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THE FRANCO-MAURITIAN ELITE

New Directions in Anthropology General Editor: Jacqueline Waldren, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Oxford Volume 1 Coping with Tourists: European Reactions to Mass Tourism   Edited by Jeremy Boissevain Volume 2 A Sentimental Economy: Commodity and Community in Rural Ireland   Carles Salazar Volume 3 Insiders and Outsiders: Paradise and Reality in Mallorca   Jacqueline Waldren Volume 4 Te Hegemonic Male: Masculinity in a Portuguese Town   Miguel Vale de Almeida Volume 5 Communities of Faith: Sectarianism, Identity, and Social Change on a Danish Island   Andrew S. Buckser Volume 6 After Socialism: Land Reform and Rural Social Change in Eastern Europe   Edited by Ray Abrahams Volume 7 Immigrants and Bureaucrats: Ethiopians in an Israeli Absorption Center   Esther Hertzog Volume 8 A Venetian Island: Environment, History and Change in Burano   Lidia Sciama Volume 9 Recalling the Belgian Congo: Conversations and Introspection   Marie-Bénédicte Dembour Volume 10 Mastering Soldiers: Confict, Emotions, and the Enemy in an Israeli Military Unit   Eyal Ben-Ari Volume 11 Te Great Immigration: Russian Jews in Israel   Dina Siegel Volume 12 Morals of Legitimacy: Between Agency and System   Edited by Italo Pardo Volume 13 Academic Anthropology and the Museum: Back to the Future   Edited by Mary Bouquet Volume 14 Simulated Dreams: Zionist Dreams for Israeli Youth   Haim Hazan Volume 15 Defance and Compliance: Negotiating Gender in Low-Income Cairo   Heba Aziz Morsi El-Kholy Volume 16 Troubles with Turtles: Cultural Understandings of the Environment on a Greek Island   Dimitrios Teodossopoulos Volume 17 Rebordering the Mediterranean: Boundaries and Citizenship in Southern Europe   Liliana Suarez-Navaz Volume 18 Te Bounded Field: Localism and Local Identity in an Italian Alpine Valley   Jaro Stacul Volume 19 Foundations of National Identity: From Catalonia to Europe   Josep Llobera Volume 20 Bodies of Evidence: Burial, Memory and the Recovery of Missing Persons in Cyprus   Paul Sant Cassia

Volume 21 Who Owns the Past? Te Politics of Time in a ‘Model’ Bulgarian Village   Deema Kanef Volume 22 An Earth-Colored Sea: ‘Race’, Culture and the Politics of Identity in the Postcolonial Portuguese-Speaking World   Miguel Vale De Almeida Volume 23 Science, Magic and Religion: Te Ritual Process of Museum Magic   Edited by Mary Bouquet and Nuno Porto Volume 24 Crossing European Boundaries: Beyond Conventional Geographical Categories  Edited by Jaro Stacul, Christina Moutsou and Helen Kopnina Volume 25 Documenting Transnational Migration: Jordanian Men Working and Studying in Europe, Asia and North America   Richard Antoum Volume 26 Le Malaise Créole: Ethnic Identity in Mauritius   Rosabelle Boswell Volume 27 Nursing Stories: Life and Death in a German Hospice   Nicholas Eschenbruch Volume 28 Inclusionary Rhetoric/Exclusionary Practices: Left-wing Politics and Migrants in Italy   Davide Però Volume 29 Te Nomads of Mykonos: Performing Liminalities in a ‘Queer’ Space   Pola Bousiou Volume 30 Transnational Families, Migration, and Gender: Moroccan and Filipino Women in Bologna and Barcelona   Elisabetta Zontini Volume 31 Envisioning Eden: Mobilizing Imaginaries in Tourism and Beyond   Noel B. Salazar Volume 32 Tourism, Magic and Modernity: Cultivating the Human Garden   David Picard Volume 33 Diasporic Generations: Memory, Politics, and Nation among Cubans in Spain   Mette Louise Berg Volume 34 Great Expectations: Imagination and Anticipation in Tourism  Jonathan Skinner and Dimitrios Teodossopoulos Volume 35 Learning from the Children: Childhood, Culture and Identity in a Changing World  Edited by Jacqueline Waldren and IgnacyMarek Kaminski Volume 36 Americans in Tuscany: Charity, Compassion and Belonging   Catherine Trundle Volume 37 Te Franco-Mauritian Elite: Power and Anxiety in the Face of Change   Tijo Salverda

The Franco-Mauritian Elite

n Power and Anxiety in the Face of Change

Tijo Salverda

berghahn NEW YORK • OXFORD www.berghahnbooks.com

First published in 2015 by Berghahn Books www.berghahnbooks.com © 2015 Tijo Salverda All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission of the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Salverda, Tijo. Te Franco-Mauritian elite : power and anxiety in the face of change / Tijo Salverda. pages cm. -- (New directions in anthropology ; volume 37) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-78238-640-7 (hardback) -- ISBN 978-1-78238-641-4 (ebook) 1. Mauritius--Race relations. 2. Mauritius--Politics and government--1992- 3. Postcolonialism--Mauritius. 4. Social change--Mauritius. 5. French--Mauritius--Politics and government. 6. French--Mauritius--Social conditions. 7. Whites--Mauritius--Social conditions. 8. Elite (Social sciences)--Mauritius. 9. Power (Social sciences)--Mauritius. 10. Competition--Social aspects--Mauritius. I. Title. DT469.M442S25 2015 305.5’20894106982--dc23 2014039944 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-78238-640-7 (hardback) ISBN: 978-1-78238-641-4 (ebook)



For the people of Mauritius

Contents

n Introduction 1 1: No Man’s Land

23

2: Defending White Hegemony

52

3: Balancing Confrontation and Collaboration

75

4: A Culture of Economic Privileges

107

5: Unity in Diversity

152

6: Te Elite Symbolism of White Skin Colour

180

Conclusion 202 References 217 Index 227

Map showing the location of Mauritius. Courtesy Rosabelle Boswell.

viii

Introduction

n Mauritius is a small island with a multi-ethnic population in the Indian Ocean. Starting with the Europeans who settled frst on the uninhabited island, Mauritius and its inhabitants have experienced events similar to societies elsewhere in the (colonial) world. One of the most signifcant events it witnessed in the last century was independence in 1968, this also marking the end of a regime favourable to the island’s white colonial elite, the FrancoMauritians. Many observers around the time of independence were critical about the prospects for Mauritius, as the island was overpopulated, rife with ethnic tension and relying on one single crop, sugar-cane (see Naipaul 1972; Eriksen 1998). Mauritius, though certainly not without its problem, has fared remarkably well over the more than four decades that followed independence, while the Franco-Mauritians have also relatively successfully maintained their elite position in the postcolonial period. Te island is often considered a success story, transforming from an island with little hope to a middle-income country – especially from the 1980s onwards. Deborah Bräutigam (1999) refers to it as the ‘Mauritian miracle’, with a prosperous economy and a stable political system. Certainly not all Mauritians have benefted and many remain in poverty, but much larger numbers are advantaged by the island’s economic wealth, and income inequality has diminished since independence (Sandbrook et al. 2007: 126, 127).1 Many have tried to explain this success, though in-depth analyses of the role and position of a white elite in a postcolonial setting are largely absent. Tis book presents an anthropological study of how Franco-Mauritians have fared in the midst of the transition from the colonial period to postcolonial independence. Whites in present-day Africa are particularly known with regards to their situations in Zimbabwe and (post-)apartheid South Africa. Te relevance of the less known Franco-Mauritian case lies particularly in how they have balanced continuity and creeping decline of their elite position in the transition. Like Zimbabwe and South Africa, Mauritius is

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

not without inter-group hostility. Independence, and the process towards it, has undoubtedly undermined the Franco-Mauritian elite position. Memories of the colonial period, moreover, are never far away in postcolonial Mauritius. ‘Te politicians who [verbally] attack the whites want to kick them out [of Mauritius] and take their place. It’s revenge for the past’, said the FrancoMauritian politician Eric Guimbeau.2 Tis comment refects the view that after Mauritius became independent in 1968, a regime favourable to the Franco-Mauritian position ended – white politicians like Guimbeau and the iconic Paul Bérenger, whose recent attempt to become prime minister for a second time failed and who I will discuss in more detail in Chapter 5, are nowadays more an exception than the rule. In postcolonial Mauritius, Franco-Mauritians often feel themselves to be under pressure, and perceive others as competitors vying for their privileges. Tis is a clear departure from the colonial heyday, undermining, moreover, the assumption that elites are all-powerful and only use their power expansively. Despite the challenges that Franco-Mauritians face, however, they have been able to maintain their elite position into the early twenty-frst century. Behind Franco-Mauritian anxiety about their position in the postcolonial period, there seems to be a level of collaboration between Franco-Mauritian businessmen and the island’s new political powers that may contribute to explaining the prolongation of the Franco-Mauritian elite position, as well as that of the Mauritian success story.

Setting the Stage Mauritius, which is situated some 800 kilometres to the east of Madagascar, has a land surface area of 1,864 square kilometres. It is the principal island of the Republic of Mauritius, which includes the smaller islands of Rodrigues, Agalega and Saint Brandon (and has a total land surface area of 2,040 square kilometres).3 When European seafarers frst set foot on the islands they were uninhabited. Tis absence of natives facilitated white settlers to establish an elite position without much competition or resistance. With the help of slaves, mainly from Africa, and, after the abolition of slavery, indentured labourers from India, whites secured a cheap workforce for their plantation economy – the solid base of their elite position during most of the colonial period. Tis, however, also sowed the seeds of a counter-force to Franco-Mauritian domination. In postcolonial Mauritius, the population has grown to approximately 1.3 million,4 with origins in such distant locations as China, Europe, India and Africa. Exact data on the number of Franco-Mauritians is absent, though it is often estimated that they constitute slightly less than 1 per cent of the population, numbering approximately 10,000.5 Relying on relatively dated statistical information (the latest statistics on the island’s ‘ethnic’ composition date from 2

Introduction

1972, as I will explain in Chapter 5), Creoles constitute about 28 per cent, which includes the gens de couleur, a small elite group often considered to stand between the Franco-Mauritians and the Creoles (their skin colour shades can range from black to as white as the Franco-Mauritians). Te largest group are the Hindus (about 52 per cent), and there is a smaller minority of Muslims (16 per cent). Both groups originate in India.6 Finally, there are the SinoMauritians, who make up 3 per cent of the population. Te emancipation and political participation of the more populous groups have reshaped the island’s power constellation, jeopardizing the Franco-Mauritians’ position at the top of the (socio-economic) hierarchy. When a transition between diferent social structures, political environments and economic systems takes place, elites can run into problems. Elite mechanisms for maintaining power may become inefective or problematic. Mattei Dogan and John Higley write, ‘One kind of crisis often occurs when territories achieve national independence. Especially after a violent secession struggle, national independence may involve the ascendancy, ex abrupto, of a new political elite’ (Dogan and Higley 1998: 8). Accordingly, Franco-Mauritians, and they share this trait with elites more generally, did not favour change. In their comfortable position at the top, change is suspect because it may jeopardize the elites’ status and privilege (Simmel 1957: 99). Some elites have inevitably disappeared and new ones have arisen since change is part and parcel of human life – a point which resonates with Vilfredo Pareto’s famous aphorism: ‘History is a graveyard of aristocracies’. Understandably, the Franco-Mauritians feared independence, as the transition from the colonial period to the postcolonial state was a major change and, in essence, represented a crucial threat to their position.7 Tey found themselves in a very inconvenient situation, since they were the only whites in Mauritius, strongly associated with colonial injustices. Teir (historical) position coupled with their physical appearance became a liability, and in this context opposing the (political) emancipation of the much larger communities appeared to be a ‘lost’ battle. Tis shows that elites cannot take their positions for granted. Hence, John Scott argues, ‘[o]ne of the errors made in much elite analysis … has been to assume, or at the very least to imply, that elites are all-powerful and that organizationally dominant groups will hold all the other power resources of a society’ (Scott 2008: 38). Elites often seem to be perfectly aware of their vulnerability (see also Salverda and Grassiani 2014). Numerous FrancoMauritians, for example, questioned me during interviews, asking whether I was writing for local newspapers. Tey were anxious about too much public attention, something also noted in the case of the white Jamaican elite: ‘People in positions of power may fear that information about them might be used against them by their critics’ (Douglass 1992: 37). And yet, 3

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

Franco-Mauritians did not automatically accept their defeat during the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial period. I will analyse whether this has contributed positively to their relatively successful maintenance of their elite position. Today, Franco-Mauritians remain the most important players in the sugar industry, still possessing large tracts of land, and they also have a large say in the private sector more generally – they control about a third of the top one hundred companies and fve of the largest ten companies.8 Despite the challenges Franco-Mauritians have faced, they have been able to maintain their elite position into the early twenty-frst century. In this book I will analyse the behaviour this relative success seems to rely on. Franco-Mauritians oppose, fear and have an attitude of adapting a low profle. At the same time, they seem to ‘give in at the right time’, collaborate with new (and often opposing) powers, invest in the local economy, and initiate projects that contribute to expanding their power. Tis behaviour illuminates the paradox of a former colonial elite in a postcolonial society, both losing power and in the case of Mauritius playing a role in the island’s economic success story. Te Franco-Mauritian case, in that sense, is a very interesting one with regard to the comparative understanding of how (white postcolonial) elites maintain a balance between continuity and decline.

Relevance Te 2007/8 fnancial crisis, growing global economic inequality and declining socio-economic mobilization has put the (unwelcome) consequences of elite power in the limelight. Contrary to the past, however, there has been limited research on elites in the social sciences over the last few decades. Mike Savage and Karel Williams (2008) wonder whether this correlates with an increased focus on quantitative data gathering in the social sciences. It may be due to their small size that elites are easily overlooked in quantitative studies. Tere are exceptions to this trend in political science (e.g., Dogan and Higley 1998; Dogan 2003a; Higley and Burton 2006; Best and Higley 2010), (comparative) sociology (e.g., Hartmann 2007; Savage and Williams 2008; Daloz 2010; Rahman Khan 2012), geography (e.g., Hay 2013), and anthropology (e.g., Pina-Cabral and Pedroso de Lima 2000; Shore and Nugent 2002; Abbink and Salverda 2013). Tese studies – many of them edited collections and journal special issues – deliver valuable insights, yet due to the lack of space to elaborate in these venues they often only address specifc aspects. Ethnographies of elites, which ofer the opportunity to grasp elites and the workings of their power holistically, have been virtually absent since Abner Cohen’s Te Politics of Elite Culture (Cohen 1981). His work shows that there was much to gain from the combination of in-depth 4

Introduction

ethnographic data with the theoretical interpretation of elite practices. Tat his book has few if any successors should be considered an omission.9 Tis is not to say that many studies have not dealt with elites and their power, yet they often do not tend to take forward elite theory as such. A former white colonial elite which still holds centre stage, almost half a century after European rule in most African colonies came to an end, ofers a welcome case with which to address anew how an elite aims to prolong its position over time. It could be said that the Franco-Mauritian case confrms an analogy that has been noticed across countries in the case of abrupt regime changes: ‘economic and administrative elites resist better the upheaval than … political and military elites’ (Dogan 2003a: 13). But what if the elite’s position is not only defned by its (economic, political or other) function, but also by distinctive physical characteristics? At frst sight, the Franco-Mauritian case, due to their strong association with colonial injustices, would ofer an opportunity to illustrate all that is bad about a (white, former colonial) elite. But this would not do justice to the complexity of the situation, and I hope to avoid what Richard Werbner deems ‘the Machiavellian suspicion of elites’ (Werbner 2004: 8). Elites acting for the public good, according to Werbner, are not by defnition disguising their real aims: maintaining domination. Instead, ‘anthropologists have to bring to elites, and to their public conduct, the same empathy and insights that anthropologists bring to the rest of people they study’ (Werbner 2004: 8). Tis ethnography of the Franco-Mauritian elite aims to analyse the intricacies of an elite position – and its prolongation over time – by unravelling the multidimensionality of an elite position. Certainly, I aim to grasp how an elite tries to maintain its position over time. Te analysis of power is crucial in this respect. Neither do I deny the tendency among elites to conspire. Hence, one of the foundations of this book is some (Machiavellian) scepticism about power. In my opinion, however, power can only be fully grasped if we take up the approach propagated by Werbner that elites are not necessarily tricksters who intend to maintain domination. I start from the premise that Franco-Mauritians and elites more generally do not necessarily act with a predetermined plan. Teir practices and patterns need to be understood without assuming that elites are perpetually and consciously amassing and applying power and suppressing subordinates. Elite power, in my opinion, is equally infuenced by other aspects like social and cultural patterns and structural aspects, but also through collaboration with other social forces and/or the attribution of an elite position by other social groups. Some of these aspects can inhibit ‘unintended’ but favourable efects to the maintenance of power. By adopting an open and holistic view, I hope that this book helps to increase our knowledge about the complexity of elite power.

5

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

Te Franco-Mauritian case ofers the opportunity to address the role of a white elite in the success story postcolonial Mauritius is often deemed to be (Mbeki 2009). It seems of particular relevance to the understanding of white elites, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, to analyse exactly how Franco-Mauritians collaborate with the postcolonial state, and how we could interpret their contributions to the island’s economic development. Tis should not be confused with arguing that whites are needed for economic success. Te main aim is to better understand the role and position of Franco-Mauritians in relation to Mauritian postcolonial society. Te Franco-Mauritians ofer an insightful case, as they have characteristics that closely resemble white elites in predominantly non-white societies, not the least because skin colour is signifcant to Franco-Mauritians’ elite position (Salverda 2011). Te intricacies of the Franco-Mauritian elite position are comparable to cases that have equally experienced the transition from colonialism to postcolonialism. Elite formation and elite rule by Europeans in the colonial period were closely related to racist notions or ideologies placing whites at the top of the socio-economic hierarchy. In many colonial societies, slavery was practised along with the suppression of the non-white population. After the abolition of slavery, the hegemonic position of elites often continued to be supported by racist ideologies through processes of group reproduction, via education and the control of sexuality and marriage. With the transition to independence in former colonies, many white elites left the scene entirely (Rothermund 2006: 178), and the acceptance of racial superiority declined dramatically. However, not all white elites left the scene to ‘repatriate’ themselves to their European ‘motherlands’. White communities in South Africa and Zimbabwe make compelling comparisons, though with substantially diferent trajectories. South Africa institutionalized a racially exclusive system. In Mauritius, though the colonial era certainly favoured the white Franco-Mauritians, the trajectory was diferent – also because contrary to most Africa countries it did not have an indigenous population. An interesting comparison with Mauritius concerns the fact that, when the apartheid regime came to an end in South Africa, the white population – and white elites – remained. After 1994 they lost much of their (direct) political power because this shifted to black political elites representing the majority of South Africans. Yet, the whites could maintain much of their economic power, a situation comparable to that of Mauritius. Following his argument that in African states the transition to postcolonial independence has in many cases been an (ongoing) process and not an event, Frederick Cooper illustrates that in South Africa the frst free elections in 1994 may have shaped the political feld, but the history of resources – land, gold mines, factories, urban real estate – into the hands of particular people, and the consequences of this, did not suddenly turn a new page (Cooper 6

Introduction

2002: 11). It is argued that this is the result of unintended efects of global processes: ‘Emerging in the midst of all the hopes generated out of the collapse of apartheid and desperate to reintegrate into the global economy, [South Africa] was partly persuaded and partly coerced by the IMF and the World Bank to embrace the neo-liberal line, with the predictable result that economic apartheid now broadly confrms the racial apartheid that preceded it’ (Harvey 2005: 116). Te Franco-Mauritian case may shed some light on other patterns that facilitate the position of white elites in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, it may contribute to our understanding of white elites in the Caribbean islands, where white elites have equally remained at the top of the socio-economic hierarchy – for example in Martinique (Vogt 2005; Zander 2013).10 Tese islands, if they have become independent, are similar to Mauritius in the sense that hardly anyone could claim the land as their ancestors’. Contrary to Mauritius, this is not because they were uninhabited when the Europeans arrived, but because the colonists’ arrival led to the virtual extermination of the original population. Te Franco-Mauritian case, in that sense, may help reveal diferences and similarities between countries with and without large indigenous populations. By addressing the parts and how these together contribute to the maintenance of an elite position, the Franco-Mauritian case bears relevance to an understanding of elites beyond former colonial elites alone. My analysis of ‘defensive’ power (frst discussed in Salverda 2010) is, for example, applicable to all kinds of elites. Equally, the attribution of an elite position by others is of wider signifcance. Te sum of the parts, moreover, ofers the possibility of an analysis of the interdependency of aspects involved in elites’ pursuit of prolonging their privileges and their position. To grasp the maintenance of an elite position, after all, it is relevant also to understand how elites deal with challenges to their position. Tis, and especially the relative success of Franco-Mauritians as well as other (postcolonial) elites facing challenges, is in my opinion not sufciently explained by existing theories of elites and power. Te aim of this ethnographic study of the Franco-Mauritians is to contribute to a better understanding of the intricacy of losing power yet at the same time consolidating an elite position. Accordingly, it is relevant to grasp the interaction between elite culture, the elite’s internal relationships, (defensive) power, the impact of race and ethnicity, and the elite’s historical and contemporary relationships with other social and ethnic groups. Tese aspects are certainly not applicable to all elites, but by analysing how different aspects interact this book aims to shed new light on a number of theoretical issues regarding the position and power of elites.

