to post-colonial?: the case of the OCRS. MA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    The period of the decolonisation of France’s Empire and the European power’s continued involvement in its African ex-colonies beyond the dates of independence are subjects that have been much debated by historians and continue to be relevant today. France’s intervention in Mali in 2012 particularly underlined these issues and raised questions about a little-known project known as the Organisation Commune des Régions Sahariennes (OCRS) created by France in 1957. The insurgents in Mali have used this organisation as an example of a ‘solution’ to the conflict by creating a new ‘Saharan’ territory, yet the Malian government has dismissed the OCRS as a colonial project.
    This dissertation sets out to show how the problems and tensions of colonial rule can be understood through the case of the OCRS. It seeks to explore the extent to which this organisation was an example of a colonial project. It also aims to discover the extent to which it was a post-colonial project and in what ways it can be seen as a model for France’s postcolonial relations with its ex-colonies. Finally, this dissertation aims to respond to the question: how can we use the limitations of the OCRS to understand the internal and external constraints associated with French colonial rule and its post-colonial relations with its excolonies?
    This dissertation seeks to contribute to our understanding of this period of transitions of power in French North, West and Equatorial Africa by analysing the case of the OCRS. This area has been largely overlooked by historians, with the exception of the recent work by Berny Sèbe (2010) and Baz Lecocq (2010). However, many historians who do mention the OCRS, use it as an example of a failed attempt by France to retain colonial control in the Sahara instead of using it to gain a deeper understanding of the period. This study hopes to use original primary source research from the Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer as well as secondary sources to discover new material in this field and use it to shed new light on the late colonial period.
    From my analysis of this research, it is clear that there were three main areas of tension within French colonialism that the OCRS exemplified; colonial rule and policy making, ‘artificial’ boundaries and the emergence of new Saharan communities and nation-states. However, this study concludes that the OCRS cannot be classed as either ‘colonial’ or ‘postcolonial’ due to the limitations of these terms. This was a complex project with broad, farreaching aims that demonstrated the continued influence of France in the Sahara beyond the dates of independence, but it also showed how France sought to move towards more multilateral relations. It points to the type of multi-faceted relationship that France was trying to establish with its ex-colonies after 1960 and may even have been a precursor to the EEC.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Languages and Area Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2014 11:42
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:32

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