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Modernising Violence and Social Change in the Spanish Sahara (1957–1975)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2020


In Spain's last colony, Western Sahara, both efforts by the colonial power to stimulate development and the negative impacts of colonisation intensified between the end of the Ifni-Sahara War (1957–58) and the Spanish withdrawal in 1975. Spanish economical and geopolitical interests triggered an important industrial and urban development of the territory. Cities such as Laayoune, Villa Cisneros, Smara, and the Bou Craa phosphate deposits were to showcase Spanish modernising colonial policies.

However, the effects of war, the control of colonial frontiers, and severe droughts during the 1960s strongly affected Sahrawi society. In this context, the Spanish colonial state developed new forms of control over the Sahrawi population, which included the progressive (forced) settling of nomadic people around military posts and Spanish cities, bringing about the adoption of new economic paradigms. Not only did the Francoist government distribute subsidies, both money and goods; it furthermore implemented policies aimed at controlling the Sahrawi way of life, particularly in the areas of hygiene, education, and gender relations. The essay analyses these “carrot-and-stick” strategies at the intersection of colonial control and forced sedentarisation with regard to the implementation of a market-oriented economy in Western Sahara.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Research Institute for History, Leiden University

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Enrique Bengochea Tirado is a postdoctoral fellow at the CRIA in the New University of Lisbon and is interested in gender, colonial policies, and imperialism in Spanish history. More specifically, his work examines the role of Sección Femenina in the Spanish colonisation of Western Sahara. Francesco Correale has a PhD in history from the Aix-Marseille University, Aix-en-Provence (France), and works at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) of France as an Ingénieur de recherche en analyse des sources for the laboratory CITERES; he is also a member of the research group Estudios Poscoloniales: Sáhara Occidental at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He is co-responsible, with A. López Bargados of the University of Barcelona, for the project Rashōmon in the Atlantic Sahara: Memories and Places in the ‘Ifni-Sahara War’ (1956–1958), funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation of Düsseldorf, and is PI of the project “Coloniality, Confinement and Order: Colonial and Postcolonial Forms of Internment in and Around the Mediterranean,” funded by MSH Val de Loire of Tours.


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