‘Bigamy’, ‘marriage fraud’ and colonial patriarchy in Kayes, French Sudan (1905–1925)
Examining court cases of ‘marriage fraud’ and ‘bigamy’ heard in the region of Kayes (French Sudan, currently Mali) in the first half of the twentieth century, this chapter analyses the lack of colonial interest in understanding the complex geographies of local marriage and circulation of women until the late 1930s. This neglect entailed the invention of specific offences such as ‘marriage fraud’ and ‘bigamy’, while women attempted to navigate the colonial and local landscapes of power and to claim their agency, including emotional agency, when it came to marriage’s consent. These cases also demonstrate the crucial role played by female family members, especially mothers and aunts, when it came to marriage negotiations and daughters’ support in marital strategies. This specific female power would be soon eroded by the colonial codification of customary law.