7

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

Staying at the Top Elites have received substantial scholarly attention in the twentieth century, especially from sociologists, historians and political scientists. Among the early sociological theorists who looked into Western elites were Vilfredo Pareto (1991), Gaetano Mosca (1923), Robert Michels (1911) and Max Weber (1958, 1997). Tese scholars laid a solid foundation for the understanding of elites. In the decades after the Second World War this was further developed by, among others, C. Wright Mills (2000), Robert Dahl (1961), George William Domhof (1978) and Pierre Bourdieu (1984; Bourdieu and Clough 1996). Although not in an equally concise manner, these scholars have helped to defne what an elite is – Pareto, for example, defned an elite as ‘a class of the people who have the highest indices in their branch of activity’. Shamus Rahman Khan (2012: 362) rightly states that defning elites is not a simple task as there is little agreement and discussion over the term, largely because scholars rarely defne it. Indeed, in a lot of academic work the term ‘elite’ is often taken for granted and barely explained. It seems to be a container concept. According to Cohen, ‘an elite is a collectivity of persons who occupy commanding positions in some important sphere of social life, and who share a variety of interests arising from similarities of training, experience, public duties, and way of life’ (Cohen 1981: xvi). Scott explicitly argues that only those collectivities based in positions of command should be seen as elites – this, he writes, distinguishes an elite from privileged or advantaged groups (Scott 2003: 156). According to Scott, an elite in the fullest sense is a social grouping whose members occupy similar advantaged command situations in the social distribution of authority, and who are linked to one another through demographic processes of circulation and interaction (Scott 2003: 157). Stemming from their commanding position, an elite is a social group that has privileged access to, or control over, particular resources which may be mobilized in the exercise of power (Woods 1998: 2108). An elite is not only about the actual possession and exercise of commanding positions, as ‘those in command are linked to a wider group that does not only directly exercise command but also shares a way of life and a variety of interests arising from similarities’ (Salverda and Abbink 2013: 6, original emphasis). Tis becomes apparent when an elite overlaps with an ethnic community, as I will show in Chapters 4 and 5. Shared characteristics tend to be essential for (potential) access to commanding positions – skin colour, manners, pedigree and education. I would argue, in line with earlier work (Salverda and Abbink 2013), that an elite includes more than just those in positions of command. Te younger generation of a specifc elite, for example, may have privileged access to these commanding positions at a future 8

Introduction

moment in time. In that sense, they share similarities with the elite members in commanding positions. Contrary to Scott’s argument, not everyone in the specifc wider social group may exercise command, but these people may nevertheless have infuence on the persons who are in commanding positions through, for example, a shared way of life. Scott does not deny a shared way of life: ‘True elites have more than a merely formal or nominal existence, and they may show more the kind of solidarity and consciousness that makes them real social groups capable of acting in common’ (Scott 2001: 32). But this he seems to limit to the ones in commanding positions. Partners and families of the ones in command, however, may infuence the construction of a shared way of life. Te spaces in which this shared way of life is most explicitly expressed tend, moreover, to be the elites’ back-spaces (or back regions): spaces in which the people in command informally meet and often secure important decisions (Woods 1998). It is thus precisely the combined feature of possessing commanding positions and exercising control over particular resources, along with sharing socio-cultural characteristics, customs and a mode of life with a wider group, that defnes an elite – even though a certain level of internal stratifcation may exist. Anthropology is especially suitable as a discipline to probe the infuence of socio-cultural characteristics, customs and modes of life on the operations and power of people in command. Anthropological studies of elites, such as the ones I have referred to above, highlight, for example, that ethnographic methods can deliver new insights into our understanding of elites. As Cris Shore notes, his aim to study elites anthropologically was ‘to understand the way social reality is constructed by actors themselves; to grasp their conception of the world and the way they related to it as self-conscious agents’ (Shore 2002: 5). Taking up this approach, however, reveals a potential confict with regards to defning elites. Elites often do not consider themselves as elite, since it is argued that ‘elite’ is a term of reference rather than of self-reference (Marcus 1983: 9). Neither are elites always visible (Parry 1998: 2148–51). Nor do they necessarily have boundaries that easily distinguish them from others; notwithstanding that I argue that an elite includes more than those in commanding positions only, this tends to further complicate the setting of well-defned boundaries. In the case of Franco-Mauritians, it is relatively easy to establish the boundaries because Franco-Mauritians are marked by their white skin colour and family names – and in the strongly ethnicized context of postcolonial Mauritius they have to a large extent become classifed as an ethnic group, les blancs (whites), both by themselves and by others. But Franco-Mauritians often consider the term ‘elite’ as something not applicable to them. Tey deny being an elite by referring to other wealthy Mauritians and/or other elites, even though Franco-Mauritians at the same time often refer to themselves 9

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

as being of a higher class than most other Mauritians. Tis denial appears to come from the negative associations the term ‘elite’ evokes. As Rahman Kahn argues, ‘in the postwar period elite scholarship made a critical turn and began to articulate the question of elites as an almost moral one’ (Rahman Kahn 2012: 364). Te result, according to him, is that, generally speaking, elites and illegitimacy are often tightly coupled. To the Franco-Mauritians and other elites, then, this terminology does not correspond with their self-perception. However, I do believe that it is justifed to identify FrancoMauritians from an analytical perspective as an elite for several reasons. Firstly, during most of the colonial period Franco-Mauritians stood at the top of the island’s socio-economic hierarchy. For a long time they were in control of the island’s political and economic afairs, this giving them many privileges that others did not have – a fact few Franco-Mauritians deny. Classifying the Franco-Mauritians as an elite is therefore justifed in terms of studying how their historical elite position developed in the transition from the colonial period up to the present, even if they had lost all their power. Secondly, Franco-Mauritians have been able to extend their dominant economic power and privileges well into the postcolonial period. Tey have maintained control over large parts of the island’s agricultural land, and they tend to perceive themselves to be at the top of the island’s socio-economic hierarchy. Franco-Mauritians may not be as powerful as they were during the colonial period, but they certainly have resources at hand with which to exercise power.

Elite Power It is the elite’s privileged access to, or control over, particular resources that to a large extent determine the elite’s power. Tese resources have many forms, ranging from land, fnancial means, parliamentary control, knowledge, access to the ancestors or access to force. In liberal and democratic societies, one elite rarely controls all resources, such as land, fnancial means, parliamentary control, knowledge and access to force (Dahl 1961). Hence, distinctions tend to be drawn between ‘business/economic elites’, ‘military elites’, ‘governing/political elites’, ‘religious elites’, ‘academic elites’, ‘cultural elites’, ‘administrative/bureaucratic elites’ and so forth (Dogan 2003a: 1; Shore 2002: 4). Tese functional elites are often not the same when it comes to access to resources and the exercise of power. Cultural elites tend to have little power but are often able to exercise a great deal of infuence on those who hold power (Dogan 2003b: 64). While elites that have privileged access to government, parliament and the state apparatus can mobilize these resources in the exercise of political power. And privileged access to land, 10

Introduction

imports and exports, and private companies can be mobilized in the exercise of economic power. What, subsequently, defnes power is a question that many great thinkers have addressed over the centuries. Tis has resulted in two diferent basic perspectives used to conceptualize power: actor-oriented approaches and systemic or structural approaches. Eric R. Wolf states, ‘[s]tructural power shapes the social feld of action so as to render some kinds of behavior possible, while making others less possible or impossible’ (Wolf 1990: 587). Te risk of this systemic perspective is that any action dictated by cultural convention may be included in the defnition of power. Power then ‘risks becoming diluted and synonymous with conventions, norms and, ultimately, culture’ (Eriksen 2001: 158). Tis does not imply that the structural side of power should be ignored: ‘Te great challenge of all social science, one might say, consists of trying to do justice to [actor-oriented and systemic perspectives]’ (Eriksen 2001: 159). In a critique to the discussion of power in anthropology, Wolf argues, ‘[t]he notion of structural power is useful precisely because it allows us to delineate how the forces of the world impinge upon the people we study, without falling back into an anthropological nativism that postulates supposedly isolated societies and uncontaminated cultures, either in the present or the past’ (Wolf 1991: 587). Hence, it is important to take the structural side of power into consideration, though in my opinion, structural (or systemic) phenomena cannot ‘exercise’ power themselves. Tese phenomena can nevertheless be very important in empowering certain players. ‘Te capitalist entrepreneur’s ability to enforce his will on the worker, for instance, is conditioned by the nature of modern capitalism. In point of fact, the entrepreneur is already in a structural power position’ (Brennan 1997: 73). Equally, over a long period of time the colonial structure facilitated much of the power that came to be in the hands of white colonials. Consequently, structural phenomena are important in the analysis of power without having to grant these phenomena power as such – I apply, in other words, a narrower defnition of power in the analysis of the Franco-Mauritians than the Foucauldian perspective (e.g., Foucault 1991). In the case of the Franco-Mauritians, the groundwork for an elite position was relatively easily laid during the French period (1715 to 1810). I will illustrate this in the historical analysis in Chapter 1, which is an important starting point for understanding the position of the Franco-Mauritians since ‘elites can only be meaningfully understood in their wider historical context’ (Shore 2002: 12). Mauritius had no indigenous population, and land was, therefore, occupied without much efort. Te arrival of the British in 1810 hardly jeopardized Franco-Mauritian power. For virtually the whole British colonial period, the Franco-Mauritians could be considered the island’s (proxy) hegemonic power as they exerted political, economic, ideological 11

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

and cultural power over subordinate groups. With Franco-Mauritians still at the top of the island’s socio-economic hierarchy, this past is never far away in present-day Mauritius. Hence, in Chapter 1 I will equally illustrate how historical events and structures are contested and often function as symbols for present-day power struggles between Mauritians of diferent backgrounds. In many colonies, the hegemonic position of white elites was sustained by the use of force and by the capacity to use force. Tis possession of ‘coercive powers that provide an ultimate last-resort back-up for [the elite’s] authority’ (Scott 2008: 33) was often based on the capacity to use force, not necessarily the exercise of that capacity (Lukes 2005: 12).11 It was only in the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial period that FrancoMauritian hegemony was brought to an end. Regarding the workings of hegemonies and their (potential) disintegration, it is worthwhile to take Steven Lukes’s analysis of three views of power into consideration. Under colonial rule, the ‘two-dimensional view of power’, controlling the political agenda and keeping potential issues out of the political process (Bachrach and Baratz 1962; Lukes 2005: 20–25), certainly applied to the colonial elites. Lukes’s third and ‘radical view of power’ has substantially contributed to the sustained domination of colonial elites. Here, dominant ideologies tend to work against people’s interests by misleading them, distorting their judgement and applying the ruler’s power in such an efective way as to prevent conficts from arising (Lukes 2005: 13, 27). Only gradually were these ideologies, thus the hegemony and power structures of colonial elites, challenged by overt opposition to the status quo. Overt conficts, Lukes’s frst dimension of power, became common, eventually resulting in independence. After independence, there was a reversal of the power structure, though the Franco-Mauritians maintained much of their economic, and some of their status, position. How the transition afected not only the absolute power of the FrancoMauritians, but especially how they have applied their power since, is an important issue in this book. Following up on Scott’s (2008) notion that elites are not necessarily all-powerful, Chapter 2 show that a new perspective on elite power is required. I argue that the Franco-Mauritians, especially since the transition from colonialism to postcolonialism, as well as many other elites, use their power in many occasions ‘defensively’ instead of ‘proactively’ or ‘expansively’. Notwithstanding this observation, it should be noted that diferent forms of power may occur more or less simultaneously, as I will show in Chapter 3. Tat Franco-Mauritians apply their power defensively does not prevent them from, for example, also benefting from collaborations with ‘new’ political powers and applying their power expansively. It is especially the combination of diferent forms of power that appears to explain how they have prevented the substantial decline of their 12

Introduction

position, while also playing a role in the successful economic development of the island. Te direct workings of power are, however, only one part of the explanatory trajectory of this book. To more fully understand an elite position, and its potential maintenance, we must also look beyond the direct exercise of power.

Elite Culture To better understand Franco-Mauritians and their relationships to change, power and economic development, a closer look at the group’s internal elite culture is required. Tis shows the importance of studying apparently trivial aspects of life, such as daily routines and family. Cohen remarks, ‘[c]ulture and power … interact dynamically in the formation, defnition, and continuity of the group in response to changing circumstances’ (Cohen 1981: 40). Bourdieu’s concept of habitus equally shows how an elite’s internalized behavioural routines and social ideas of a defned social group shape their practices. Tis is not to say that elite cultures are bounded entities – cultures have, as many anthropologists nowadays emphasize, fuid, shifting boundaries, and diferent cultures overlap and intermingle (Crehan 2002: 49). What culturally distinguishes (real or perceived) an elite from other groups should thus feature in the research agenda. Apart from notable exceptions, culture has received little attention in the study of elites: ‘Te schematics of elite organization and its place in larger system frameworks have been much more commonly addressed than its internal culture and practices’ (Marcus 1983: 10). Twenty years after Cohen’s pioneering work and George E. Marcus’s comments, elite culture still receives little attention, as Shore (2002: 10) has noted. Yet elites are also infuenced by similar cognitive patterns to those of other social groups, and these patterns thus tend to have an impact on their cultural behaviour and practices. Elite habits, customs and cultural behaviour patterns, for example, can be passed from generation to generation in roughly the same way as material benefts are passed down (Hartmann 2007: 105). As Chapter 4 illustrates, culture is relevant to the explanation of the (changing) Franco-Mauritian elite position. Te success of an elite partly relates to how well it succeeds in organizing itself particularistically (Cohen 1981: xiii) – that is, how it shares a number of characteristics that shape cohesion and distinguish it from other social groups, both for internal and external purposes. At the same time, it is argued that an elite group, which by its very nature only represents a small minority of society, needs support or consent from wider parts of society for its existence. Universal tendencies – that is, their service to the public (Cohen 1981: xiii) – are key aspects in 13

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

obtaining support, although diferent functional elites often require diferent mechanisms to achieve support (Salverda and Abbink 2013: 17). To be successful, an elite needs to reconcile the tensions that often exist between its universalistic tendencies and organizing itself particularistically (Shore 2002: 2). Any overlap with ethnic characteristics contributes favourably to organizing itself particularistically, as ethnic groups tend to have a strong conviction that they share exclusive cultural characteristics, and a history diferent from other groups. Cohen (1981) illustrates the role of ethnicity in the making of the Creole elite of Sierra Leone, especially by means of a distinct elite culture and (religious) rituals. Also, as the Franco-Mauritian case shows, distinct physical appearance, often a trait of ethnic groups, can be very helpful to elites as this symbolizes their distinct (ethnic) culture and elite status. As a white minority in a virtually non-white society, a sense of distinction is refected in the structure and organization of family life, and without a profound understanding of family and community life we cannot fully grasp Franco-Mauritian business practices and, hence, the maintenance of their elite position. In that sense, the maintenance of an elite position may be more about the (unintentional) efects of mundane ‘logics’ than about elite strategies. An elite successfully organizing themselves particularistically bears a threat to obtaining universalistic functions. Te elite has to establish vertical loyalties with other social groups (Fennema 2003), for example, when it wishes to serve as its political representatives. As Dogan and Higley state, ‘[e]ven the most dogmatic elite theorists acknowledge the political importance of mass publics, the need of elites for mass support, and the difculties elites have in gaining and maintaining that support’ (Dogan and Higley 1998: 214). Tis loyalty might be difcult to obtain or easily jeopardized in case diferences between the elite and other social groups are marked by racial and/or ethnic boundaries. When access to commanding positions is related to having a certain ethnic background, it is difcult to ‘sell’ this modus operandi to the other social groups, as I will analyse in Chapter 5. In this case it becomes implausible to argue that access to these positions is a matter of merit. Uneven or asymmetrical power relations between ethnic groups then easily become ‘visible’. Protecting the elite’s interests and exclusivity often requires some secrecy, which tends to interfere in terms of the visibility of the ethnic group’s physical appearance: the elite simply cannot blend in with the rest of the population. Accordingly, Franco-Mauritians found themselves in a very inconvenient situation once pressure mounted on the colonial system, since they were the only whites in Mauritius, strongly associated with colonial injustices. Teir physical appearance and other ethnic characteristics that had been very benefcial to their elite position, which limits access to the group controlling the resources, became a liability. 14

Introduction

As a result of the transition from colonialism to postcolonialism, however, (perceived) ethnic diferences have become very a dominant means of marking distinction in Mauritius. Tis lingers on in the organization of public and private life and appears, paradoxically, to have contributed favourably to the Franco-Mauritian maintenance of their elite position.

Distinction In Chapter 6 I address Franco-Mauritian markers of elite distinction, in particular their white skin colour. Franco-Mauritian physical features, and how they and other Mauritians interpret these, are relevant to the understanding of the elite position of Franco-Mauritians. Often the position of elites is explained according to the resources and power they possess. Yet markers of elite distinction, such as the white skin colour of Franco-Mauritians, may evoke resentment and/or attribution of status by other social groups. Te elite’s power and position may accordingly be infuenced beyond what is ‘justifed’ by control over resources alone. Te Norwegian-American sociologist Torstein Veblen argued, in his well-known work Te Teory of the Leisure Class, that: ‘It is not sufcient to merely possess wealth or power. Te wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only in evidence’ (Veblen 1994: 24). Depending on the elite and cultural and historical circumstance, there is a variety of symbols available to mark distinction, such as conspicuous and vicarious consumption (Veblen 1994), fashion (Simmel 1957), rituals and cults (Cohen 1981), refned manners (Daloz 2007: 46) and physical appearances (Daloz 2007: 199–200; Salverda 2011). Creoles in Sierra Leone, for example, symbolically distinguished themselves through rituals and ceremonies (Cohen 1981), while in certain industrialized societies one was able to preserve great prestige without providing public proof of this through costly display (Daloz 2003: 29). Franco-Mauritians’ most prominent sign of elite superiority is their white skin colour. Accordingly, they were classifed as a racial elite during most of the colonial period. Franco-Mauritians’ white skin colour in a predominantly non-white society, a means of symbolic elite distinction observed in many colonial situations, served them well in the colonial project. Te colonial system approved of access to commanding positions based on a culture closely associated with the physical appearance and superiority of white skin colour. But the postcolonial state and the present world order does not approve of this – at least not openly – and Franco-Mauritians’ skin colour has since become a (potential) liability, due to association with racism and injustices perpetrated in the past. Tis would suggest a signifcant change in the symbolic usage of their skin colour after 1968. Franco-Mauritians 15

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

had to deal with the possible inconsistencies that give rise to their symbols of distinction, as their physical appearance could only be shaken of (if so desired) over several generations. As I will show throughout the book, Franco-Mauritian white skin colour has maintained a prominent role in postcolonial Mauritius, although FrancoMauritians tend nowadays to be classifed as one of the island’s ethnic groups instead of a racial elite. Te evolution of ethnicity (and race), which I analyse in Chapter 5, has partly contributed to this shift. In the postcolonial and multi-ethnic setting, the symbolism of white skin colour ranges nowadays from resentment due to the association with colonial injustices and superiority to the attribution of an elite position. In line with elites’ universalistic tendencies, then, the complexity of relationships between elites and nonelites is relevant for a thorough understanding of the maintenance of an elite position. Te correlation between the Franco-Mauritians, their elite status and the legacy of slavery and indentured labour continues to be meaningful in contemporary Mauritius. Tat Franco-Mauritians’ white-skin colour can be a threat to their position, however, does not exempt it from a symbolic distinction that can equally work in their favour – a nuance often missed. Similar to professional elites, for example, whose status and associated abilities may be attributed to them by others (Skovgaard Smith 2013), FrancoMauritians also beneft from the role other social groups have in shaping their elite status and position. Whiteness, for example, continues to be perceived as something equalling economic power. In the case of the FrancoMauritians, the symbolic aspect of their white skin colour appears to be infuenced by the ambiguous colonial legacy of white superiority. Rosabelle Boswell argues, ‘where dominant groups continue to emphasize the value and importance of whiteness, it is difcult for Creoles not to see “whitening” as central to their survival in social and practical terms’ (Boswell 2006: 95). Tere is a tendency among Creoles to emulate Franco-Mauritians, to have a preference for marrying whites and, in certain cases, to resent their own blackness (Boswell 2006: 51, 85, 95). However, it is not only Creoles who attribute elite status to white skin colour, as I will illustrate. To more fully comprehend how Franco-Mauritians balance continuity and creeping decline in their elite position it is thus important to also address the role of others in the attribution of an elite position, especially because FrancoMauritians themselves also notice the behaviour of other Mauritians towards them and their skin colour. But let me frst refect on the role in the research of my own skin colour and on my methodological approach.

