"Malaria, mosquitoes, and environmental change: Rethinking etiologies of an epidemic in French Soudan, 1935-1938"
This paper will examine debates that erupted over malaria, laborers, and the environmental effects of the Office du Niger, a large-scale irrigated agricultural development project in French Soudan's inner Niger delta and contiguous arid regions. When the leftist Popular Front took power in France in 1936, it initiated what some analysts have called "limited" reforms in various parts of the French empire. But interventions within the Office territories appear more than limited. Government officials in the Service de Sante and other parts of the colonial administration sought to assert their control over the inner workings of the Office. Malaria became a central part of this struggle for control. Service de Sante officials accused the Office of provoking widespread malaria epidemics in locations where none had previously existed, and of exposing immuno-deficient laborers from French Soudan and Haute Volta to a new disease environment in the Office's irrigated lands. Office administrators, for their part, protested that this was not the case, and offered up a a barrage of statistics to discount the Service's accusations. This paper will explore the various ways in which malaria -- and accusations of epidemics -- became central to the struggles between the Office administration and various agents of the Popular Front government. It will examine the anti-malaria campaign put into effect in the Office, as well as the in which the Office administration co-opted the agenda of the Popular Front after the government fell in 1937. Finally, the paper will begin to hypothesize the ways in which African laborers and health workers helped to shape these debates around malaria, knowledge of its etiologies, and interventions to control it.