Jennifer A. Boittin, Undesirable : Passionate Mobility and Women’s Defiance of French Colonial Policing, 1919–1952, University Chicago Press, 2022, 288 p.
Archival research into policing and surveillance of migrant women illuminates pressing contemporary issues.
Examining little-known policing archives in France, Senegal, and Cambodia, Jennifer Anne Boittin unearths the stories of hundreds of women labeled “undesirable” by the French colonial police and society in the early twentieth century. These “undesirables” were often women traveling alone, women who were poor or ill, women of color, or women whose intimate lives were deemed unruly. To refute the label and be able to move freely, they spoke out or wrote impassioned letters. In considering how ordinary women pursued autonomy, security, companionship, or simply a better existence in the face of surveillance and control, Undesirable illuminates pressing contemporary issues of migration and violence.
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