16

Introduction

Methodology I gained relatively easily access to the Franco-Mauritian community, which is known for its privacy. It is often argued that the lack of research on elites relates to the fact that elites are by their very nature difcult to penetrate since they establish barriers that set their members apart from the rest of society (Hertz and Imber 1993: 3). Businessmen, for example, are often visible but not accessible (Tomas 1993). Tey tend to be very busy or to act busy. Confrming my experience, Susan Ostrander states, ‘[m]y experience suggests that the difculties of gaining access and establishing the rapport necessary have been exaggerated’ (Ostrander 1993: 9). According to her, ‘Well-thought-out strategies for access and rapport are often useful or necessary. However, luck and a willingness to take advantage of opportunities are just as valuable’ (Ostrander 1993: 9). It still remains somewhat puzzling to me as what exactly determined successful access, and the continuation of this, over a long period of feldwork. It helped that I promised interviewees anonymity – or the use of pseudonyms. I tried to approach the actors involved in this study politely, non-judgmentally and with respect. Importantly, however, I also shared with FrancoMauritians the distinguishing feature of having a white skin colour. Tis facilitated access, although not so much because Franco-Mauritians were convinced that I had a similar exclusionary understanding of skin colour as many of them did – even those Franco-Mauritians who do have racist beliefs tend to be careful not to share them with Europeans because the latter are perceived as being critical of whites in former colonies. Te main advantage of my white skin colour was simply that I did not have another skin colour. I think that in the case of a non-white researcher, Franco-Mauritians would certainly have been more suspicious. Teir assumption would probably have been that the researcher was only in it to confrm his or her prejudices. To a lesser extent, white French people would also have had this problem. Tere is substantial French infuence on the island, and Franco-Mauritians often have the feeling that the French consider them as an anachronism and to be still living in colonial times. As a Dutch researcher I was in a way neutral and remained free from the (sometimes) tense relationship existing between the French and the Franco-Mauritians. I also had the advantage of the surprise efect of being a Dutch researcher interested in the Franco-Mauritians. In my opinion this facilitated the research as I was considered as an individual and not as a representative of a nation Franco-Mauritians would perceive as prejudiced. Conversely, I did not have the impression that non-white Mauritians distrusted me or did not want to talk to me because I was white and studying white Franco-Mauritians. Only once did I receive an e-mail in which 17

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

the Mauritian author stated that (white) expatriates who socialize too much with Franco-Mauritians start to think like them – that is, to look down upon other Mauritians like Franco-Mauritians do. I did not agree with him, but unfortunately I never heard from him again. However, it is true that I developed some sympathy for many Franco-Mauritians. I fnd it diffcult to judge for myself whether I developed ‘too much’ sympathy. A few critical Franco-Mauritians certainly wondered whether I have sufciently addressed the racism existing in their community. I know that I do not agree with all of their behaviour, cultural patterns and their unequal share of the island’s wealth. Yet, in my opinion, and this is why I promote an anthropological perspective to the study of elites, we have to understand power in all its complexity. Without justifying behaviour, we have to acknowledge that individual elite members are subjected to the structure of the society and community they live in, for example. I would argue that you cannot blame them for that necessarily. One could, however, argue that it is in the individual’s interest not to challenge the existing system. I agree, but still I think we have to also understand the logic behind individuals not challenging the status quo; a member of the elite might well, for example, lose his/her social bedrock by challenging the status quo. In the case of ‘subordinates’, most anthropologists would understand that this may be too much to ask for. So why would that be any diferent in the case of elites?

Approach To hopefully come to a well-balanced analysis, the ethnography presented in this book is based on my use of multiple methods and sources: participant observation, interviews, network analysis, a questionnaire and written sources. I conducted research in Mauritius, South Africa and France. My research visits to the island date back to the year 2000. Most of the research for this book was conducted in the period between 2005 and 2007, with a short trip to Mauritius for additional feldwork in early 2014. I interviewed about seventy Franco-Mauritians in Mauritius, forty in South Africa and twenty-fve in France, and talked to numerous others in non-interview settings, such as during informal conversations and when doing participant observation. I interviewed about thirty other Mauritians (and a few expatriates) and talked to many more about the research (whenever I could, I mentioned my research and tried to get their opinions) and about a dozen South Africans and French. Te interviews were conducted in English and French, and the interviewees included CEOs, other businessmen, clergy, politicians, students, school children, retirees and so forth. Te main focus was on the whole community in Mauritius, while 18

Introduction

during shorter visits to South Africa and France I focused predominantly on Franco-Mauritian students. Te age group of students tends to be absent in Mauritius, as many Franco-Mauritians study overseas. I considered their opinions on the Mauritian situation and information about their future prospects on the island valuable for my research, however. In addition to the interviews, I attended a wedding, visited FrancoMauritians in their private seaside bungalows, partied and dined with them, went on a hunt, and rented a room in the apartment of a young Franco-Mauritian woman. In 2014 I also participated in a public conference concerned with ‘better understanding the Mauritians from the white community’ (mieux connaître les Mauriciens de la communauté blanche), organized by the Institute Cardinal Jean Margéot. My analysis of Franco-Mauritian economic power is, moreover, based on a network analysis of interlocking directorships, as I will illustrate in Chapter 3. I also devised and distributed a questionnaire among Franco-Mauritians to obtain general information concerning a number of variables. Te questions were predominantly of a descriptive kind – for example, what income group they belonged to, where they lived and whether they had a second passport. Te answers the respondents could give were, in general, standardized. Typically, respondents could tick one of four diferent boxes indicating diferent answers – for example, I asked about monthly income (in Mauritian rupees): less than Rs 15,000; between Rs 15,000 and 40,000; between Rs 40,000 and 80,000; and more than Rs 80,000.12 Since Mauritius does not have registers that state name and ethnicity, it was impossible to randomly sample Franco-Mauritians – even if there was such a register, it would have been impossible because Franco-Mauritians are not ofcially classifed as an ethnic group. Te closest option to a random sample was to send the questionnaire by post to FrancoMauritian parents of children attending a few private schools (with the help of two Franco-Mauritians I sent it to almost all the parents). In addition, some questionnaires were also sent to a small number of elderly FrancoMauritians and young adults who did not have links with these schools. Te great advantage of the list of parents was that it represented a pre-existing list and was, thus, much more random than if I had (with the help of FrancoMauritians) decided who was to be on it. Besides, most Franco-Mauritian children attend these schools nowadays. All in all, the strategy yielded a good result as 144 out of about 400 questionnaires were returned. Te sex balance of the respondents was 77 men and 67 women. However, Franco-Mauritians born between 1955 and 1970 were overrepresented, as most parents of school-aged children were born in these years. Te primary written sources my research relies on consist of newspapers and documents such as annual reports, ofcial government (statistical) reports, genealogies and a letter exchange with the winner of the 2008 Nobel 19

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

prize for literature, the Frenchman Jean-Marie Le Clézio, who is of FrancoMauritian descent. I focused on just a few daily newspapers – all published in French – that are the most widely read, such as L’Express and Le Mauricien. Te now defunct newspaper Le Cernéen was an important historical source, displaying a strong partiality in favour of the Franco-Mauritian community. Te historical framework relies mostly on secondary literature, as Mauritian history has been extensively researched by numerous renowned scholars. To give a good picture of the Franco-Mauritian historical position and how the group developed as an elite, my aim is to look afresh and from a FrancoMauritian perspective at the existing literature, as there are few historical studies that analyse the Franco-Mauritian elite position as their main subject. Notes   1 Te Gini coefcient, which is a commonly used measurement for inequality with a scale between 0 (which refects complete equality) and 1 (all wealth in the hands of one person), declined from 0.5 in 1962 to 0.42 in 1975 to 0.39 in 1996/7 (World Bank 2002a). It remained at 0.39 in 2006, but it has increased to 0.41 in 2012 (MFED 2013).   2 Only in the case of two public fgures I interviewed, the politician Eric Guimbeau and the last editor-in-chief of a Franco-Mauritian newspaper, Jean-Pierre Lenoir, have I used people’s real names. Other Franco-Mauritian names cited are pseudonyms.   3 Te Republic of Mauritius also ofcially includes the contested islands of the Chagos archipelago and the tiny island Tromelin. Te Chagos islands were detached by Britain from Mauritius prior to independence and have since been renamed the British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT). Te British subsequently made the largest island, Diego Garcia, available to the US, who used it to establish one of its largest overseas naval bases. Tromelin is claimed by both France and Mauritius, and these governments have agreed to the principle of ‘co-managing’ (co-gestion) the island.   4 Statistics retrieved 11 July 2011 from: www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/ei880/toc.htm.   5 I have included a tiny number of Anglo-Mauritians, equally of white skin colour but partly distinguishing from Franco-Mauritians on the basis of their British ancestry, in my analysis of the Franco-Mauritians. Since the departure of the British, diferences between Anglo- and Franco-Mauritians have become negligible, even before numerous originally British families had efectively become Franco-Mauritian due to intermarriage. Te few remaining Anglo-Mauritian families, moreover, tend to mingle and intermarry with Franco-Mauritians. Socially and culturally, therefore, there tends to be little diference, even though both groups stress their distinction from each other every now and then.  6 It is important to note that the Muslims and, especially, the Hindus have substantial internal variation. A relevant divide among the Hindus is the one between Hindus originating from northern India and the Tamils from the south, for example.   7 For the fate of another, non-white, colonial elite, see Luhrmann (1996).   8 In 2007, only one company out of the top ten was directly related to another ethnic community, two were semi-government companies and another two were multinational

20

Introduction

oil companies; fve were Franco-Mauritian controlled businesses. Apart from some changes in the composition of the list of top 100 companies in 2012 and 2013, fve of the largest ten companies were still Franco-Mauritian controlled.   9 For notable exceptions, see Werbner (2004) and Wedel (2009). 10 See also the somewhat tendentious documentary Les derniers maîtres de la Martinique (‘Te last masters of Martinique’) (dir. Romain Bolzinger, 2009). 11 Strictly speaking, Gramsci considered pure domination and coercion the opposite of hegemony. As Fontana suggests, ‘[h]egemony is defned by Gramsci as intellectual and moral leadership … whose principal constituting elements are consent and persuasion’ (Fontana 1993: 140–41). It is argued, however, that Gramsci ‘refers to a psychological state, involving some kind of acceptance – not necessarily explicit – of the socio-political order or of certain vital aspects of that order’ instead of purely moral and prescriptive connotations of consent (Femia 1981: 37). Colonial Mauritius, for example, was not free from confict (Allen 2011b), yet the colonial hierarchy was ideologically dominant. With this in mind, the concept of hegemony, albeit not literally in the Gramscian sense, is in my opinion applicable to understand the history of colonial projects, and especially their collapse. 12 In international money markets, the symbol for the Mauritian rupee is variously Mau Rs and MUR. In this book, however, I will use the Mauritian symbol, which is Rs.

21

Chapter 1 No Man’s Land

n In comparative perspective, Mauritian human history is relatively short since the island has only been inhabited since European colonization. Te frst people to discoverer the island were probably Arab sailors who were involved in trading between the lands bordering the Indian Ocean. Tere is no evidence that Arab sailors landed on the islands, though. Neither did the Portuguese, who were the frst Europeans to visit the island in the sixteenth century, set up permanent settlement (Benedict 1965: 9; Toussaint 1971: 23). Te arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean, however, marked the beginning of an important era: European development of the lucrative trade route to Asia commenced. In 1598, the Dutch landed on the island and gave it the name Mauritius after their stadhouder Maurits van Nassau (Pitot 2000a: 13). Tey were the frst attested Europeans to settle on the island, although the Dutch occupation of Mauritius was not very successful. Tey only permanently settled from 1638 to 1658, and then returned again in 1664 to prevent the French and British from colonizing the island. Te Dutch were predominantly interested in securing the trade route to the spice islands of the Dutch East Indies, where they had a trading post in Batavia, on Java. Mauritius’ history is importantly shaped by competition between the European powers to control the trade route to Asia. Te Dutch fnally abandoned Mauritius in 1710 and withdrew to their already well-established and better-situated settlement at the Cape of Good Hope (Toussaint 1971: 27; Vaughan 2005: 4–12). Subsequently came the French, whose role in the development of the island has been signifcantly more important. And with the British coming thereafter, the big picture of Mauritian colonial history is hardly disputed. Te historical details and the legacy of the past, however, are fuel for contested interpretations.

23

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

Contested Histories Te early twentieth century witnessed an increasing interest in the island’s history from local and overseas (non-scholarly) historians. Te FrancoMauritian Auguste Toussaint established La Société de l’Histoire de l’Ile Maurice (the Mauritian Historical Society) on 10 February 1938, for example.1 Te involvement of Franco-Mauritians in researching the island’s history appears to partly fnd its origin in the emancipation and increasing power of other communities that occurred at the same time. Franco-Mauritians highlighted their (French) ancestors’ role in order to show that they had been crucial to the development of the island – a pattern that persists today, as Catherine Boudet and Julie Pehgini (2008) demonstrate. To a large extent, these historical accounts are characterized by descriptive historical studies of the island and its inhabitants (e.g., Rauville 1909; Beejadhur 1935; Macmillan 2000). Slavery, indentured labourer and colonial injustices more generally received relatively little attention. Te postcolonial period, especially from the 1980s onwards, witnessed a new era of historiography, with a much stronger focus on slavery and indentured labour. Overseas scholars such as Hugh Tinker, Adele Smith Simmons, Richard B. Allen, Marina Carter, Megan Vaughan, Daniel North-Coombes (a South African of Franco-Mauritian descent) and Larry W. Bowman played an important role in analysing the unexplored past. Local scholars such as Vijaya Teelock, Kissoonsingh Hazareesingh, Huguette Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo, Sada Reddi, Jocelyn Chan Low and the Catholic Church historian Amédée Nagapen equally contributed to new directions in Mauritian history writing. In addition, a number of local non-scholarly historians, such as Sidney Selvon, Benjamin Moutou, JeanClaude de l’Estrac, Pahlad Ramsurrun, Raymond d’Unienville, Anand Mulloo, Guy Rouillard, Moonindra Nath Varma and Marcelle Lagesse, who may not be well known in (overseas) scholarly circles, have played an important role in popularizing the island’s past, including its general history, social and political developments, and the rising working classes.2 Te variety of (scholarly and non-scholarly) historians and other scholars have contributed signifcantly to a better understanding of the island’s past, even though their historical accounts vary in rigour and impartiality. However, history writing is an ongoing process, and that applies to Mauritius also with new interpretations of the island’s past and the reality on the ground ripe for analysis (e.g., Allen 2011a). Te historical account I present here, then, should not be considered all-inclusive since the chapter covers an extensive period. Also, the varieties and nuances of histories of Mauritians of diferent backgrounds are considerable, which would be diffcult to account for in the space of this chapter. Hence, I do not pretend to be able to cover all the insights, layers and nuances, even though I hope to do credit to many of them. Te book’s main focus is the Franco-Mauritians, and 24

No Man’s Land

not all aspects of Mauritian history are equally relevant to the understanding of their position. At least, some of these aspects do not seem relevant now, because the historical account presented in this chapter starts from my analysis of the Franco-Mauritians’ maintenance of their elite position. With hindsight, historical developments are consequently explained in relation to their impact on the early twenty-frst century. For example, how the basis of future competition was (unconsciously) laid with the arrival of large numbers of indentured labourers from the Indian sub-continent is interpreted diferently now than at the time of their arrival in the nineteenth century. One of the main aims of this chapter is to present a good understanding of how the Franco-Mauritian elite position was established and developed throughout the colonial period. Equally important is to give insights into how the colonial past is never far away in postcolonial Mauritius because historical events and structures continue to infuence power struggles between Mauritians of diferent (ethnic) backgrounds. According to Ramsurrun, because ‘Mauritius [is] … a multiracial, multilingual and multicultural country, it is natural for the research scholars to project Mauritian history with a communal texture’ (Ramsurrun 2006: 19). Interactions with popular historical narratives are evident. Boudet and Pehgini (2008) illustrate how the past is often unevenly appropriated (and interpreted). Tey argue that FrancoMauritians, Hindus and Creoles emphasize diferent aspects to illustrate their roles and contributions to the island’s development. (Tis is not to say that Muslims and Sino-Mauritians do not also highlight particular aspects, yet the authors do not explicitly address these two groups.) Te aspects emphasized often have a strong relation to current positions and identity politics. FrancoMauritians focus in particular on the French period, when the colony was established, as I also witnessed during my own feldwork. Hindus, who were not as present during the French period as during the British, focus much more on the period of indentured labour and the role of the independent state in memorizing the past, while Creoles have only recently begun to appropriate memories of slavery and its abolition as identity markers. For their own part, Franco-Mauritians understandably do not want to stir up the dark pages of the colonial past. With a focus on the atrocities of slavery and indentured labour, many of the ‘new’ accounts of the island’s past portray them more negatively, to their dismay. As one FrancoMauritian non-scholarly historian said: ‘Te historians from the university [of Mauritius] deform history, although no historian is ever completely objective. [Tese university historians] put their community frst. At the [Mauritian Historical] society it is about the past and not about the present’. Moments later he highlighted it with an additional remark: ‘many of the studies on slavery are deformed. Te whites are always the bad guys and the slaves are never bad’. In reality, Franco-Mauritian historical interests are not 25

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without their own biases and preferences. Apart from that, their historical focus appears equally to be a refection of the present, Franco-Mauritians’ strong focus on the French period being illustrative.

Te French Te French, who colonized Mauritius after the Dutch and renamed it Ile de France, laid the foundations for the emergence of a white elite. Te Dutch, who despite their failure to establish a permanent and long-lasting settlement, also left indelible traces on the island (Ross 2000: 7–15). Tese were of a diferent kind, however. One notorious event was the extermination by the Dutch of Raphus cucullatus, the fightless bird commonly known as the dodo. Today the dodo serves as an important Mauritian ‘mascot’, and is ubiquitous in the form of tourist souvenirs and on stamps, as well as being used as the symbol of the exclusive Franco-Mauritian social and sports club, the Dodo Club. Te Dutch also introduced sugar-cane and deer, both from Java (Toussaint 1971: 27); as we will see in this and subsequent chapters, both in their specifc ways are very important to Franco-Mauritians. French colonization was prompted by the fact that after the Dutch abandonment Mauritius was left uncolonized for some years. Tis worried the French because the island had become an outpost for pirates, and in 1715 they took possession of the island. Yet, the French, much like the Dutch, initially colonized Mauritius mostly for its geographical position on the route to Asia, and in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of rival powers, something which would have represented a direct threat to their interests. Te new colonizers did not directly settle on the island. It was only in 1721 that the French started developing Ile de France together with the neighbouring French colony of Ile de Bourbon, nowadays known as Réunion, when it came under the control of the new French East India Company (MacMillan 2000: 17, 18). It was not an easy task for the French to establish a self-sustaining colony, and Robert Chaudenson refers, following J. Petit Jean Roget, to this frst period as la société d’habitation: the installing of settlers, acclimatization and the frst minimal development of infrastructure. Te white settlers, in the absence of a native population and with the help of slave labour, were the frst to sow the seeds of an agricultural economy (Chaudenson 1992: 93–95). Te French East India Company (hereafter referred to as the Company) tried to attract settlers by granting them land concessions. Te absence of natives facilitated this, and the frst concession was granted on 5 June 1726 to the highest-ranking ofcer of the Company in the East, Pierre Christophe Lenoir, who was in charge of the island (Ly-Tio-Fane 26

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Pineo 1993: 98). Successive concessions initiated by Lenoir were geared at giving the colonization of the island an essential boost by distributing land to white settlers – today there are still numerous place names on the island that preserve the names of the frst holders of concessions. A more successful period in the development of the colony dawned with the arrival of Mahé de Labourdonnais, who ruled the island from 1735 to 1747.3 He laid the foundations for the capital, Port Louis, on the west coast, creating a good harbour and building docks and a fortress (Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo 1993: 155–82). Besides this he promoted agriculture, and under his governorship the frst plantations were set up, assuring the economic development of the island (Benedict 1965: 10; Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo 1993: 260–63). A confrmation of Franco-Mauritians’ particular historical interest is found in the fact that the memory of Labourdonnais actually lives on in postcolonial Mauritius with a school and a hotel named after him. Furthermore, a Franco-Mauritian explained to me that diferences between the Mauritian white population and the one of the neighbouring French island of Réunion, a French overseas territory (département d’outre-mer), date back to the period of Labourdonnais: Labourdonnais decided to develop the two islands. Mauritius had a lot of strategic advances with its two ports and Réunion came second place. He decided to develop Mauritius much more than Réunion. Since at that time the professional situation was intimately linked to the social situation, the populations of the two islands difer. Here in Mauritius we have many [white] noble families, while in Réunion you have second- or third-degree civil servants who didn’t maintain their social status for very long.

As I will show below, the noble origins of the Franco-Mauritian community are to a large extent a myth. Largely omitted from present-day Franco-Mauritian discourse is the fact that during the governorship of Labourdonnais Ile de France became a slave colony, since during this period large numbers of slaves were imported from Madagascar and Mozambique – they quickly came to outnumber the white settlers (North-Coombes 2000: 7).4 Labourdonnais’s wish to develop the island into a plantation economy was hardly achieved, however. Most of the few large land concessions were only being marginally exploited by 1766. Commerce at that time seemed more proftable than agriculture (Vaughan 2005: 63–64).

