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The Missiri of Fréjus as Healing Memorial: Mosque Metaphors and the French Colonial Army (1928–64)

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Abstract:

The Missiri, or Mosque, of Fréjus was constructed c.1928–30 for the Senegalese riflemen (tirailleurs sénégalais) of the French colonial troops based in the military camps of southern France. Although its appearance seemingly links it with sub-Saharan Islamic architecture, its purpose and uses remained secular. Officials at the camps hoped that the building would induce health and community spirit, while providing a memorial space for deceased soldiers. Through an analysis of the building's shape, function and surviving military documents, this study demonstrates that the Missiri is the material outcome of new ventures in French colonial humanism, ostensible religious tolerance, and the belief that moral rectitude can be expressed through architecture. Moreover, this mosque-like building represents a clear example of a structural form (the mosque) divorced from a particular function (Islamic ritual) and concerned instead with providing a site to commemorate the Senegalese riflemen's contributions to Greater France.

Keywords: Fréjus; colonial France; missiri; mosque design; sub-Saharan architecture; tirailleurs sénégalais

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ijia.1.1.25_1

Affiliations: University of Michigan

Publication date: February 14, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.
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