Elections and the Politics of Mobilization: Voting in French West Africa, 1944-1960


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Institute of French Studies and History


France tried to maintain French rule in West Africa after the Second World War by enacting far-reaching reforms, including expanding the right to vote. This project asks how African political leaders and French colonial officials tried to shape new African voters and democratic institutions in the period up to independence. The strategic stakes for the French to expand suffrage and for Africans to participate in elections emerged at the junction of African politics, global decolonization, and struggles to determine the terms by which Africans should be part of France. A divided colonial administration tried to make Africans into voters in order to prevent anticolonial violence and African leaders debated how to use elections to mobilize politically. This project argues that political contestation between African leaders, newly enfranchised African voters, and French administrators around elections forged a distinctly West African electoral culture with profound legacies for late colonial and independent Africa.