Inhabitants Ofcially, the society of Ile de France was divided into two classes: freemen and slaves. However, the freemen, of whom many were initially mainly of 27

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white European origin, were not a homogeneous group. Wealth marked a clear division and, according to the late South African historian of FrancoMauritian descent, Daniel North-Coombes, poor whites were not racially privileged (North-Coombes 2000: 7). On the one hand, there were whites who had arrived on the island as sailors, soldiers and labourers. Tey worked as cabinetmakers, carpenters, masons and domestic staf, sometimes in deplorable conditions. On the other hand, there was a small group whose wealth, in the early days of the colony, was largely related to land concessions and positions within the Company, whose employees held the main jobs on the island (Bernardin de Saint-Pierre 2002: 119). Tis small elite of Company ofcers ruled the island. Tey controlled everything and had a monopoly on trade. Not surprisingly, these ofcers were despised by other employees and settlers (Vaughan 2005: 44). At the same time, the governors and the Company complained about the quality of the island’s colonists. According to them, the majority of early French colonists were unqualifed to administer the island; consequently, they were unable to fnd colonists with adequate qualifcations to occupy these administrative positions. Labourdonnais even curbed the immigration of poor whites to the island in favour of men of substance and capital (North-Coombes 2000: 8). Te Company was also worried about ‘the lack of white women’. In order to tackle this problem, it decided that the family should be the nucleus of the new colony: ‘In a sometimes farcical, certainly tragic episode, women and girls were sent from France expressly for the purpose of providing their labour of biological and social reproduction’ (Vaughan 2005: 28). Te frst group arrived in 1728, and this was followed by a group of girls from poor families from rural Brittany, which at the time was in the midst of a deep economic depression. Te girls seem to have fulflled their biological duty but, even so, there were doubts about the standing of these frst girls. Nevertheless, this marked the beginning of a self-reproducing community, and one can only speak about a more or less stable community from 1728 onwards, as this was when the arrival of the frst women allowed for the creation of families (Boudet 2004: 54). Yet, the community of whites was still a far cry from a gender-balanced community: white men outnumbered white women by the ratio of two to one as late as 1806 (North-Coombes 2000: 8). Tis imbalance made the white men turn to the female population of slaves. Tese men are, consequently, not only the local ancestors of the present Franco-Mauritian community, but also the forebears of other Mauritians, as will be illustrated below. Te slaves on Ile de France arrived predominantly from Madagascar and Mozambique, and in smaller numbers from other parts of Africa and French trading outposts on the coasts of the Indian sub-continent (Tinker 28

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1977: 324). In the beginning, slaves were mainly used for daily chores and almost every household had a few, as the plantation economy only developed slowly. Some masters also had large numbers of slaves, whom they used to work their concessions or, occasionally, rented them out to the Company (Vaughan 2005: 125). With slavery came the Code Noir of 1723, regulating (and restricting) the activities and movements of slaves, free blacks and the white population. Megan Vaughan argues that it may in the beginning have been mainly theoretical, as the Code ‘seems markedly absent in both the correspondence and legal records of Ile de France’ (Vaughan 2005: 83). From the 1760s onwards, the legal code to harness slavery appears to become more often executed, partly out of fear the increasing number of slaves (Vaughan 2005: 84). Compared to later periods in the island’s history, Ile de France may not have been a society over-determined by ideas of inferiority and superiority based on physiological diferences (North-Coombes 2000: 9). But the Code Noir shows that slavery was undeniably a system based on coercion, exploitation and unequal power and race relations. Slaves were also obliged to convert to their masters’ Catholic religion (Nagapen 1996: 13) – this shared religion led to interesting alliances at other points in the island’s history. At the same time, the island’s current lingua franca, the local Frenchbased Kreol, developed as the slaves’ language and means of communication between the French speaking slave-masters and their slaves. Te slaves’ dependency on their masters was considered as natural by most white settlers, and was hardly challenged.5 What little criticism there was mainly came from outside the colony. Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, who would become a famous writer in early-nineteenth-century France, published Voyage à l’île de France in 1773, a series of letters, later also translated into English. In these letters the author wrote down his account of life in the colony after he had visited the island from 1768 to 1770. He questioned the system of slavery and wondered why there were no white workmen to carry out the slaves’ tasks. Of the slave-owners, he said, ‘I have never known men so wretched in terms of morality as the landowners, for they constantly mistrust their blacks and live among them as of surrounded by the enemy, their hate always leading them to cruel punishment and injustice’ (Bernardin de Saint-Pierre 2002: 178). Some slaves escaped and tried to fee back to Madagascar, or simply disappeared into the wilder parts of the island. Ile de France’s free population dreaded the problem of maroonage, or runaway slaves, because maroons frequently undertook assaults on the domiciles of white settlers. Te maroons were, therefore, forcefully hunted down, even though the actual percentage of runaway slaves was probably limited. ‘Te violence directed against [them]’, according to Richard B. Allen, ‘has accordingly been regarded as yet another manifestation of colonial paranoia and racism, an important 29

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aspect of class exploitation, or additional evidence that coercion was the cement that held these societies together’ (Allen 1999: 37). Furthermore, he states that ‘[t]here can be no doubt, for example, that the maroon legacy infuenced social and economic relationships on Mauritius long after the abolition of slavery’ (Allen 1999: 37). Te close cohabitation of slaves and masters also led to more friendly relationships. As a consequence of these, masters occasionally granted freedom to slaves for good conduct. Slaves could also buy their own manumission, although Vijaya Teelock (1998: 67) shows that there existed strict manumission laws to make sure that only the wealthiest could obtain their freedom. Tis was especially the case for men, as for women manumission by marriage was frequent (Teelock 1998: 220). Sexual relationships between white male masters and female (manumitted) slaves were frequent on the island, producing mixed ofspring, of which some remained enslaved while others were granted freedom. It has been argued that ofspring from a slave mother and a white father were hardly unusual on the island – these relationships produced the other descendants of the white settlers. ‘Indeed’, writes Vaughan, ‘the great founding father of the colony, advocate of the white family and importer of Breton girls, Labourdonnais, had himself fathered illegitimate children on the island’ (Vaughan 2005: 131). Yet the tendency among the colonists was to deny their paternity, since recognition of this also brought with it the presumption of economic responsibilities.

Free Blacks Partly as a result of manumitted slaves and the ofspring of ‘mixed’ unions, a community of free blacks developed. Allen (2011b) describes how they, together with a mixed group of free Indian immigrants, freeborn Malagasy and a few free coloured immigrants from other French colonies, gradually developed into the gens de couleur community with a shared identity. In the 1767 census, free blacks ofcially appeared for the frst time as a class in themselves, separate from the slaves and the white population (Boudet 2004: 53). In 1767 there were 587 free blacks compared to 3,163 whites and 15,027 slaves. Forty years later, in 1806, there were 7,154 free blacks – more and more often referred to as gens de couleur – compared to 6,798 whites and 60,646 slaves (Allen 1999: 40, 82). Tis free black population was at the beginning of its existence relatively free, and had rights comparable to those of the whites. In colonial societies these free blacks often functioned as intermediaries between white settlers and their slaves: together with colonial-born slaves they were considered more ‘reliable’ because they had ‘absorbed the masters’ ideology’ (North-Coombes 2000: 5). In Ile de 30

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France, the free blacks were important in the development of the island as well. Labourdonnais and his successors depended heavily on the labour of freeborn sailors from southern India in particular. Tese gens de couleur often also possessed slaves themselves, while land grants made to them increased from the 1770s onwards. Pointing to the remarkable life story of Marie Rozette – a freedwoman of Indian origin – who accumulated wealth, land and slaves in Mauritius in the late 1700s, Allen (2011a) observes there is still much that is unknown about the role and day-to-day dynamics of the free(d) coloured population. Clearly, however, immigrants from India inhabited the island well before waves of indentured labour arrived in the nineteenth century. According to Patrick Neveling, ‘[t]he linear narrative of Mauritian population composed of French settlers, African slaves and Indian contract workers who came to the island in successive phases should rather be understood as the present regime’s idea of identity politics than as analytically grounded’ (Neveling 2012: 9). Yet, as has already become evident, the Franco-Mauritians follow, and have to a large extent initiated, the same linear narrative. In the context of this study, the paradoxical relationships between the gens de couleur and the Franco-Mauritian community are particularly of interest, especially because the legacy can still be felt in present-day Mauritius. In the beginning, a close relationship with the white population remained persistent because of the imbalance of the sexes within the (free) black population, which contained twice as many women as men. In spite of legislative prohibition, cohabitation between white men and slaves or free black women prevailed: ‘the law remained a dead letter in view of the small number of white women on the island’ (North-Coombes 2000: 8). Yet, as illustrated above, the activities of free blacks were also restricted while giving (white) slave-owners a substantial advantage. Te British later reversed the restrictions, though the gens de couleur remained socially distinct from the whites. Tey did not gain full social acceptance from whites, because of persistent racist ideologies, and remained a separate group even though they had many cultural and social features in common, such as the French language and the Catholic faith (Simmons 1982: 24–25). Te persistence of this social exclusion, and all the contradictions that come with it, continue to fuel the sentiments in Mauritian society. Te boundaries between the two communities have remained permeable to a certain extent. With the much larger Creole community, the boundaries also have a history of permeability. Tere is a long history of intermarriage between whites and gens de couleur. As a result, members of the gens de couleur community have a variety of skin colour shades, ranging from dark to as white as Franco-Mauritians. Even within families siblings can have diferent skin colours. White gens de couleur families, however, would still 31

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be excluded from the white community because of knowledge about their black ancestors – comparable to the ‘one drop rule’ in the US, which was that everyone with ‘one’ drop of black blood was considered black. FrancoMauritian parents would refuse to let their children play with the children of gens de couleur because they allegedly had black ancestors, even though one could not tell the children apart on the basis of skin colour. A gens de couleur woman, who equally has a white skin colour, told me that she feels rather negative about the Franco-Mauritians because of the historical injustices the whites have inficted upon them. In Chapter 4 I will show how the legacy of these injustices remains pertinent to her current interactions with Franco-Mauritians. Franco-Mauritians are to a certain extent aware of these injustices. A Franco-Mauritian also said that the gens de couleur are actually sensitive to the term. It would be better to call them Creole bourgeoisie according to him. Yet, Franco-Mauritian discourse shows how strong a sense of superiority is engrained. Gossip about black ancestors is still alive, for example. Many are probably aware of the inconsistency that, in certain cases, money ‘whitens’, this fuelling the potential for gossip. Families who are nowadays part and parcel of the Franco-Mauritian elite were in the past not considered completely white. As a result, I have heard numerous Franco-Mauritians disqualifying other members of their community because of allegedly having black ancestors (whether this is true is not particularly relevant in the case of gossip). To better understand this fxation on white skin colour, a closer look at the establishment of a white elite is frst required.

A White Elite In Ile de France’s colonial system, the white community was at the top of the socio-economic hierarchy. Te colonial structure, I would argue, placed the power in the hands of whites even though they were a diverse group of people. Many came from Brittany, the region of France where, in the southern coastal city of Lorient, the seat of the Company was located (Boudet 2004: 54). Often these people were from poor rural backgrounds; the deplorable economic conditions in Brittany made many sign up for the Company’s ships. Jean-Marie Le Clézio, the winner of the 2008 Nobel prize for literature, confrmed this in a reply to me: … I appreciate your interest for [sic] the Franco-Mauritian community, somehow a vanishing species. Being of Mauritian descent, both from my mother and father, I do have the feeling to belong to this inheritage [sic] and culture. It gives to me the […] to acknowledge a common heavy past, linked with the atrocities of slavery and man exploitation in the system of the plantation. Nevertheless I

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cannot forget the extraordinary accomplishment of this small society, most of which from popular rural extraction, who was lead to exportation due to the extreme poverty in their homeland – in my case, Brittany.

A small number of people from aristocratic backgrounds also settled on the island, and many of these served in the Company. Teir motives for settling on Ile de France seem to have been diverse: ‘Te island had always been home or exile to the disowned, disinherited, and disreputable sons of French families for whom a colonial career, far away, appeared to ofer a last chance of rehabilitation or (perhaps more likely) a continuation of their former activities away from the gaze of superiors’ (Vaughan 2005: 182). Tis hodgepodge of whites was criticized for its sexual immorality and lack of culture and manners by visiting or settling contemporaries on the island (e.g., Bernardin de Saint-Pierre 2002). Nevertheless, the frst signs of a white elite taking root can be seen from the 1780s onwards. Te whites even ‘began to assume, more confdently, the cultural attributes of a colonial elite, [and] the possession of exotically dressed Indian slaves may have become an important marker of wealth and status’ (Vaughan 2005: 161). White settlers were able to enlarge their privileges and power without much competition or resistance: the land did not belong to anyone else because of the absence of a native population, and trade was highly profitable due to the island’s strategic location on the proftable trade route between Europe and Asia, especially after the Company, which had a trade monopoly, went bankrupt in 1769. In reference to the analysis of FrancoMauritian (elite) power, Franco-Mauritians relatively easily obtained control over resources they could later apply in defence of their elite position. By then the island had already experienced several generations of settlers, and family ties and networks had been established, which facilitated the confguration of an elite. Tis was, however, not a unilinear process because, ‘[w]hile the consolidation of an elite was undoubtedly taking place through marriage and business alliances, this was a process constantly disturbed by the infux of newcomers, particularly at times of war’ (Vaughan 2005: 80). Moreover, there was an important economic division relating to the number of slaves one possessed, this being both an indication of economic status and a division between wealthy and poorer whites (Boudet 2004: 58). Despite this, white skin colour became a marker of distinction in a way that had not been seen in previous times. As mentioned earlier, the number of slaves and free blacks increased signifcantly in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Until the 1780s, sexual relationships between people with diferent skin colours was part of the colonial order of things and mattered only when it threatened relations of property and class. From the 1780s onwards, however, this type of sexual behaviour became more closely 33

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associated with a discourse on race. According to Vaughan, ‘Te reason for this is easily identifed in the emergence of a larger (though still comparatively small) free black population, dominated by women. Sex and race begin now to look like two incestuous siblings, producing ofspring from their illicit union’ (Vaughan 2005: 169). Te signifcance of white skin colour was further intensifed due to developments in France: the Revolution of 1789. As a result of this momentous event, the relationship between France and its colony deteriorated when news of it reached the island in 1790. By demanding the abolition of slavery, the revolutionaries aroused ferce opposition among the slave-owners of the French colonies of the Caribbean and Ile de France (Houbert 2000). Tis resistance was, in a way, important for the establishment of a white elite because on the issue of the abolition of slavery Ile de France’s colonists were most clearly united – they opposed abolition in 1794 and they would oppose it later again under British rule. By the time of the French Revolution, the dominant slave-owning classes of the Ile de France had been able to build up a substantial power base. Tey used this to defend their interests and took the afairs of the colony into their own hands. And since the French revolutionaries were faced with their own internal problems and were not, therefore, able to deal with rebellious colonists such as those on the Ile de France, this led to a short period of autonomy. Resisting the abolition of slavery seems to have reinforced a racist ideology used in order to defend the institution of slavery itself, and according to North-Coombes it was not until the 1790s that a racist ideology, in the real sense, was frst articulated (North-Coombes 2000: 4, 7). Te white plantocracy was, however, not only put on the defence because of the threat that emancipation posed to their material interests, but also because there were deeply held fears that it would plunge the colony into a state of anarchy and destruction. Tese fears fed on the spectre of Saint Domingue (presentday Haiti), where slaves had gained their freedom by force of arms in April 1791 – in 1804, the island became ofcially independent. Te planters had access to impressionistic frst-hand accounts of the atrocities which accompanied the Haitian slave revolt for the Caribbean island’s white population. Te white Mauritians, accordingly, were convinced that emancipation of the slave population would spark of large-scale unrest on the same lines on the island (North-Coombes 2000: 11). Tis shows, in my opinion, that for understanding elite practices we have to take seriously these feelings of anxiety. Bernardin de Saint Pierre’s account of the horrors of slavery was, therefore, dismissed – out of fear that abolition would have a negative impact on the planters’ privileges. Te Mauritian planter C. Tomi Pitot, for example, felt he was a David against Goliath, Bernardin de Saint Pierre, and argued that slaves were well looked after and happier than peasants in miserable 34

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Europe (Bernardin de Saint-Pierre 2002: 17, 18). White Southerners in the USA similarly argued that, although slaves lacked the capacity to live freely, the freest societies in world history were based on slavery – indeed, many slave masters had an interest in history and the great thinkers of classical and modern Europe (Fox-Genovese and Genovese 2005: 225). After a brief period of autonomy, Napoleon, who had gained control of France, brought Ile de France back into the French Empire. Yet, the end of the brief period of autonomy hardly jeopardized the strong base of the local white colonists’ power. Besides, a changing economic structure reinforced their position. Te beginning of the transformation of Ile de France into a sugar colony in the early nineteenth century, under the Napoleonic regime, led to the elaboration of a self-serving, explicitly racist ideology, turning back the clock on a number of social issues and institutionalizing a harsher regime of slavery (Vaughan 2005: 250, 257). According to North-Coombes, sugarcane was the culprit, because it is the most labour intensive of all plantation crops. Te sugar boom raised demand for slave labour and underlined the economic signifcance of the system of slavery (North-Coombes 2000: 11). Contrary to earlier decades, the white masters did not consider it necessary to keep the gens de couleur on their side by maintaining equal rights. Te gens de couleur, thus, lost their equal status when the French governor of the Napoleonic era issued laws designed to separate the free coloured population from the whites in 1803, the colour bar (Simmons 1982: 24, 25). Evidently economic change was an important factor in the creation of a united white section of society as it further accentuated its distinction from other social groups. In the case of Mauritius, though, it was only during the British period that many of the diferences within the white (French) community were bridged.

Te British In December 1810, the British arrived with an armada of seventy ships and 10,000 troops, and forced the French colonial government out of Ile de France. Tey proceeded by restoring the island’s original Dutch name of Mauritius. It was a relatively simple conquest, partly because the British had become so powerful and were the frst colonial power to virtually control the Indian Ocean (Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo 1984: 11). Like their predecessors, the British took Mauritius in order to prevent competitors from intervening in their afairs, and once again Mauritius became a colony of a European power mainly in order to safeguard interests elsewhere – in this case signifcant British interests in India.

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Te limited British interest in Mauritius itself is demonstrated by the fact that the British only took control of the island’s administration and never made any attempts to completely control the island or evict all its French citizens. Te transition involving the handing over of Mauritius from the French to the British was actually marked by its peacefulness, and the capitulation treaty itself gave generous terms. Te British chose not to take any prisoners of war and paid to send French troops back to France. Free Mauritians who so wished were allowed to leave the colony, and were even permitted to take their assets with them. For those who remained, their property was not confscated. Te inhabitants were given the guarantee that they would be able to keep their religion, laws and customs; the only thing they were obliged to do was to swear an oath to the British crown (Boudet 2005: 27). Tis accommodating British approach can be explained by the fact that they recognized in the well-organized community of planters a valuable asset (Sornay 1950: 88, 262).6 Moreover, Britons never settled in large numbers in Mauritius, and most of the plantations remained in the hands of white French planters. Consequently, direct British cultural infuence was minor, with the dominant European culture and language remaining French (Benedict 1965: 13–14). Today, the most important newspapers are still in French, even though the British ruled the island for over 150 years. Te British blockade of the island preceding its capture, and subsequently its control of the island, weakened the local economy and investment possibilities. With commercial trading – which had led to prosperity in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – eroding away, the colonists saw no other option than to turn their attention to the further development of the sugar industry (Allen 1999: 21, 22). Tis sparked a signifcant increase in the area of land under sugar-cane cultivation. Expanding sugar plantations was directly encouraged through access to the London market, which came with the inclusion of Mauritius in the British Empire – Sidney Mintz (1985) illustrates how shifting consumption patterns, with sugar becoming a mass product instead of a luxury product, contributed to a large expansion of European markets, especially from the second half of the eighteenth century onwards. Franco-Mauritians realized quickly that a bigger and more proftable market was benefcial to them (Neveling 2012: 7), although it was not until the late 1820s that sugar began to fully dominate the island’s economy (Allen 1999: 12, 22). Tis dramatic expansion of the sugar plantation economy was the most signifcant change in nineteenth-century Mauritius, according to Teelock (1998: 2). An expanding sugar industry required suffcient labour, and the demand for slave labour increased. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, however, the British colonial government forbade the importation of slaves to a British colony (Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo 1984: 12). Tis led to a paradox. Sir Robert Farquhar, the frst British governor, 36

No Man’s Land

recommended that Mauritius be exempted from the ban because the sugar industry was so important to the island’s economy, and also because he wanted to keep the island’s white population content. Te secretary of state for the colonies, however, denied the request, thus forcing the slave trade to go underground. With the local authorities most likely turning a blind eye, Mauritius became notorious for its illicit slave trade (Allen 1999: 14). For the white community, life continued, in a sense, as before. ‘Te French on the island may have felt humiliated at their reduction from colonial rulers to colonial subjects, but the terms under which the British “annexed” Ile de France were hardly oppressive to them’ (Vaughan 2005: 260). Te early British period represented the frst step towards the real establishment of a white hegemonic elite since the arrival of new French immigrants also came to a halt. Newcomers no longer constantly disturbed the process of establishing an elite. Te British and their generous conditions for capitulation were, then, important in the making of a Franco-Mauritian identity (Boudet 2005: 26). Te French colonists started to manifest the traits of a single unifed elite: they had commanding positions, control over resources and power; they shared a (Creole) French way of life; they were connected to each other through, among other things, family ties; and boundaries were clearly marked between them, the British and others. Notwithstanding some internal class diferences, which have continued to exist up to the present, one could for the frst time in Mauritian history speak of a Franco-Mauritian elite, although the term Franco-Mauritian would not be coined in written texts until 1908 (Boudet 2005: 36). So it was that the small FrancoMauritian community came to dominate economic and political activity in Mauritius. Te British, however, facilitated this position. It was a ‘political quid pro quo’ between the British colonial administration, who were interested in maintaining control at low cost, and the Franco-Mauritians controlling the revenue-rich sugar factories (Mozafar 2005: 269, 270). Notwithstanding their complicity in the maintenance of the colonial system, the British hardly face postcolonial resentment against them. According to a former editor-in-chief: ‘Te British have the image of protecting the Mauritians against exploitation by the local bourgeoisie [i.e. the Franco-Mauritians]’. Instead, the Franco-Mauritians face resentment. For most of the colonial period, however, legal changes to bring about greater equality brought forward by the British hardly jeopardized the FrancoMauritian position. Tese changes, nevertheless, helped to shape FrancoMauritian identity as they often felt change was targeted at them – a pattern which remains persistent in postcolonial Mauritius. But the British were not the only ones who contributed to the creation of the modern FrancoMauritian community. Especially with respect to white skin as a symbol of elite exclusivity, Allen rightly suggests that ‘the emergence of a large, 37

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

economically signifcant and socially assertive free coloured community willing to challenge white dominance was also an important factor in shaping Franco-Mauritian identity’ (Allen 2011b: 529). Not long after the British had conquered the island, the gens de couleur campaigned for a change in their position because they were dissatisfed after the 1803 colour bar and were demanding the same rights as whites. Teir objections to their position specifcally focused on three symbolic aspects: the illegality of marriages between whites and free persons of colour (which once more shows the permeability of the boundaries between the two); their inability to gain admittance to the Royal College of Mauritius; and the prohibition preventing them from being buried in the same cemeteries as whites. Te campaign proved successful eventually. In 1828, there was an immediate repeal of all legislation which discriminated against the gens de couleur. Te colour bar was abolished and the gens de couleur were granted equal rights with the white population one year later (Allen 1999: 79, 80; Boudet 2004: 53). Te children of the gens de couleur could now enrol at the Royal College, Mauritius’ most prestigious secondary school. Teir share in the island’s agricultural wealth also increased via land acquisitions. As a consequence, the gens de couleur became more politically involved, although their political presence was largely mediated on Franco-Mauritian terms as they represented the most powerful local political force. Moreover, abolishing the colour bar and increasing participation in the economy and in politics did not mark the end of the social distinctions between whites and gens de couleur, as I have shown above. Most likely, the Franco-Mauritians considered themselves, as whites, to be the designated hegemon, sustained by the British favouring the Franco-Mauritians. Not only did the distinction reinforce the Franco-Mauritian elite position directly – that is, by excluding others from their ranks – it also did so indirectly. Already during times of slavery, emulation contributed to the symbolic superiority of white skin, since many slaves ‘wanted to own the goods owned by whites, wear the same type of clothes or gain the same social respectability’ (Teelock 1998: 226). Equally, the gens de couleur valued the Franco-Mauritian mode of life as desirable and, consequently, to some extent put the Franco-Mauritians on a pedestal – in Chapter 6 I will elaborate on how this attribution of an elite position is important to the understanding of elites. Te Franco-Mauritians remained the model; as in the New World, argues Allen, the Mauritian gens de couleur conformed to white social values, especially in the realm of family life, to increase their standing in colonial society. Te gens de couleur, greatly afected by the racism endemic to the slave-plantation societies of the day, could be considered a community between the whites and the large slave population (Allen 1999: 80, 104).

