From Homo Islamicus to Homo Economicus: Markets, Muslims, and the Remaking of Race in Algeria, 1958-1965

Muriam Davis
UC Santa Cruz

This manuscript examines French development efforts in Algeria from 1958-1962 and traces their influence on the independent Algerian state from 1962-1965. The central argument is that the reformulation of a market economy in the postwar period fundamentally reconfigured the ways in which racial divisions operated in colonial territories. Rather than articulating racial difference in colonial terms, whereby Muslims were categorized as French subjects, the reforms undertaken in 1958 under the Fifth Republic introduced formal structures of competition as a way of fostering the civilizational capacities of the Algerian population. While market exchange became a hallmark of French identity and progress under colonialism, Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella also saw economic behavior and national identity as fundamentally linked in his espousal of a “specifically Algerian socialism.”