This article presents and analyzes a set of institutional manifestations of violence that took place in a late colonial situation—the French Territory ofAfars and Issas from 1966 up to its independence in 1977—with the announced aim of blocking migratory movements and maintaining French sovereignty over the territory. The present article describes this violence mostly performed by military forces (“barrage,” endless physical control of the inhabitants of the autochthonous areas, evictions, indexing, etc.), and the way it was legitimized by an identity assignation process, the methods and ideological resources of which are explained. This example from a recent past shows the stakes and methods of migration control, and the possible infringement on the rule of law it can cause in a postcolonial state. Its study, however, shows that the colonial situation is not sufficient in itself to explain this use of extraordinary coercive procedures. They participate in the construction of national identity, but are also responsible for the difficulties of its construction. This situation is part of the evolution of the technologies of institutional violence after World War II, mostly applied to “foreigners.”

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