38

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Equally, the abolition of slavery hardly jeopardized the position of Franco-Mauritians; as a matter fact, it appears to have reinforced unity among the Franco-Mauritian elite. Te sugar industry, which was booming in the 1820s, relied heavily on slave labour. Franco-Mauritian-owned estates were at the centre of sugar-cane production, although their expansion was increasingly backed by British credit with Britain as their main market. One of the paradoxes of the situation was that: Mauritius came increasingly under the heavy scrutiny of the British abolitionists … Mauritian planters had come well and truly in abolitionists’ limelight, and allegations of atrocities committed against slaves were numerous. Tere is little doubt that many of these allegations were well founded, but it is also clear that Mauritian slavery and Mauritian planters were coming to assume a symbolic role within British abolitionist discourse as the epitome of evil. (Vaughan 2005: 261)

Ironically, though, the abolitionists’ vehicle, the Anti-Slavery Society, never visited Mauritius in person (Teelock 1998: 25). Te Anti-Slavery Society in London nevertheless argued that Mauritius would be a good place to begin abolition because no English fnancial interests would be seriously afected (Simmons 1982: 19). Tis sparked the second and fnal demand for the abolition of slavery on the island. As was the case following the French Revolution, the British intention to abolish slavery was met with a great deal of resistance by slave masters – this included a number of the gens de couleur who continued to also own slaves, and were on the whites’ side on the issue of slavery. Tis resistance led to the frst serious power struggle between the British colonial administration and Franco-Mauritian slave-owners. Tis episode illustrates how the FrancoMauritians, as an elite, felt they had to react to challenges and defend the status quo, in order to halt the decline of their privileges. In response to this (perceived) challenge to their position, the Franco-Mauritians further reinforced their elite position: they were unifed not only by their shared economic interests but also by their joint resistance to British interference in their afairs and the demand for the abolition of slavery. Tis stand initially proved successful. Te British colonial government had sent John Jeremie, an avowed abolitionist who would not bow to the planters’ interests, to the island. Te slave-owning planters were infuriated. Crowds gathered to protest at his arrival, shops closed and people refused to work. Pressure on the colonial administration mounted, and the British had to give in, dismissing Jeremie (Simmons 1982: 20). Here was a victory for the planters demonstrating how Franco-Mauritians, through practices of opposition and political pressure, could get their way – at least temporarily.

39

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Adrien d’Epinay and the Memory of Slavery Te main fgure on the Franco-Mauritian side at this time was the rich planter Adrien d’Epinay (Toussaint 1971: 85). D’Epinay went to London personally to argue the Franco-Mauritian case since, due to their French background, the planters had limited direct access to political decision-makers in London. During this visit he persuaded London to grant Mauritius freedom of the press, and in 1832 d’Epinay founded the frst independent newspaper of the island, Le Cernéen – named after the original Portuguese name for Mauritius, Cirné (meaning swan) (Boudet 2005: 29). Te newspaper opposed the abolition of slavery, and according to Teelock (1998: 256) created fears that had not existed before. During its long life, as will be shown in the next chapter, the newspaper would function as the mouthpiece of the Franco-Mauritian community and, specifcally, its interests in the sugar industry. D’Epinay spent two years in London lobbying for the interests of slave masters, and became more and more entrenched as the leader of the FrancoMauritians. He could not stop the British from abolishing slavery in 1833, but his strong opposition contributed favourably to the negotiation of substantial compensation for slave-owners. Franco-Mauritians, thus, did not have enough political clout to set the decision-making process in their favour, but their (economic) power still gave them considerable political infuence – which they applied defensively in this case, as they reacted to the ‘threat’ of the abolition of slavery. Te British paid £69 per slave to 6,874 slaveholders, for a total of 68,613 slaves (Benedict 1965: 17). According to North-Coombes, ‘the Mauritian plantocracy as a whole, therefore, did not sufer drastic property losses from [slave] emancipation’ (North-Coombes 2000: 23), and they remained very powerful in the political and economic domain.7 In Martinique, by contrast, a separation between economic and political power had already set in after the abolition of slavery in 1848: ‘[W]hites in Martinique withdrew from public life. Mulâtres moved in to take control of the political domain, while whites retained control of the economic domain’ (Vogt 2005: 263). Te example of d’Epinay highlights how the colonial past is never far away in postcolonial Mauritius. In present-day Mauritius, d’Epinay symbolizes Franco-Mauritian resistance against the abolition of slavery. Some, moreover, interpret the maintenance of Franco-Mauritian economic power as the legacy of d’Epinay’s successful negotiation for compensation. Consequently, and unlike historical fgures such as Labourdonnais, no Franco-Mauritian would nowadays name a school or hotel after d’Epinay. However, in the centre of Port Louis his statue, which was unveiled in 1866, still stands, and a small village in the north and a few streets still bear his name. For some 40

No Man’s Land

politicians the statue remains an eyesore because of the association with slavery. In the weeks prior to the annual commemoration of the abolition of slavery on the frst of February, they often publicly demand the removal of the statue. In 2006, someone even placed a placard on it, reading ‘Guilty, condemned by history’ (Coupable, condamné par l’histoire) around the statue’s neck. Franco-Mauritians and Mauritians alike have counter-attacked demands for the removal of d’Epinay’s statue, giving an interesting insight into the logics of the Franco-Mauritian position. Jean-Pierre Lenoir, the last editor-in-chief of Le Cernéen, publicly stressed that d’Epinay was one of the frst people to advocate freedom of the press, and that his campaign to get fnancial compensation for slaveholders should be seen in the context of that period in time. Similarly, a former editor-inchief of L’Express, who is of gens de couleur origin, criticized politicians for the dangerous tendency to rewrite history by suggesting the removal of the statue.8 According to them, the statue is part of Mauritian history, and politicians are only using the debate around the statue to further their own political aims. Even though Mauritians of diferent backgrounds share opposition against the removal of the statue, it is Jean-Pierre Lenoir who serves as a lightning rod. After his public comments, counter-arguments by Mauritians in favour of removal mainly focused on him. Tis illustrates why, as I will show in the next chapter, Franco-Mauritians have adopted a low profle in the public debate. Jean-Pierre Lenoir’s frank speaking was, as a matter of fact, not appreciated by all Franco-Mauritians, as it could potentially create further challenges to their position. A Franco-Mauritian businessman who was against the removal said: ‘I would have preferred Jean-Pierre not to have [publicly] reacted to it. It would have been better if it had just been [one of the non-whites], because now with Jean-Pierre people think [all] FrancoMauritians think the same’. In private, a Franco-Mauritian would say, ‘What do they want to do? Put up all statues of Gandhi and Ramgoolam?’ In public, however, FrancoMauritians do not want to get their fngers burnt by handling the historical personality of Adrien d’Epinay, and they avoid discussing sensitive historical issues like slavery. Although Franco-Mauritians may feel ashamed for some of the atrocities of the past, they also feel they are unjustly held accountable for it. One Franco-Mauritian said, ‘I don’t like to live in the past, I prefer the present and the future … I don’t feel responsible for the system of slavery which ended in the 1830s. I don’t know if my great-great-grandfather was a slave-owner. Maybe my ancestors were’. Other Mauritians, however, do want to hold Franco-Mauritians accountable for the (legacies of the) past. In March 2006, the leader of Les Verts Fraternels, the Mauritian green party, initiated a symbolic event. In front of a number of Franco-Mauritian dominated companies and institutes, among them the Mauritius Commercial 41

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

Bank, they demanded compensation for the descendants of slaves. Te goal was to point out to the descendants of colons that they bore some responsibility vis-à-vis the descendants of slaves.9 Te Franco-Mauritians largely ignored the event, yet it illustrates the fact that that many descendants of slaves are still among the poorest of the Mauritian population (e.g., Boswell 2006). As one Mauritian remarked, ‘It is unbelievable that the slaveholders received compensation and not the slaves. Tat should have been the case’. After the abolition of slavery, Franco-Mauritians initially relied on the general system applied to the British slave colonies which was meant as a transition to efective emancipation: the apprenticeship system in which ex-slaves were coerced into becoming labourers for a fxed period of time. But as soon as the apprentices could, they withdrew almost completely from the plantations (North-Coombes 2000: 25). Te ex-slaves had no desire to work for their former masters and wanted, more than anything, land on which they could labour on their own account. Some managed to achieve this either by buying or by squatting on small plots of land. In other cases, established estates subdivided part of their property and sold it, this known as the petit morcellement (Allen 1999: 114). It appears, however, that the land possessions of ex-slaves were only temporarily. By the late 1840s, the ex-slaves and ex-apprentices were being forced by economic circumstances to sell their pieces of land (Vaughan 2005: 269). Te exact circumstance under which this happened remains obscure, because as Allen argues it is largely an unknown development in Mauritian history (Allen 1999: 114). Tis equally seems to apply for gens de couleur landownership, as they were allegedly also unsuccessful in maintaining and enlarging their landed property (ChazanChillig and Ramhota 2009: 32). As I have said, Creoles, of whom many are the descendants of slaves, are still among the island’s poorest. Te gens de couleur have fared better, yet as I have shown they have also sufered from colonial injustices. Te blame should not only be targeted at the system of slavery, because it is evident that the colonial setting, with the (indirect) support of the British, favoured the Franco-Mauritians to successfully enlarge and sustain their landed property. Troughout most of the British colonial period, they were often better placed to buy up land, yet they most certainly also applied cunning ways to repossess the land of others. A shared FrancoMauritian background did not necessarily ensure safety, because there are also stories of disputed appropriation among Franco-Mauritians – and even within families. In this light, one of the main recommendations of the Mauritian Truth and Justice Commission (TJC 2011) is to set up a landmonitoring and research unit in order to investigate and settle (historical) disputes regarding land transactions and title deeds.10 Te main consequence of the abolition of slavery, then, was that the Franco-Mauritians had to look for new sources of labour. Te sugar industry 42

No Man’s Land

had a never-ending need for labour to work the plantations. With the limited number of ex-slaves willing to stay on the plantations, the Franco-Mauritian planters and the British colonial government had to turn to another source of labour, even before the end of the apprentice system. Tis marked the start of a new episode in Mauritian history.

Sowing the Seeds of Competition Seventy-fve Indian immigrants, the frst of thousands of indentured labourers, arrived in 1834 (Vaughan 2005: 269). Te immigration depot in Port Louis, Aapravasi Ghat, where the indentured labourers arrived, was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. Te infux of these labourers led to a radical change in the composition of the Mauritian population. Within ten years of the arrival of the frst indentured labourers, one-third of the population were Indian, while by 1861 it had risen to two-thirds (Benedict 1965: 17). Apart from the need to replace slaves, the arrival of substantial numbers of Indian labourers was due to the increase in the extent of land under sugar-cane cultivation – this was a crop that by now had become inextricably linked with the island.11 In the beginning, the living conditions of indentured labourers were little better than those of the slaves before them (Benedict 1965: 17). When the labourers were asked about their conditions and whether they communicated with their motherland, they said, ‘“we do not like the island and more particularly our master”!’ (Carter 1996: 9). According to Allen: Te often harsh treatment of indentured labourers was conditioned by the colony’s prior experience with slave labor and maroonage … For their part, the colony’s newest inhabitants resorted just as quickly to the same tactics slaves had used to resist exploitation and oppression. Flight from their employers was the most public of these tactics and, until the late nineteenth century, the struggle between Mauritian ‘masters’ and ‘servants’ would be epitomized by the local preoccupation with illegal absence, desertion and vagrancy. (Allen 1999: 56)

Like the slaves who had preceded them, indentured labourers were spatially restricted, being prohibited from leaving the district in which they were employed (TJC 2011: 72). Accordingly, the colonial government tried to manage the labourers by means of legislation that impinged on the lives of indentured labourers. Marina Carter notes, ‘[b]y 1867, the planting interests, aided by a succession of sympathetic governors, had been able to gain such infuence with the Mauritian Council of Government – with the notable exception of W.W. Kerr – that the most far reaching moves against 43

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

the large ex-indentured population were ready for implementation’ (Carter 1996: 118–19). W.W. Kerr, who was advocate general, but also Adolphe de Plevitz, who was a plantation-owner, were, indeed, the exceptions. Tey were representative of the few whites who were motivated by a sense of humanitarianism to take a stand on behalf of the indentured Indians. ‘For their actions they were rewarded with the general opprobrium of the planting community’ (Carter 1996: 13). However, in 1872, the government set up a commission to investigate ill-treatment with Adolphe de Plevitz as principal witness (Ly-TioFane Pineo 1984: 82, 83). Adolphe de Plevitz’ legacy is illustrative of how the Franco-Mauritians selectively shop in the store of the island’s colonial history. Although an important historical fgure, Franco-Mauritians seem to ignore him, and they certainly have no hotels or schools named after him. Instead, and in line with Boudet and Peghini’s (2008) argument that Hindus focus more strongly on the period of indentured labour, his statue is found at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI) instead. Tis institute, which was founded by the Mauritian postcolonial government in collaboration with the Indian government in 1970, has a strong focus on Indo-Mauritian culture. At the time of Adolphe de Plevitz, opposition to the treatment of the indentured labourers was not only confned to Mauritius. Te governorgeneral of India, under pressure from Indian public opinion, pressured the local Mauritian authorities and even halted the trafc in indentured labourers in order to improve the treatment of the labourers (North-Coombes 2000: 28). In Mauritius itself, the British colonial government would occasionally take a stand against the Franco-Mauritian plantation-owners in defence of (indentured) labourers, this leading to some difcult moments between Franco-Mauritians and the British. Te abolition of slavery already showed how the Franco-Mauritians and the British colonial administration could seriously clash, with the British having the ultimate decision-making powers. According to William Kelleher Storey, ‘these acts only convinced the sugar barons they needed to lobby the British colonial government of Mauritius even more efectively. Te governors were generally receptive, while the Franco-Mauritians continued and refned their lobbying eforts’ (Storey 1997: 37). Hence, and to a certain extent similar to the present, as I will argue below, relationships between the Franco-Mauritians and the British colonial government were characterized by confict and collaboration. Yet, it should be noted that they collaborated for most of the time. Te Franco-Mauritians did not have much to fear from local British colonial ofcers because ‘the Franco-Mauritian elite dominated island politics despite the façade of British rule’ (Storey 1997: 37). Te strong position of FrancoMauritians within the plantation economy gave them signifcant infuence over the colonial administration of the island so that they did not really 44

No Man’s Land

have to worry about the treatment of indentured labourers. A harmonious relationship between the British colonial administration and the planters was required since sugar represented, by and large, the main tax revenue of the colony. Besides, ‘harmony of interests was likely for yet another structural reality, that is, the deep integration of the island as a sugar exporter in the peripheral circuits of the world economy which linked colonial and metropolitan ruling groups’ (North-Coombes 2000: 79).12 Since the British did not settle en masse, the small number of British traders who did so often integrated into the Franco-Mauritian community. ‘Many of the merchants who established themselves on the island married local [Franco-Mauritian] women, and it is reasonable to assume that signifcant sums of merchant capital subsequently found its way into the colony’s agricultural sector via familial connections’ (Allen 1999: 21). Tis was, of course, facilitated by a shared white skin colour. ‘In Mauritius, it was racism which was used’, according to North-Coombes, ‘very successfully, to provide for the preservation of the status quo’ (North-Coombes 2000: 38). Today, the legacy of these liaisons is still clearly present in Mauritius, and a number of Franco-Mauritian surnames are clearly English in origin, though now pronounced in a French manner. Tere has also been some cultural exchange between the British and Franco-Mauritians. However, in general, the Franco-Mauritians’ ‘French’ culture was the dominant one in the island’s elite circles, as is indicated by the integration of British families into the Franco-Mauritian community. Changes that would eventually lead to the challenging of FrancoMauritian hegemony initially came from elsewhere. Te strong position of the Franco-Mauritians could not, though, prevent the island from substantially changing in another way. Te arrival of large numbers of Indian immigrants signifed a major change in the religious and cultural practices of the island. Tey brought with them new habits, customs and religions – the majority practising Hinduism, with a smaller number professing Islam. In contrast to the French period (of slavery), under British rule the plantation labourers were not forced to convert to the plantation-owners’ Catholic religion. Nevertheless, ‘Indian immigrants were ostensibly the most alien element in society and were crudely stereotyped and relegated to the lower reaches of the scale of social worth, according to a number of imputed racial characteristics’ (North-Coombes 2000: 39). Another diference between the slaves’ situation and that of the Indian immigrants was that the latter could return to their homeland if they chose to do so. Eventually, a third of them did, in fact, return to India (Allen 1999: 75). Te remaining two-thirds would go on to become the majority Mauritian group. Te arrival of the Indian indentured labourers thus had a substantial impact on society, even though the Franco-Mauritian elite position was not directly challenged. 45

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

Gradually, however, the situation of the Indian labourers improved from 1865 onwards. For example, the number of complaints employers and labourers lodged against one another declined dramatically in the early 1870s (Allen 1999: 70, 71). Also, and resembling the elite’s need to establish some ties of vertical loyalty, Franco-Mauritians donated land to their labourers for them to constructs shrines and places of worship, creating the frst associations of workers (Chazan-Gillig and Ramhota 2009). Today, this practice can still be observed. A Franco-Mauritian manager of, and heir to, a sugar estate said: We give fnancial support to the [local] parish. Te Tamil temple [which you could see close to the estate] was given by my grandfather. Sometimes we sell a plot of land for a reasonable price to [social, religious or cultural groups]. But it has to be part of a master plan of the village council, because I want it to be properly done and not in a disorganized way. It also has to be reasonable [in terms of size].

Another important development, and not always to the liking of the FrancoMauritian planters, was the sirdars (overseers) and job-contractors. Tey formed the mediating link between planters and labourers, ‘thereby depriving the estate owners of the opportunity to exercise direct control over their work force’ (Allen 1999: 164). An incipient Indian ‘counter-elite’ emerged out of their midst: ‘As the century progressed, and Indian immigrants began to develop their own sub-elite on the plantations from amongst labourers who had risen through the ranks to become overseers and job-contractors, employers became locked into a power struggle with their own labour managers in an efort to retain control over the workforce’ (Carter 1996: 101). Increasing involvement in commerce, trade and industry provided the communities of Indian immigrants (and their descendants) with fnancial resources that began to create new opportunities in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Tey would take up some professional roles in, for example, law and medicine (Seekings 2011: 160). But according to Carter, ‘whether indentured or free, Indians in Mauritius had to battle with a judicial system which was weighted against them’ (Carter 1996: 202).

