Moralities and Mythologies
French civil status records reveal that in all likelihood, Jacob Lasry was married simultaneously to two women. This returns a paradox discussed in the introduction, notably that Jacob Lasry, France’s chosen agent of “civilization” in Oran, apparently maintained practices that French colonial law singled out as “indigenous.” Civilizing mission notwithstanding, France could not afford to alienate this class of local Jewish merchants. It follows that colonial Oran was deeply shaped by them. With the introduction of new ideas, institutions and laws, however, all classes of Jews were increasingly understood to be “indigenous.” This process led, after several decades, to a naturalization decree based entirely on religion. “Jew” evolved into a subset of “French citizen,” while “Muslim” increasingly described the “colonial subject.” France had initiated the process of Jewish reification, minoritization, and isolation from their Muslim neighbors.
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