Mariage et citoyenneté dans les Antilles françaises (XVIIe-XXe): De l’esclave à la femme ‘poto mitan’

TitleMariage et citoyenneté dans les Antilles françaises (XVIIe-XXe): De l’esclave à la femme ‘poto mitan’
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsCottias, Myriam
EditorAbenon, Lucien, Danielle Bégot, and Jean-Pierre Sainton
Book TitleConstruire l’histoire antillaise: Mélanges offerts à Jacques Adélaïde-Merlande
PublisherÉditions du CTHS

Legally, the abolition of slavery in 1848 disrupted and eradicated a two-and-a-half century-old established civil order. From then on, there was no more formal distinction between free men and slaves. French colonies no longer contained either free men or slaves—only citizens, as the governor of Martinique declared in 1849. This particular and radical historical moment, that of the abolition of slavery, is crucial for the examination of the relationship between gender and power. It is interesting to see how the political integration of the colonies had repercussions on colonial gender. Was constructed gender in this pro-slavery period modified by this integration? Or were gender differences created by the metropole adopted, reinterpreted, refused by a society leaving a pro-slavery system behind? To answer these questions and others, this article analyzes how, from the July Monarchy (1830-1848) until the Second (1848-1870) and the Third Republic (1870-1914), the ideological continuity around the question of marriage and gender were maintained and the extent to which republican political organization relegated women to the periphery of social movements. The article examines how the effects of this ideology, associated with emancipation, consolidated oppositions to the heart of West Indian societies based on social and “racial” status. It shows how certain women, in service of their status, and their racial “position” could attain a status of “respectability,” while, at the same time, other women were stigmatized as the “poto mitan.” Additionally, it shows how a political system founded on equality created and recreated social antagonisms.

Translated TitleMarriage and Citizenship in the French West Indies (17th-20th Centuries): From The Slave to the Woman 'Poto Mitan'
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