Le Grand Morcellement A long-term economic crisis, due to the falling world market price of sugar and various natural catastrophes that struck the island, began to take shape in the 1860s and early 1870s. Tis resulted in the further strengthening of the Indian immigrants’ economic position. Te crisis forced the sugar industry to economize on costs. To manage the crisis, the Franco-Mauritian 46

No Man’s Land

plantation-owners wanted to import cheaper indentured labourers. However, these arrived less and less frequently, and the estate-owners had to look for other ways to deal with the crisis. Te estate- and factory-owners then started trying to increase the efciency of their local operations by centralizing milling activities and upgrading the production process. But more importantly, they also started to subdivide and sell part of their land (Storey 1997: 40; Allen 1999: 73). Te subdivision of the large estates is referred to as le grand morcellement, which continued throughout the rest of the century and into the early twentieth century – and is better documented than the petit morcellement. Te estate-owners had problems with a shortage of capital, but by selling land they were able to extract substantial sums of ready cash from the Indian immigrants, which the latter had been able to save. As a result of this strategy, the Indian immigrants and their descendants became landowners themselves. According to Allen, ‘Indians accounted for almost one-half of the island’s independent proprietors as early as 1891. By 1909, Indians would be cultivating 30 percent of all land planted in cane, a fgure that would subsequently climb to 45 percent by the early 1920s’ (Allen 1999: 74). In total, there were by that time far more Indian immigrants and their descendants privately involved in the sugar industry than there were Franco-Mauritians. In general, the new landowners possessed only small plots of land. It has also often been argued that the estates only sold their less-productive land. However, according to Storey, ‘recent surveys indicate small planters’ land are not inherently inferior’ (Storey 1997: 41). Te new distribution also made possible large-scale Indian commercial involvement in the sugar industry. A number of wealthy businessmen of Indian origin, such as Gujarati traders,13 could mobilize large sums of ready cash to fnance the purchase of plots of agricultural land. In other cases, Franco-Mauritian estate-owners loaned money to make the purchase of land possible, thus establishing some of the frst business relations between Franco-Mauritians and Mauritians of Indian origin (Allen 1999: 156–57). Te grand morcellement initiated a new episode in Mauritian history. Tere was a rapid growth of Indian rural settlements outside the estates, which was considered a form of liberation. Most settlements grew up in the vicinity of the estates, because for the processing of the cane the small planters relied on sugar mills that were owned by the Franco-Mauritian estates. For the FrancoMauritians, the mills were an important resource in the production process of sugar, and guarantors of the continuity of (economic) power, even though during this period the centralization of the sugar mills continued and sugar mills became larger, fewer and more efcient. In an increasingly competitive world market, where prices had fallen and Mauritian sugar had to compete 47

Te Franco-Mauritian Elite

with subsidized European sugar-beet producers, efciency and cost-reducing technology was required (Allen 1999: 158, 169; North-Coombes 2000: 139, 140). Hence, compared to the small planters, the Franco-Mauritian estates had a number of advantages apart from the sugar mills, and thus their elite position was initially barely challenged. When they placed all their bets on the sugar industry in the frst half of the eighteenth century, ‘planters knew little about the exact efect of rainfall, temperature and wind velocity on the formation of the crop’ (Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo 1984: 41), but eventually they built up an impressive and internationally recognized level of expertise in the production of sugar cane. Te sugar estates had far better yields then the small planters because they could purchase fertilizers and new varieties of cane, and they had the means to hire additional labour to work the land when necessary. Tis had an impact on the relative production fgures for sugar. In 1928, ‘Indians produced only one-quarter of the sugar crop despite cultivating 43 percent of the land devoted to cane’ (Allen 1999: 170). Tis disadvantage was further exaggerated when, due to the Great Depression, sugar prices plunged in 1929 and the early 1930s, and many small cane growers were forced to sell their property around this time. Te sale of land that Franco-Mauritians had been ‘compelled’ to do, thereby lessening their hold over the basic resource their elite position relied upon, nevertheless had a positive impact on the emancipation of the Indian population. ‘Access to land was accordingly the means adopted by Indian immigrants to recycle their economic activities and to remodel their power relationship towards other communities’ (Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo 1984: 173). However, the gradual emancipation of Indo-Mauritians was initially left unnoticed. In 1907, Manilal Maganlall Doctor came to Mauritius at Gandhi’s behest to teach Indian immigrants about the traditions and heritage of their homeland (Simmons 1982: 46). Te idea was that they could only be emancipated if they respected themselves. Partly due to the fact that the colonial authorities paid little attention to Manilal Maganlall Doctor’s activities, he was relatively successful in increasing confdence among Indo-Mauritians (Simmons 1982: 47). Trough his activities, there was an increase in cultural and religious organizations in the newly created Indo-Mauritian villages, where no Franco-Mauritians lived to observe the change (e.g., Eisenlohr 2006). Equally, the Arya Samaj, a movement of Hindu reformists established in Mauritius in 1910, had a ‘great infuence on the social, cultural, educational, and political life of the Hindus’ (Hollup 1994: 307). Te Hindus would eventually become the Franco-Mauritians’ strongest opponents in the twentieth century as a result of this increase of self-confdence – and the related power and landownership.

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Conclusion In this historical survey I have tried to give a concise overview of how the Franco-Mauritians established their elite position. Tey were clearly not an elite right from the start, as the island attracted whites of diferent social ranking. Te groundwork for an elite position was, however, easily laid: Mauritius had no indigenous population, and therefore Franco-Mauritians occupied the land without much resistance. Hence, contrary to the African mainland, the Mauritian case is not characterized by the forced and often violent appropriation and displacement of people. Te colonial period, however, was not without its injustices and atrocities. Current refections on the island’s history I have included in this chapter illustrate how the past lingers on in the present. Tis results in contestations and power struggles, with Franco-Mauritians often portraying a selective historical focus, while many of the more recent historical accounts tend to give a less rosy picture of the community’s ancestors. Te (pro-active) accumulation of resources, land in particular, during the colonial period is relevant for an important analytical argument in my work: the analysis of how Franco-Mauritians apply their power in the face of challenges. Franco-Mauritian control over land and the sugar industry were essential to their position of power throughout the colonial period, and this was hardly jeopardized by the British colonial government. Tis chapter incontrovertibly shows how the colonial system was a hegemonic system which facilitated power for the whites, even though gradual changes crept in that challenged the Franco-Mauritian elite position. What was once a cheap workforce sustaining Franco-Mauritian privileges would become a threat to their position, as I will analyse in the next chapter. Notes   1 See the website at: www.soc-histoire-maurice.org/.  2 Te distinction between scholarly and non-scholarly historians is predominantly an institutional distinction, with the scholarly historians having professional careers at overseas universities and the University of Mauritius, while non-scholarly historians tend to have other careers, such as writer, journalist or politician. To a certain extent, it is also a distinction based on the stricter methodological rigour and research techniques applied in scholarly works. Tis is a general distinction, however, as some of the non-scholarly work can equally be of a high standard.   3 Te original spelling seems to have been Mahé de la Bourdonnais, yet in present day Mauritius and most secondary literature the name is spelled Labourdonnais.

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  4 Te Dutch imported small numbers of slaves to the island, too, but since they never really established a plantation economy their presence never led to a slave colony as it did under French rule.   5 Southerners in the USA also defended slavery as a historically recurring and justifable feature of well-ordered societies that had existed from ancient times up to the present. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese argue, ‘[t]he great majority of Americans accepted slavery as an unexceptionable part of the social order until the second half of the eighteenth century, when many in the North and the South began to have moral qualms’ (Fox-Genovese and Genovese 2005: 71).   6 Matthew Flinders, a British navigator and cartographer, was held captive on Ile de France for several years preceding the British invasion. When the British navy interrogated him after his release, shortly before they invaded the island, he provided them with precious information. Flinders also communicated the desire of a number of wealthy white landowners, who he had befriended during his forced stay on Mauritius, to remain neutral in the case of an invasion (Roy 1960: 13). Te absence of resistance on the French landowners’ part might have had to do with the fact that the British Empire was still a monarchy – a number of the white colonists had not approved of the end of the French monarchy in 1789. Besides, they appeared to be of the opinion that an all-out war would destroy their wealth and families.   7 University College London has recently initiated a project about the legacies of British slave-ownership (see the website at: www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/). Te project’s database provides information about all claims that were submitted at the time of the abolition of slavery, and the compensation that was subsequently paid by the British government in their respective (slave) colonies, including Mauritius.  8 L’Express, 31 January 2006.  9 Le Mauricien, 27 March 2006. 10 In 2009, the Mauritian government established the Truth and Justice Commission, mimicking to a certain extent South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Te main aim was to make an assessment of the consequences of slavery and indentured labour during the colonial period and up to the present – as Creoles in particular remain among the poorest parts of the population. 11 Looked at in retrospect, one could say that the steep increase in cultivated land was made possible by the relative proximity of India and its abundance of cheap labour. Te average length of the voyage to Mauritius was six weeks from Madras and Bombay, and eight weeks from Calcutta, while it took between nineteen and twenty weeks to get from India to the West Indies (Carter 1996: 32). Mauritius thus had an advantage over the other main sugar producing colonies, which were principally in the Caribbean (North-Coombes 2000: 33). Tese producers all experienced similar problems in the post-abolition period, but ‘Mauritius was ofered the opportunity to become the site for this “great experiment” in the use of free labour to harvest sugar because of its previous experience with Indian workers, its large expanse of virgin land and its proximity to the source of [labour] supply … It was a model for other British sugar colonies to follow’ (Carter 1996: 19–21). 12 Ryan Sailor (2012) partly credits the postcolonial ‘Mauritian miracle’ to the close collaboration between the Franco-Mauritians, as export-oriented sugar planters, and the colonial state. According to him, the success of Mauritius in recent decades, especially in

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comparison to other African countries, may originate in the by-product of this historical pattern of coalition politics, namely the growth of the state capacity (Sailor 2012: 476). 13 In the second part of the nineteenth century, a small group of Indian traders and merchants settled on Mauritius, predominantly coming from Gujarat. Together with the small group of South Indian business people who were already present on the island, they constituted a small component of the business community (which was overwhelmingly white), but they could nevertheless obtain a strong position in trading, in particular with India. Tey possessed their own boats and shipped Mauritian sugar to India. In Mauritius, they also sold Indian goods like vacoas bags to the sugar industry and clothing and rice to the large group of indentured labourers of Indian descent. To facilitate increasing trade with India, Mauritius adopted the Indian rupee as its currency in 1876, changing it in 1877 to the Mauritian rupee. Due to their small number, the Gujaratis did little harm to the FrancoMauritian elite position, and although they supplied many goods to indentured labourers there were signifcant class diferences between these groups of Indian origin (Pitot 2000b: 362, 380, 390, 400–407) – an aspect that still has an impact in present day Mauritius.

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Chapter 2 Defending White Hegemony

n I have shown in the previous chapter that the bedrock of the FrancoMauritian elite position, land ownership, placed them at the top of the economic and political hierarchy throughout most of the colonial period. In this chapter I will analyse how they faced challenges to their position from the early twentieth century onwards. In his memoirs, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the frst prime-minister of independent Mauritius, writes, ‘I was a direct product of that crucial age [i.e. the early decades of the twentieth century] from which emerged a new Mauritius purged from its all powerful Oligarchy’ (Ramgoolam 1982: 19). Te 1930s, in particular, were a watershed for the Franco-Mauritians and were the prelude to Mauritian independence. How Franco-Mauritians faced the trajectory towards Mauritian independence ofers relevant insights into the workings of elite power (in the face of change). Te Franco-Mauritian position was increasingly undermined, to the extent that their hegemonic position started to crack. However, what a decline of hegemony entails for elite power is poorly explained in the existing literature on elites and power, notwithstanding that declining hegemony would evidently mean the loss of power.

Power According to Scott, we should not assume by defnition that elites are allpowerful and that organizationally dominant groups will hold all the other power resources of a society. He argues, ‘power is intrinsically tied to the possibility of resistance, and the power of the elite must be seen as open to challenge from the resisting counteraction of its subalterns’ (Scott 2008: 38). Obtaining large tracts of the island’s land and ensuring their strong 52

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economic and political position can importantly be attributed to the FrancoMauritians applying their power proactively or expansively. While today they still apply their power expansively, this and the following chapter illustrate that there is also another dimension to elite power: Franco-Mauritians often use their power ‘defensively’. In other words, they, and other elites, often apply their power in response to others – not only in the case of declining hegemonies, but in many other situations as well. Tis use of ‘defensive power’ by elites appears to contradict widely shared analytical relations of power between the principal and the subaltern. Max Weber defned such a relation as one actor having power over another, and thus the imposition of one person’s will on another. Weber wrote of ‘“[p]ower” (Macht) as being the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests’ (Weber 1968: 152). Weber’s notion of ‘power over’ and the imposition of one person’s will on another defnes one side as having power and the other as resisting power. Since elites tend to be seen as the principal agents, this assumes that they are all-powerful. Tis prevailing perspective of domination from a ruler’s perspective has a long history in Western thought (Brennan 1997: 92). Because of this view, it is often assumed that elites are the ones exercising power proactively and expansively. But as I will illustrate, elites, especially in the face of change, tend to defend their interests and privileges as a reaction to external challenges to their position. Tis implies that we have to analyse power without the a priori assumption that elites and/or other powerful groups use power proactively and are the main driving forces behind the exercise of power. In order to maintain their position they often have to defend themselves, and for a better theoretical understanding of the workings of elite power the introduction of the concept ‘defensive power’ is, I argue, essential. Franco-Mauritian wariness of too much public attention illustrates that they are perfectly aware of the challenges they may face – real or perceived. In that sense, the elite’s perceptions and self-defnition matter. C. Wright Mills argues that, in the USA, ‘[m]ore generally, American men of power tend, by convention, to deny that they are powerful’ (Wright Mills 2000: 17). Social psychologists confrm that there is a paradoxical misuse of power by those who perceive themselves as powerless but who are actually in a socially recognized position of authority (Bugental and Lewis 1999). In such cases, people’s subjective sense of power has more impact on their thoughts, feelings and behaviour than their objective position of power. From this analysis, one could argue that elite members who feel powerless will think and behave like powerless people despite the fact that objectively they have more power than others. It could, of course, be that only when elites feel threatened do they ‘realize’ the workings of power, though in a negative 53

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manner: they feel powerless, while they may be less consciously aware of power (or see it as the natural course of events) when they use it proactively and the burden is carried by others. Tis is not to say that elite perceptions about real threats – such as the potential use of force and violence by subaltern groups – should be ignored. Te slave revolt in Saint Domingue and the violent expropriation of the land of white farmers in Zimbabwe shows that their opponents could put their power into practice. Treats to use violence do not appear empty. In other cases, threats may never be actualized. With respect to the elites’ perceptions, as mentioned already, it is nevertheless important to take into consideration their opponents’ capacity do something. Eric Guimbeau’s comment about the politicians who want to kick the Franco-Mauritians out (see Introduction) seems to confrm this. Franco-Mauritians may still have substantial power, though it has certainly declined since the early twentieth century. Tis, as I will illustrate in later chapters, afects the elite’s self-perceptions of their own power. Because they see themselves as under pressure, and perceive others as competitors vying for their privileges, their perception of their opponents’ potential use of power (imagined and real) can be of signifcant infuence. Such patterns may have an impact on how elites balance their willingness (or lack thereof ) to ‘share’ power with a desire to oppose change, and as such, perceptions may, accordingly, manoeuvre an elite to adopt a position of defence, either by adapting a low profle or by openly acting defensively.

Facing Change For much of its history, the dependence of the Mauritian economy on the sugar industry had kept the Franco-Mauritian community at the top of the island’s socio-economic hierarchy – of which the legacy is still very pertinent, since Franco-Mauritians have maintained control over land and the sugar industry, as I will analyse in the next chapter. Virtual control over core economic resources in the colonial period gave Franco-Mauritians substantial political power as well. Tis was a tremendous advantage over other communities, who had hardly any political infuence at all. Only gradually did this start to change under British rule. As Dogan and Higley argue, ‘a change of political elites is possible only if there is an organized opposition and thus a reservoir of counterelites’ (Dogan and Higley 1998: 23). Demands for more reform were made from the 1880s onward. Tese demands focused on a fairer electoral system and, especially, on a broadening of who was eligible for sufrage, a right which until then could only be claimed by Mauritians with signifcant property and education. Te conservative sections of the Franco-Mauritians and also the gens de couleur 54

Defending White Hegemony

who already had the right to vote opposed the demands. Tey could not prevent change completely, and the rules of eligibility for sufrage changed. Yet, this did not lead to broadening the electorate to a very large extent. Te political game was simply extended to a small number of Mauritian men, of diferent origins, who did not belong to the wealthiest section of the population but who nevertheless had sufcient means. Even this small change, though, frightened the conservative Franco-Mauritians. Tey feared the day the Indians would become dominant in the council and that they, the whites, would become a minority. Despite the gradual establishment of a Hindu counter-elite, however, at the beginning of the twentieth century the Franco-Mauritians mainly faced political rivalry in their own midst. As had happened before with Adolphe de Plevitz, this came from some of the more liberal parts of the community. Tis rivalry was partly refected in the Mouvement rétrocessioniste, which rallied for the return of Mauritius to the French fag during the second decade of the twentieth century. Te main driving force for this campaign came in the form of a number of infuential gens de couleur, yet it drew support from a number of Franco-Mauritians as well. Opposing this move was a counter-force of Franco-Mauritian estate-owners and businessmen, supported by a number of Indo-Mauritian businessmen. In the case of the Franco-Mauritian estate-owners and businessmen, they may have been culturally closer to France, but they economically relied on the British. Tis was essentially a question that depended on a consideration of economic interests and was settled to the British sympathizers’ advantage. Te 1921 elections marked the failure of the Mouvement rétrocessioniste (Simmons 1982: 29–32; Boudet 2004: 109–14). For an understanding of rivalry and anxiety among Mauritians of diferent backgrounds, and the legacies of these rivalries in postcolonial Mauritius, the movement is illustrative. According to Simmons, the strong involvement of the gens de couleur in the retrocession movement actually had a hidden agenda: Tere was more to the retrocession movement, however, than a pull toward France. What the retrocessionists believed but did not say openly was that by uniting with Madagascar and Réunion [both French colonies], Mauritius could be saved from the ‘Indian peril’. All around they saw Indians becoming small planters and professionals, and they saw ahead to the day when these Indians could dominate politics and economics in the island. Te people most vulnerable to such a change were those in the colored community [i.e. the gens de couleur], who could expect to be pushed out of jobs by upwardly mobile Indians. (Simmons 1982: 30)1

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Conversely, Franco-Mauritians opposing the Mouvement rétrocessioniste were also driven by fear of the Indo-Mauritian community. Tey were anxious that the French might grant universal sufrage, and thus jeopardize their political power and control over the island’s afairs, which they had enjoyed for so many years (Simmons 1982: 31; Boudet 2004: 112). Tis shows that fear of the emancipation of the Indo-Mauritians, and the infuence this had on the shaping of the struggle for independence, afected more than just the Franco-Mauritians. Mauritians excluded from political representation initially challenged the political system by emphasizing class instead of ethnic, religious or cultural afliation. Te frst demands for a fairer electoral system came not from the Indian communities, whose masses the Franco-Mauritians feared most, but from a small number of gens de couleur. A number of liberal gens de couleur politicians campaigned to improve the situation of the poorer classes, who were still deprived of the right to vote. Tese politicians also campaigned to combat malaria which, by then, mainly afected the poor (Simmons 1982: 23). Te growing attention paid to large groups of labourers and their participation in the battle for their own fate led to hostilities and riots during the 1910 elections. Tese hostilities were generated by the election campaigns of the opposing liberal gens de couleur politicians, who campaigned for more freedom for labourers, and conservative Franco-Mauritian politicians, who opposed this. In one incident, a large group of Creoles awaited FrancoMauritians, representing supporters of conservative politicians, at the railway station in Port Louis in order to attack them. Tis plan became known about in advance, however, and most of the Franco-Mauritians abstained from working in the ofce that day. Te riots were seen by Henri Leclezio, a leading fgure in the Franco-Mauritian community at the time, as ‘proof that the blacks are not ripe for self-government’ (Benedict 1965: 23). Tese were the frst signs of the concrete exercise of power used in resistance to white hegemony, notwithstanding that the Franco-Mauritians continued to dominate the economic and the political sphere of the island. In the 1930s, one British assistant under-secretary observed: Te white planters are excessively ancien regime. For them the Bastille seems not to have fallen. Tey have, under the present constitution, an overweighted political power. Tey … understand the technique of making things uncomfortable for the [British] Governor unless he moulds his policy generally to confrm with their views and commercial interests. (Arthur Dawe, 30 August 1937, cited in Seekings 2011: 162)

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Te 1930s In the decade preceding the Second World War, Franco-Mauritians faced the emergence of serious challenges to their position as large numbers of Mauritians who had been excluded from the island’s afairs began to prosper. In February 1936, the politician Dr Maurice Curé, of gens de couleur origin, and some of his friends, organized a public meeting at the Champ de Mars in Port Louis. Tis meeting marked the foundation of the Labour Party, and was the fnal result of a process that had got underway during the preceding decades due to increasing attention being given to the situation of the labouring classes. Tis was not exclusively a Mauritian phenomenon but should be considered in the global context of the rise of socialism and the workers’ struggle. In Mauritius, the Labour Party was the frst party completely devoted to the well-being and grievances of the labouring classes, regardless of these people’s ethnic background. According to Simmons, the party’s focus refected the zeitgeist because at that time political divisions were marked by class diferences rather than by ethnic ones (ethnic diferences were not absent, yet they were initially less prominent in the struggle of the working classes, as I will analyse in Chapter 5). Te party’s leaders refected this notion as well in terms of their make-up: Tey were a heterogeneous group of people, although initially the main leaders were gens de couleur. One of Curé’s aides was Pandit Sahadeo Rama, a follower of Gandhi and the main link between the party and the Indian National Congress (Simmons 1982: 54, 58, 61). At frst, the British colonial government ignored Curé’s primary concerns: constitutional reform and freedom to form trade unions. Tey considered Curé a ‘haphazard demagogue, windbag’ (Simmons 1982: 60) and an ‘agitator’ (Jackson 2001: 109). According to some colonial administrators, silencing the party’s leaders was the best way to keep Mauritius calm. Moreover, Sir Bede Cliford, who was the colonial governor of the island from 1937 to 1942, argued that introducing into Mauritius a franchise that would take the rule of the colony abruptly out of the hands of the whites was not desired. According to him, the Franco-Mauritians were the indigenous population who had been responsible for its development. He defned the ‘Indians’, whom the Franco-Mauritians feared most, as newcomers whose chief claim was their numbers and unskilled labour (Cliford 1964: 235) – this resonates the nowadays less frequently expressed Franco-Mauritian perception of Indo-Mauritians as ‘invaders’, which I will discuss in Chapter 3. But some ofcials in London actually tended to be receptive to the grievances of the Mauritian labourers. Tey recognized the deplorable situation of the working classes and the unjustifed monopoly of political power of the Franco-Mauritians (Simmons 1982: 62–63), and this marked the beginning 57

