Claiming Family Benefits across Borders: Race and Algerian Migrants in Post-World War II Morocco

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 11:00 AM
Roosevelt Room 1 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Margaret Cook Andersen, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
In 1941 French officials in Morocco created the Office de la Famille Française (FFO), an administrative body that would become the centerpiece of their wartime family policy. Legally separate from the Moroccan state, this administrative unit’s purpose was to develop policies aimed at assisting French families and increasing the French settler birthrate. The FFO disbursed a wide array of financial benefits funded by the “familial compensation tax”. Those required to pay this tax included the unmarried and the childless as well as married couples who did not reproduce quickly enough. In order to avoid this burdensome tax married couples were required to produce a living child within two years of marriage and to have two living children by their fifth wedding anniversary. Tax revenue was used fund financial benefits to French families in the protectorate. Pronatalist in inspiration, these benefits were designed to encourage French residents of the protectorate to have more children.

When the residency created the FFO, their expectation was that its financial benefits would be reserved exclusively for the French population. By “French”, they meant “white” and of “metropolitan” origin. Increasingly, when discussing family policy they used this qualifying language to distinguish the Français de métropole or “metropolitan French” from les Français musulmans d’Algérie or “French Muslims from Algeria”. FFO administrators became increasingly preoccupied with these distinctions after 1944. In this year, the Gaullist provisional government reformed Algerians’ legal status. Subsequently Algerians who had migrated to Morocco qualified for FFO family benefits as French citizens. This development was not without controversy, however. FFO administrators feared widespread fraud and funding difficulties. The nature of these fears was shaped by ideas of race and masculinity. This paper will explore how concerns about race, masculinity, and migration within the French Empire shaped settler family policy in 1940s Morocco.