This contribution examines the city of Marseille’s strikingly vague relationship to its colonial past. Through an analysis of economic policies developed in response to the national government’s colonial expansion, the essay shows how Marseille’s business leaders effectively channeled natural resources from throughout the French Empire to enhance their own production capacities. Aided by the population flow to and through the city, industry in Marseille also took advantage of access to cheap colonial labor. After the independence of Vietnam and Algeria, however, local leaders were faced with a new challenge with the mass arrivals of European populations who chose to resettle in France. Today the city’s relationship with its colonial past remains palimpsestic: readily visible in heavily Algerian neighborhoods such as Belsunce but officially unacknowledged by museums or memorials.
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