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of the British colonial government’s changing attitude. Te emancipation of the working classes was fuelled by dissatisfaction with their situation. Te Great Depression of the 1930s had devastated the economy of the island, which was solely reliant on its sugar exports. Te situation further deteriorated when sugar mills reduced the buying price of a specifc kind of sugarcane mainly produced by small planters. Te sugar mills were still mainly in Franco-Mauritian hands, as was the control of the island’s scientifc institutions – and ‘access to sugar cane was a central grievance of protestors’ (Storey 1997: 142). In August 1937, this led to a number of strikes and riots pitting workers against their employers, the sugar plantations. Tese were the frst riots in Mauritian history where fatalities occurred. An angry mob of labourers from one of the island’s sugar estates attacked a factory, which was owned by an economically powerful Hindu family (an exception to the general rule). Te staf of the estate where the riots broke out were terrifed when the labourers advanced, and a number of them opened fre on the crowd, killing four labourers. Later that same month riots caused the death of another labourer, bringing the total of fatalities to fve. Tese riots are considered a turning point in Mauritian history. Te British colonial government could not ignore the grievances of the working classes any more, and as a result changes were made. ‘[T]he Mauritian government began to incorporate non-elite groups within the structures of the state, to guarantee the peace’ (Storey 1997: 149). Furthermore, ‘[t]he state and the elite learned a paradoxical lesson: that they could distribute sugar cane varieties, the lynchpins of the economy, as a way to quell social unrest’ (Storey 1997: 152–53). In other colonies, this was a time of labour disturbances as well, these generally being fuelled by inadequate colonial policies, economic depression (Sutherland 1979: 120; Simmons 1982: 64–68) and the unequal distribution of sugar-cane varieties (Storey 1997: 153). On the Caribbean island of Antigua, for example, large strikes marked the start of increasing participation of the masses in the island’s afairs (Richards 1983: 18–20). Changing circumstances in the 1930s and 1940s led to a situation that the Franco-Mauritians had never experienced before. Now that they no longer had the unlimited support of the British, their position was ‘open to the resisting counteraction of its subalterns’ (Scott 2008: 38). Te Second World War only slowed this down, as this major crisis in global history directly followed the economically difcult 1930s.2 Mauritius was not a battleground during the war, but it was certainly afected in other ways. Te war led to further economic hardship for labourers, small planters and, to a lesser extent, the Franco-Mauritian elite.3 Politicians campaigning for the emancipation of the masses could no longer be stopped, and shortly after the

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war, in 1945, the drafting of a new constitution was suggested – eventually bringing an end of Franco-Mauritian hegemony.

Transition After the Second World War, the general course of events became infuenced by the new ‘anti-colonial’ superpowers, the birth of the United Nations and a signifcant shift in the metropolitan view of empire. Economic hardship further increased when cyclones devastated the island at the beginning of 1945, leading to a 30 per cent drop in the output of the sugar industry (Jackson 2001: 9, 152–55, 177). Te 1937 riots, the emancipation of the labourers and the Second World War and its direct aftermath were, thus, to cause a radical shift in the island’s political landscape. Until then, the FrancoMauritians had successfully defended and maintained their elite position. Prolongation of this situation had been facilitated by the structure of colonial society and, as a consequence of this structure, the support and close cooperation existing between the British and the Franco-Mauritians. In 1945, the drafting of a new constitution was suggested. Te issue was heavily debated in the columns of the Franco-Mauritian newspaper Le Cernéen, but to little avail as the new constitution-drafting process did not have the outcome that Le Cernéen and the Franco-Mauritians had hoped for. Under mounting pressure from non-white Mauritians, especially IndoMauritians, the British drafted the new constitution in 1947. Te FrancoMauritians were furious with the British because, contrary to what had occurred in the past, the British colonial administration virtually ignored their suggestions for the new constitution. Tis new policy stemmed from the fact that the British were now of the opinion that, for the well-being of the colony, the working classes and counter-elites should be given a voice. Te Franco-Mauritians knew that a radical change in sufrage would undermine their political power and increase the political power of the IndoMauritians (something, as I have already shown, that they had been afraid of from the end of the nineteenth century). Franco-Mauritians’ practice of lobbying and using their political infuence proved insufcient to protect their political position at this time. Te changing attitude of the British resulted in a clear defeat for the Franco-Mauritians and a victory for the Indo-Mauritians. With hindsight, Franco-Mauritians seem to hardly resent the British and the change they initiated. My general impression is that, even though at that time it led to a decisive undermining of Franco-Mauritian hegemony, Franco-Mauritians now realize that they have been able to maintain an elite lifestyle. Instead, Hindus symbolize the struggle. Not only were they the Franco-Mauritians’ 59

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local opponents, but struggles between the two are also still prevalent in present-day Mauritius. Te British, on the other hand, no longer play a signifcant role in Mauritius. In 1947, Franco-Mauritians obviously perceived the new constitution as a threat to their position, since it substantially increased sufrage. It gave the right to vote to everyone above twenty-one years of age who could pass a simple comprehension test in one of the specifed languages of the country: English, French, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Chinese (in the case of Mauritius Hakka) and local Creole.4 Ethnic diferences symbolized by language, until then mainly a private issue, now corresponded with obtaining a political say. Although it was not until 1958 that universal sufrage became a reality, the result was an increase in the electorate from 11,714 to 71,782.5 Te 1948 elections, the frst under the new constitution, therefore, marked the collapse of almost 150 years of Franco-Mauritian hegemony. Te community ceased to have the almost exclusive right to dominate the most important spheres of Mauritian society. Only one Franco-Mauritian, Jules Koenig, who had never been part of the Franco-Mauritian sugar oligarchy, was elected. Te Mauritian constitution, however, required that the government nominate the Legislative Council members. Here the historic ties between the Franco-Mauritians and the British helped them: the colonial government nominated a substantial number of Franco-Mauritians, even though none of them had supported the new constitution. Despite this, the Franco-Mauritians had to face a new political reality and to look for other means of securing political infuence. Te Franco-Mauritians involved in the sugar industry started to back Jules Koenig via Le Cernéen. Tis clearly represented an adaptation to the new circumstances, and appears to have been motivated by a shared (ethnic) background. Before the war, the more conservative Franco-Mauritians and Le Cernéen had considered Koenig a traitor and Bolshevist. He had often defended the cause of the working classes, even though he did not support universal sufrage. According to Koenig, universal sufrage had dangers which could negatively afect the working classes themselves. He also feared moves among Indo-Mauritians to team up with Indian nationalists (Simmons 1982: 100, 101, 107). Franco-Mauritian resistance appeared in the form of a rearguard action because universal sufrage was granted, against their wishes, in 1958. Tis initiated the turbulent 1960s which had, as its main issue, the question of independence. On one side were to be found most Franco-Mauritians, who opposed the idea of independence. Tey generally teamed up with the gens de couleur and the Creoles. Tis created an association between the descendants of the slave-owners and the descendants of slaves, and was largely solidifed by a shared Catholic faith. Contrary to the early decades of the twentieth century, when gens de couleur politicians would oppose whites on the basis 60

Defending White Hegemony

of class diferences (in defence of the working classes, which included most Creoles), they now grouped together as Catholics. Te Catholic Church, however, was not known for its forward thinking, and throughout the colonial period sustained a hierarchical and patriarchal system with the whites at the top – until well into the postcolonial period, churches had benches at the front reserved for whites. On the other side in the struggle over independence were, predominantly, the Indo-Mauritians. Or better said, the Hindus, because as a result of a legislative process which had been set in motion some decades before, from 1962 onwards Indo-Mauritians were ofcially classifed in two diferent groups: Hindus and Muslims (Bal and Sinha-Kerkhof 2007: 124). Te Hindus had the mass of people on their side but, and of equal importance, by now a Hindu elite had been frmly established as well. Tey were, typically, descendants of the overseers and job-contractors who had been the frst to move socially upwards in the late nineteenth century. Tis elite was a less cohesive group than the Franco-Mauritians: it had a shorter history as an elite; caste and religious diferences prevented widespread intermarriage; and a much larger pool of potential elite members, the Hindu community, made difcult the consolidation of an interconnected elite (as had happened in the early days of the island’s white elite). Tere were just too many members for too few political positions to prevent competition, even though there also appeared to be a certain level of solidarity based on a shared ethnic background. In Chapter 5, I will analyse more closely how ethnicity became a defning factor in Mauritian politics, and how this plays out on the maintenance of the Franco-Mauritian elite position in postcolonial Mauritius. Here it is sufcient to say that the shifting balance of power, which until the 1948 elections had been more or less stable in the hands of the Franco-Mauritians, was certainly of infuence in ethnicity gaining prominence (Simmons 1982: 157). As a consequence of losing political power, the Franco-Mauritians increasingly considered Hindus to be their main enemy. Tis was, for example, refected in the slogan péril hindou, popularized by the Franco-Mauritian editor-in-chief of Le Cernéen, Noël Marrier d’Unienville, in the early 1950s (Boudet 2005: 38). Jules Koenig also campaigned against the ‘Indianization’ of Mauritius – he supported the interpretation that India wanted to annex Mauritius. From his memoirs it becomes evident that Ramgoolam solely puts the blame on his opponents for the ethnicization of Mauritian politics, including the Catholic Church: Another citadel of conservativism – the Catholic Church – was also used as a convenient platform to fan the fame of anti-Hindu feelings. Te Catholic Church was very much the preserve of the Oligarchy which formed the bulk of the

61

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priestly class. Te insidious brain washing by the Church resulted in a slow but steady erosion into the broad-based, multi-ethnic foundation of Labour popular support. (Ramgoolam 1982: 96)

Ramgoolam exculpates himself and the Labour Party in the process. He is certainly right in putting blame on the Franco-Mauritians and their allies for creating confusion and ethnic division. Yet, increasing hostility experienced along ethnic lines happened in interaction with the Hindu elite’s increasing domination of the Labour Party. Many of the newly emerged Hindu elite had joined the ranks of the Labour Party. Gradually they became a dominant factor in the party which they used as a political vehicle to connect with the Hindu masses. What had begun as a party promoting the interests of all labourers was increasingly considered a party favouring the interests of the Hindu masses. Tis fostered the growth of ethnic politics, in the Mauritian context predominantly defned as ‘communal politics’, of which the legacy is still very present. Even though the Labour Party played the ethnic card less openly than Le Cernéen – in principle the party supported the cause of all labourers – support on the basis of ethnicity was to their advantage because it mobilized support among the majority of Hindus. Te Labour Party did not really need to lower itself by using ethnic rhetoric, though. Te party’s politicians only had to counter-attack the ethnically motivated attacks of their opponents (as is shown by the example of Le Cernéen in the fnal battle over independence) to come out on top.

Deciding Independence Franco-Mauritian loss of power is symbolized by the position of the FrancoMauritian newspaper, Le Cernéen. As one of the oldest French-language newspapers in the world, founded in 1832, it was from its inception unconditionally linked to the Franco-Mauritian community and the sugar industry’s interests. As I have shown in the previous chapter, its founder, Adrien d’Epinay, was the most prominent anti-abolitionist in the struggle to resist the ending of slavery. Tereafter, defending the Franco-Mauritians’ and the sugar industry’s interests remained at the core of Le Cernéen’s credo, often attacking the government when the upper echelons of the sugar industry disliked a government decision. During the period of the growing political control of the Hindus, Le Cernéen played a role illustrative of the position in which the FrancoMauritian community found itself. When the question of independence presented itself, the newspaper was used by scaremongers to mobilize most of the Franco-Mauritians and other minorities, like the Creoles, Sino-Mauritians 62

Defending White Hegemony

and Muslims, as part of its opposition to independence. Te newspaper proclaimed the Labour Party and its leader Seewoosagur Ramgoolam to be its main enemies. According to Simmons, it was not only Ramgoolam’s own political abilities but also Le Cernéen’s campaign that assured him the leadership of the party: ‘a goal just about the opposite of the one the paper had set for itself ’ (Simmons 1982: 113). As a result, Ramgoolam writes, ‘Mauritius like Algeria, Rhodesia, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau was plagued with a powerful reactionary White population which was opposed to the advance of democracy and socialism. Te Whites cared only for their narrow, selfsh class interests’ (Ramgoolam 1982: 92). Te new Franco-Mauritian strategy for establishing alliances with other ethnic groups, propagated by Le Cernéen, proved efective. Te renowned writer V.S. Naipaul, who visited Mauritius in the 1960s at the invitation of Ramgoolam, writes, ‘Te coloureds [i.e. the gens de couleur], following the white example, became anti-Indian. Ten the Creoles (blacks) also fell for that. Te main agent for that change was [Gaëtan] Duval. Tat is the importance, the malefc importance of Duval; bringing over the blacks on the side of the whites’ (Naipaul 1972: 283). Te Creole Duval encouraged the fears of the Creoles and of others. He had taken over the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD), the main party opposing independence. Tis party had been founded by Jules Koenig and was considered a FrancoMauritian stronghold. Koenig, however, was aging and the party needed a larger support base. With the charismatic personality of Duval, the PMSD managed, as Naipaul observed, to rally many Creoles behind its campaign. Duval was considered to be the personifcation of the coalition of Creole and Franco-Mauritian interests, as Simmons notes: ‘[i]n 1963 he was content with his new title “King of the Creoles”, and with an allegedly handsome salary supplied by the sugar estates’ (Simmons 1982: 157). Duval, together with Le Cernéen’s Noël Marrier d’Unienville, was the driving force behind the denouncing of the Labour Party’s demands for independence. Driven by the coalition between Franco-Mauritians, Creoles and other small communities, Le Cernéen dedicated many of its columns to attacking Hindu politicians. Trough its systematic campaign in favour of the anti-independence coalition, Le Cernéen hoped to aggravate the population’s feelings of anxiety and insecurity. It accused the Independence Party (a political alliance which was dominated by the Labour Party) of being ‘racist’ and of ‘insulting the Creoles’.6 Le Cernéen compared the alleged racism of the Labour Party to race riots in Detroit in the United States,7 a clear reminder of what it thought could happen should the Independence Party win. Initially, this proved an efective strategy because many ordinary Mauritians also feared ‘Hindu domination’. Tis was certainly to the advantage of Franco-Mauritians: on the basis of their small numbers they 63

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could never make a diference in electoral terms. Yet the coalition seems not to have been completely orchestrated by Franco-Mauritians. Tere was a genuine fear among other communities, specifcally among gens de couleur and Creoles, that in an independent nation dominated by Hindus they would lose their positions in the state apparatus by upwardly mobile IndoMauritians – a similar explanation to that for the gens de couleur’s support for the Mouvement rétrocessioniste in the early 1920s. Te question of independence fnally culminated in the decisive 1967 elections. Tese turned out to be a close call between supporters and opponents of independence: Te pro-independence block won, but received only 54.82 per cent of the votes.8 Tis fgure corresponded closely to the percentage of Hindus, although it would be wrong to simply equate the supporters of the pro-independence movement with the Hindu community. In the end, for example, Ramgoolam managed to gain the support of a Muslim political party – with hindsight he said he would never have won independence for Mauritius without the Muslim community’s alliance (Ramgoolam 1982: 89). Te election results, however, show how many Mauritians had been drawn into the anti-independence camp, apparently not having much trust in an independent nation. Tey feared Hindu domination and the deterioration of the economy without the help of Britain. Tis demonstrates how Le Cernéen and the PMSD had managed to mobilize large numbers of people behind their anti-independence programme, even though the direct participation of Franco-Mauritians as politicians was very limited. In the 1967 elections they numbered only 8 out of a total of 139 candidates; these eight all stood for the PMSD.9 And since a slender majority of the 139 candidates belonged to the pro-independence alliance, Le Cernéen’s and many FrancoMauritians’ most dreaded outcome became a reality: in 1968, Mauritius was granted independence under the leadership of its frst prime minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. Te struggle over independence pushed the island into a state where ethnic divisions were amplifed. Initially inspired by the actions of individuals such as Noël Marrier d’Unienville, Jules Koenig, Gaëtan Duval and Hindu politicians dominating the Labour Party, these divisions gradually became more salient, and determined many facets of everyday life. In the fnal months before independence, this situation had led to the frst ethnic riots in Mauritius, resulting in numerous casualties (Simmons 1982: 160, 186) – though Franco-Mauritians had not been the target of the riots, despite their active role in the political campaign. Te riots mainly occurred in a number of areas in the Port Louis region, where hardly any Franco-Mauritians resided. Te riots were also not only politically related; they refected a feud between semi-criminal gangs of Muslims and Creoles (Eriksen 1998: 151). Ethnicity thus became a defning phenomenon in 64

Defending White Hegemony

Mauritian society. It redefned socio-political relations and led to the institutionalization of ethnicity in Mauritian politics – in the form of the Best Loser System (BLS), as I will more closely illustrate in Chapter 5. Tat ethnic tensions did not further worsen after independence, quickly calming down in fact, is often credited to Ramgoolam and his Labour Party. Tey were able to identify areas of common interest with opponents such as the Franco-Mauritians; the economic well-being of the island, in particular, was of intense concern to both parties. Te Labour Party also included a number of very wealthy traders and landowners whose economic interests directly coincided with those of the Franco-Mauritians. Besides, as Simmons argues: However distasteful Ramgoolam may have been to the Creoles and the FrancoMauritians, almost all of them knew someone who knew and thought well of him. Tis interdependence has helped the Franco-Mauritian community to relinquish peacefully its position of dominance to the Indians, the largest community; in turn, the Franco-Mauritians rely on the Indians for the preservation of civil order and for the labor necessary to maintain the sugar estates. (Simmons 1982: 200)

Te Franco-Mauritian Nicolas de Boullencourt, who joined the PMSD in 1965, confrmed this attitude. He told me in 2006: ‘Tere wasn’t a lot of animosity after Mauritius was declared independent. I have friends in the Labour Party, which is like in the UK: we fght in parliament, but we’re on equal terms after politics’. Furthermore, de Boullencourt argued that the PMSD was not actually against independence. Tey had just wanted to wait until the UK joined the European Common Market, so that Mauritius could gain independence within this economic union. Te only diference, according to him, was that the Labour Party wanted independence at that particular moment. I would argue, however, that contrary to these retrospective arguments, the whole preamble to independence shows that the PMSD, in reality, rallied strongly against independence without a clearly expressed desire to become independent at a later moment in time.

An Independent Reality Franco-Mauritians were undoubtedly anxious about their future on the island. In the transition to independence, Franco-Mauritians and other Mauritians also left the island, as the British and many whites in other former colonies had done before them. Creoles and gens de couleur predominantly migrated to Australia, and in smaller numbers to Europe. With reason they feared for their jobs in the public sector because the Hindus had, apart from 65

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taking control of the political domain, entered en masse into the public sector. But the emigration of Franco-Mauritians and other Mauritians was not only initiated by fear of Hindu domination and the ‘disaster’ independence would bring, as Ramgoolam (1982: 112, 113) suggests. In the fnal decades of the British period, the population had increased tremendously, due amongst other things to the eradication of malaria around 1949. In the period from 1901 to 1931, the population had been more or less stable, at just under 400,000, and then it increased signifcantly. Mauritians started to look for greener pastures, particularly in Australia, Europe and Canada. Monique Dinan estimates that 66,415 persons emigrated (ofcially and unofcially) in the period between 1961 and 1982; of these, a small number, approximately 1,630, went to South Africa (Dinan 1985: 21), these latter predominantly being Franco-Mauritanians. Many of the Franco-Mauritians that migrated to South Africa settled in Natal (part of present-day KwaZulu Natal), on the east coast. Tis represented a migration pattern which, as Boudet (2004) has thoroughly shown, already had a history dating back to the end of the nineteenth century (see also Bullier 1981). Fear over independence simply encouraged much larger numbers of Franco-Mauritians to depart for South Africa. FrancoMauritians’ choice of South Africa was related to its geographic proximity, a similar climate and the presence of the sugar industry, amongst other reasons. Boudet argues that until the end of the apartheid regime, the existence of a political system which reproduced the conditions for white dominance was an important reason to choose South Africa as a migration destination (Boudet 2004). With respect to the consolidation of their elite position, the migration patterns of Franco-Mauritians are important. In general, the Franco-Mauritians who migrated to South Africa did not belong to the wealthiest group of Franco-Mauritians, those who most often controlled the island’s most important economic resources. Historically, the ‘poorer’ Franco-Mauritians had been those more inclined to migrate. Or, as a FrancoMauritian retired accountant born in Durban, South Africa, told me: My father at the age of thirty had reached the top of what was possible. He was working for a sugar estate as an employee and all the higher jobs [in the sugar industry] were divided among families owning the estates. Tus, in 1939, my father, who did not belong to the wealthiest families but had ambition decided to leave for South Africa with my mother and eldest brother.

