Three cases of re-opened murder investigations in French West Africa are at the heart of this article. My aim is to examine these cases as a lens into everyday colonial policing that was not directly linked to major anti-colonial protests. All three inquiries into low-ranking colonial officers and the way they conducted their investigations took place during the 1930s, in Mauritania, Senegal, and Dahomey. While their circumstances were different, the cases reflect the flawed and unprofessional character of colonial investigations. They also demonstrate that murder investigations—as well as criticism of them— were powered by two crucial French colonial notions: The maintenance of public order and the ideology of the civilizing mission.
- African intermediaries
- Civilizing mission
- French West Africa between the wars
- French colonial administration
- Murder investigations