Of the Franco-Mauritians, he said, ‘the large rich families remained in Mauritius and exported their money [illegally, as the government had introduced exchange controls], while the poor migrated physically’. FrancoMauritians falsifed the export invoices of products going to Mauritius in 66

Defending White Hegemony

order to get around exchange controls with the help of Franco-Mauritian accomplices in South Africa. Another retired Franco-Mauritian accountant residing in the vicinity of Durban explained how he visited the island about four times a year with a briefcase full of secret information. He said he was never stopped because his Franco-Mauritian clients had bribed the custom ofcers: ‘a nowadays retired ofcer, nicknamed the shark, always stamped my passport and made sure I went through without problems’. Tough the majority of his clients were Franco-Mauritians, he said he even had wealthy Mauritian Muslim clients who illegally exported capital – the only restriction applied in this case was to not invest in alcohol. While the physical departure of ‘poorer’ Franco-Mauritians seems to have been the trend, some wealthy Franco-Mauritians did indeed leave the island. A member of one of the island’s most established business families remembered that many departed, selling their homes, businesses and beautiful campements (seaside bungalows) for almost nothing. Ultimately, however, Franco-Mauritian economic status was scarcely challenged – Franco-Mauritians who remained may actually have profted from the departure of other whites, as there were fewer whites to compete with for the available management positions, especially when the economy expanded in the 1980s. Economic dominance could be maintained because the new political elite, predominantly of Hindu background, initially sought political power only, and was able to identify areas of common interest with opponents such as the Franco-Mauritians. As Simmons noted, ‘both understand that political instability would destroy their own positions’ (Simmons 1982: 193). Te Franco-Mauritians who remained were, however, clearly pushed into a corner by the transition to independence. Yet even then they did not ‘surrender’ easily.

No Deal I frequently heard and read the argument that ‘a deal was struck’ at independence: ‘Te local capitalists who chose to remain in Mauritius (at least half ) accepted an implicit bargain in the early 1970s. Tey yielded their political dominance and accepted some redistribution from growth in exchange for the legitimacy that modest social-democracy would generate – provided social reform excluded exorbitant taxes or asset redistribution’ (Sandbrook 2007: 133–34). Despite this claim, I argue that a closer look at diferent sources suggests that instead of striking a deal Franco-Mauritians gradually came to realize that their political role was over. Te frst independent government was a coalition between the two opposing blocks, the Labour Party and the PMSD. Ramgoolam initiated 67

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this national unity government to reduce the stark divisions the struggle over independence had created, and to face, together with the support of the private sector, the island’s economic challenges. As has been said, Hindu politicians and Franco-Mauritian business realized that they needed to cooperate. But not all Franco-Mauritians were willing to collaborate with Ramgoolam and his associates, which shows that the community should not be considered as a united block. Le Cernéen, for example, stopped its scaremongering about a Mauritius dominated by Hindus since the issue of independence had become irrelevant. Yet, the newspaper continued attacking its opponents. Le Cernéen’s new strategy for depicting its opponents drew on the contemporary world’s global superpowers, the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. A preference for the anti-communist block was not completely new to the newspaper, since over the preceding decades it had already taken a stand in this respect by referring to the alleged communist preferences of its opponents. As has been mentioned before, the FrancoMauritian politician Jules Koenig was also accused of communist sympathies in his early career. Neither was this something specifc to Mauritius; branding opponents as communists was, according to Max Gluckman, a habit not uncommon among other whites in Africa: ‘Tese events provoke violent reactions from the White group and, without apparent basis but in line with modern witchcraft-thought, the immediate accusation without enquiry that they are due to Communist propaganda’ (Gluckman 1958: 17). Te apartheid regime in South Africa also tried to unite the entire white community under the pretext of a ‘total onslaught’ by communist forces (Handley 2008: 50). And Ian Smith, the last prime minister of Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), argued that his opposition to the Black Nationalist movement, which emerged in the early 1960s, was related to the movement’s communist ideology and not its members’ skin colour (Smith 2001). Le Cernéen considered independence a good moment to revive its former positioning, and it aligned itself with the USA. Tese were the heydays of the Cold War, when the spheres of infuence of the two superpowers reached well into Africa and the Indian Ocean. Te Franco-Mauritian businessman Jacques Gougeard clarifed the actual infuence the Russians had on life in Mauritius. He told me, ‘Ramgoolam senior was for most times a reasonable prime minister. Only during the periods that Russian ofcials visited Mauritius he got a bit tougher [on Franco-Mauritians and their businesses]’. Jacques Gougeard’s comment is, however, a retrospective comment, even if his views may be closer to reality than to how Le Cernéen represented it at the time. Te newspaper perceived communism to be its main adversary, and frequently associated itself with apartheid South Africa, which was the USA’s most loyal partner in Africa.10 Like white elites in other former colonies, they feared that communist and also socialist tendencies would deprive them of 68

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their privileges. Te national unity government with the PMSD was partly aimed at guaranteeing that property rights would be respected (Bräutigam, with Diolle 2009: 15). Jefrey Frankel (2010), as a matter of fact, considers private property rights, in this case the non-expropriation of the sugar plantations, as one of the foundations for Mauritius’ later African success story. Tis, however, did not stop Le Cernéen from attacking its political, and allegedly communist, opponents. Apart from members of the Labour Party, shortly after independence a new enemy was also introduced, this time one from the Franco-Mauritian community itself: Paul Bérenger. Bérenger was a young politician who openly condemned Franco-Mauritian control of the island’s economic resources and who, together with an ethnically mixed group of young sympathizers, founded the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM). In Chapter 5, I shall more closely analyse the career and position of Bérenger; he is a particularly interesting case regarding the workings of ethnicity in postcolonial Mauritius. What further refutes the belief that a deal was struck at independence is that the 1976 elections, the frst to be held in independent Mauritius, can be considered as another blow to the already diminished extent of FrancoMauritian political power, at least to that political power openly applied in the defence of Franco-Mauritian elite’s interests. Direct political representation had diminished, and a few young Franco-Mauritians were even standing as candidates for the MMM.11 Nevertheless, more conservative Franco-Mauritians still did not withdraw entirely from politics. For example, a Franco-Mauritian CEO of one of the island’s then three most powerful business groups continued to combine economic power with political power. Te CEO was not only a candidate for the PMSD in Curepipe, but also one of the party’s most infuential advisers.12 In the frst decade after independence, Franco-Mauritians thus remained directly and indirectly active in politics, continuing to make fnancial contributions to political parties as before. Tis was all to be in vain, however, because in 1976 the PMSD was severely defeated by the big winner, the MMM.13 And yet a coalition between the Labour Party and Duval’s PMSD eventually formed the new government, thus preventing the MMM from obtaining power. Unlike the 1967 elections, when, amongst others, Le Cernéen had been able to rally signifcant support behind the PMSD, most supporters had abandoned the party ten years later on – the party only obtained eight seats out of a total of seventy. Te most valid explanation here, then, would be that the FrancoMauritians and their associates had become alienated from the electorate’s needs and wishes rather than having ‘struck a deal’ with their opponents. Franco-Mauritians were just not able to draw sufcient support, yet they were so accustomed to their role as the ones in command that even after 1968 they tried everything to maintain this position. In no way, however, am 69

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I suggesting that Franco-Mauritians and politicians did not cooperate at all, and I agree with Bräutigam (2009) that the Mauritian success story should partly be contributed to their cooperation. My analysis, however, is that it is a gradual learning process, with the Franco-Mauritians opposing change and at the ‘right’ time giving in so as to de-escalate conficts and maintain their elite position. Te case of Le Cernéen is illustrative, because FrancoMauritian business realized that there was a limit to their contribution to the public debate if they wanted to maintain their elite position.

Closing Doors Le Cernéen was a newspaper marked by its double defence of the sugar industry’s business interests and Franco-Mauritian ‘ethnicity’ and history. Tese two concerns were, of course, difcult to separate, since the sugar industry was fundamentally linked to the Franco-Mauritian community. Yet, in the new reality of an independent Mauritius, this combination came under pressure. Not only had Mauritius gained independence, in two successive elections the politicians backed by the newspaper had also lost. Te newspaper’s contribution to public debate was then, in some senses, becoming problematic for Franco-Mauritian economic resources – the (re) main(ing) pillar of Franco-Mauritian power. Around 1980, Le Cernéen’s combination of defending the whites and the sugar industry came to be perceived by many Mauritians as ‘not opportune’ anymore. Franco-Mauritian businessmen also realized this. Tey required good working relationships with the government, and considered Le Cernéen’s rhetoric to be problematic for these relationships. Moreover, these businessmen were thought to have the power ‘to do something’ about the newspaper. Le Cernéen had always existed by the grace of Franco-Mauritian businessmen because they partly fnanced it.14 Consequently, the newspaper had to care about the opinions of the Franco-Mauritian sugar industry. Yet Le Cernéen had its own traditions and convictions, which sometimes clashed with what Franco-Mauritian businessmen were striving for. Tis resulted in an ambivalent position, as illustrated in the novel by Jean-Pierre Lenoir, the last editor-in-chief of Le Cernéen, entitled La Plume du Corsaire (Lenoir 2000).15 Lenoir nowadays runs a wine business in the bustling centre of Port Louis. Inside the shop, which is housed in a one-storey colonial-style building, there is little daylight and noise from the street. Boxes with wine are stacked up, and the shop breathes the tranquillity of a wine cellar. In 2006, in his ofce at the back of the shop, Lenoir gave me his version of the ‘fall’ of Le Cernéen. According to him, the newspaper ‘had to be in line’ with the sugar industry’s opinion. However, it did not always actually adhere to this. 70

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Te newspaper’s criticism of politicians was not well received by politicians and government ofcials, and they increasingly put pressure on FrancoMauritian businessmen to silence Le Cernéen. As a result, these businessmen started to mount pressure on the newspaper. Tey tried, for example, to change its stand on certain issues by blocking advertising income. Lenoir told me, ‘it was not about advertisements of the sugar industry, but other businesses that advertised in the newspaper: the sugar industry just had the power to pressure other [Franco-Mauritian] businesses to stop advertising in Le Cernéen’. Te newspaper’s historical stance on key issues was now also seen as a disadvantage. Firstly, many politicians had not forgotten the newspaper’s anti-independence stand (Lenoir 2000: 62, 69). Secondly, the reputation of the founder of the newspaper, Adrien d’Epinay, as mentioned in the previous chapter, started to haunt Le Cernéen. As a founder, his name was in the colophon of the newspaper. Lenoir was asked to remove d’Epinay’s name from the newspaper by one of its fnanciers. As I have already shown, Lenoir was proud of the newspaper’s founder, and he refused to remove the name. Te respective businessman then decided to cease fnancial support for the newspaper (Lenoir 2000: 104, 114, 115). In efect, the editor-in-chief then started looking for fnancial support in France. He hoped to convince the French to contribute to the preservation of the newspaper, since Le Cernéen was one of the oldest French-language newspapers outside France. He did not, however, fnd suffcient support. When the MMM fnally came to power in 1982, the fate of the newspaper was sealed. Twenty-fve years later, Lenoir told me, ‘someone wrote how I was fghting the MMM and its communist connotations, while under the table the [Franco-Mauritian] sugar barons and the politicians were discussing important matters’. His suspicion was that the MMM had made it clear to Franco-Mauritian businessmen that it would be appropriate to cease fnancing Le Cernéen in order to stop the newspaper from interfering in political debate. According to Lenoir, the representatives of the sugar industry never told him about their objections personally but, nevertheless, he said, ‘I felt how I was an obstacle to them’. In the new reality, the business community was no longer able to unite itself behind a publicly voiced single communal message (Lenoir 2000: 204), and therefore realistically saw no other option than to stop fnancing the newspaper. After 150 years of existence, the newspaper had to close its doors on 15 May 1982.16 Tis shows how Franco-Mauritians were sensitive to government pressure, a further indication that the power balance had truly changed: not only did FrancoMauritians have to accept competition from others, the new powers could also enforce their will upon them. Te closing down of Le Cernéen, then, was symbolic of the Franco-Mauritians’ changing position in Mauritian society. Most Franco-Mauritians seemed to fnally realize that their part in public 71

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debate was over and, as a community, they stopped voicing their opinions in relation to their elite position. Tey adopted a low-profle position in public debate, focusing instead on their economic interests.

Conclusion In the prelude to independence, the Franco-Mauritian elite, resonating Weber’s analysis of power, did things it would not otherwise have done due to the exercise of power by others. Te Franco-Mauritians applied their power to resist pressure and maintain the status quo. Like colonial elites elsewhere, they failed, however, to secure their hegemony. Te 1948 elections, the frst under the new constitution, marked the collapse of almost 150 years of Franco-Mauritian hegemony. Tis led to functional elites – that is, distinct political and economic elites – because Franco-Mauritians no longer had unlimited access to resources that could be mobilized for political power. With hindsight, for a small elite opposing the power of much larger groups appears a lost cause. Franco-Mauritians, for example, could have decided that, over time, they would not stand a chance against a majority made up of, specifcally, Hindus. Yet they did not directly accept their (political) defeat. My assumption is that cultural patterns afected their drive to maintain political power (and not strike a deal); for generations FrancoMauritians had passed on their elite dominance, and coming to terms with counter-elites who successfully challenged their (political) power was not easy for them. Only gradually did the Franco-Mauritians come to realize that their (in)direct political role was played out in postcolonial Mauritius, and that they were no longer the designated political power. Tey could no longer obtain sufcient political support, while the Hindus had the advantage of a large degree of support based on ethnic afliation. Instead, they realized that to maintain economic power they had to give up their political voice. Te maintenance of economic privileges are not without challenges, however, and in the next chapter I will address how in the Mauritian case Franco-Mauritian control over economic resources is both a source for confict and collaboration with postcolonial governments. Notes   1 Ramgoolam (1982: 28) argues that the gens de couleur were driven by racial prejudices. Tey hoped that France would have considered all Mauritians on equal footing. Based on their French language and culture, this would have given the gens de couleur a common and equal French identity with the Franco-Mauritians, one, however, that would be elevated

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above others, yet based on culture and not on race. According to Ramgoolam, the IndoMauritian population would have still been regarded as secondary citizens, but on the basis of culture. With France as a symbol of power and civilization, the ‘legitimate’ French descendants (gens de couleur and Franco-Mauritians) would become the civilizers of the Indo-Mauritians. According to Ramgoolam, then, an important aim of the return of the island to France, and one he despised, was the assimilation and civilization of the IndoMauritian population through French language and customs and the Catholic religion – this echoing similar policies of the French colonial period.   2 A number of Mauritians served in the British army, but also in the French Free Forces – the latter being predominantly Franco-Mauritians. Supporting the Allied forces was, however, not a foregone conclusion for the Franco-Mauritians – a number of them supported the Vichy regime, and the Dodo Club, an important institution in Franco-Mauritian sociocultural life, was allegedly a pro-Vichy bastion. Tis caused friction not only within the Franco-Mauritian community but also between Franco-Mauritians and the British; these frictions, however, never led to any substantial problems (Jackson 2001: 12, 172). Retrospectively, this friction tends to be downplayed. ‘Te division between Vichy and the de Gaulle supporters was not that big or important’, said one Franco-Mauritian nonscholarly historian. According to him, Marshal Pétain (the leader of the Vichy regime) was seen as a traitor – something, he argued, ‘proved by the fact that many Franco-Mauritians fought for the French army and the British RAF – owing to their bilingualism the FrancoMauritians were involved in special operations as well’.   3 Te fact that many Mauritians served in the British army did not bring Mauritians of diferent social backgrounds closer together. Franco-Mauritian social and economic dominance was translated into the way people were incorporated into the army ranks, and refected racial boundaries on the island: Franco-Mauritians served predominantly in commanding positions, while other communities mainly occupied lower-ranking posts (Jackson 2001: 112). Moreover, in the case of certain military units of equal rank, Mauritians were racially segregated: some solely contained Franco-Mauritians, while others were stafed by gens de couleur (Sornay 1950: 252). Non-white Mauritians complained about the colour bar, which had been banned more than a century ago but which was reintroduced in the army. In actual fact, however, numerous Franco-Mauritians were against arming other Mauritians in the frst place. Tey had the feeling that it was dangerous to give the non-white population military training, and that non-whites would never make good soldiers. Te British government admitted the existence of racial segregation in the army but denied encouraging it. Te governor claimed that the races created the ‘divisions’ themselves and that, certainly in a time of war, it would not be sensible to conduct ‘social experiments’ in military units (Jackson 2001: 110–13).  4 Le Cernéen, 26 February 1948.  5 Le Cernéen, 2 April 1948.  6 Le Cernéen, 4 July 1967, 22 July 1967.  7 Le Cernéen, 25 July 1967.  8 Le Cernéen, 9 August 1967.  9 Le Cernéen, 11 July 1967, 13 July 1967. 10 Le Cernéen, 1 April 1968. 11 Le Cernéen, 22 November 1976.

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12 Le Cernéen, 9 November 1976. 13 Le Cernéen, 21 December 1976. 14 Tey had also fnanced the last editor-in-chief ’s journalism studies in France – in return he had to work for the newspaper in this role. See Chapter 4 for similar patterns of fnancing (Franco-)Mauritian tertiary education. 15 La Plume du Corsaire is an account of events written in the style of a novel; the ‘facts’ may, therefore, have been altered for the sake of the storyline. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the novel (in combination with other data) gives an indication of what led to the downfall of the newspaper. My discussion of the novel here is supplemented by data I obtained via personal communications with Lenoir. 16 More than twenty years after its downfall, Le Cernéen was relaunched as an online newspaper on 23 October 2006, though after an initial period of activity it seems to have become defunct since. As in the past, the newspaper defended the interests of the Franco-Mauritian community, which provided interesting insights into Franco-Mauritian perceptions of government policies and political opponents. Te internet is important here because it created the opportunity to defend Franco-Mauritian and other interests – both almost always in the context of opposing the Hindu domination of politics – openly and without fnancial aid from the Franco-Mauritian private sector. Franco-Mauritian businessmen actually seemed to avoid providing any open input. Briefy put, the impact of the online newspaper was certainly more limited than its paper predecessor.

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Chapter 3 Balancing Confrontation and Collaboration

n Te power constellation in postcolonial Mauritius is much more diverse than it was during the colonial period. With the Franco-Mauritians losing their hegemony, they have become, as I have shown in the previous chapter, one of the island’s ‘functional elites’, in their case relying predominantly on economic resources. In this chapter, I will analyse Franco-Mauritian economic power in postcolonial Mauritius. New insights I have already presented in the previous chapter about elite power have to be combined with more traditional views of power. Tat the Franco-Mauritians face challenges of new and upcoming powers and try to defend the status quo does not imply that more traditional views about elite power are irrelevant. Existing theoretical insights into elite networks and interlocking directorates, for example, will help us to understand how Franco-Mauritians have succeeded in prolonging their elite position. A good knowledge of Franco-Mauritian economic power and their control over resources in postcolonial Mauritius is, moreover, essential for grasping how confrontations and collaborations with, especially, the government and political representatives infuence the position of the Franco-Mauritian elite.

Opposition and Collaboration Franco-Mauritians continue to apply their power defensively in postcolonial Mauritius, as the example of Le Cernéen has already shown. Tey work behind the scenes and avoid open confrontation to maintain power. But I will also address circumstances in which Franco-Mauritians defend 75

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themselves openly against challenges to their position, often unexpectedly contributing positively to prevent further decline of their elite position. Solely opposing change and defending an elite position, however, does not help explain the Franco-Mauritian role in the economic development the island has witnessed, especially from the 1980s onwards. Franco-Mauritians, as I will show, do not just exercise their power to defend their position from opponents, for they also maintain their elite position by relying on more complex interactions with the ‘new’ political powers. Hindu politicians in particular obtained political power in the transition from colonialism and postcolonialism. Franco-Mauritians in collaboration with diferent postcolonial governments have been very active in the development of the island in the postcolonial era. Te economic success story of Mauritius is largely the result of collaboration between the public and private sector. When, in the early twenty-frst century, Mauritius faced economic decline, both sides were equally active in looking for new ways to turn the tide. Franco-Mauritians, though certainly not always initiators, frequently engage with political and state powers to enhance economic development. Relationships between different power holders in Mauritian society, then, are like elsewhere often full of paradoxes. In this chapter I will show that there are numerous examples of collaboration between Franco-Mauritians and new upcoming powers. I will argue that Franco-Mauritians’ relative success in maintaining their elite position is really a story of defensive and more expansive forms of power, and of both confrontation and collaboration.

Economic Power In 2007, about twenty-fve years after Franco-Mauritian businessmen chose to safeguard their economic interests by relinquishing high-profle public opinion and political involvement, Franco-Mauritians were still a dominant player in the private sector – and they continue to be so. Franco-Mauritians seem to have relatively successfully consolidated their economic power. Tey have heavily invested in new domains of the economy with money directly originating from the sugar industry. Especially in big business, FrancoMauritians have a strong presence. In 2007, they constituted the majority of the boards of slightly over one-third of the island’s top one hundred companies, including fve of the top ten companies (Business 2007).1 All these fve are related to the (legacy of the) sugar industry. Either the business group has a branch managing land and sugar industry assets and/or substantial share ownership is related to families whose wealth originates from the sugar industry. Tis origin and the industry’s association with the colonial past

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makes for an interesting comparison with other sugar-producing (former) colonies. A number of the most prominent and wealthy families in the Philippines were once major players in the sugar industry, owning land and mills. According to Michael S. Billig, however, this fact is unknown to many Filipinos because nowadays these families have little to do with the sugar industry. Tey have diversifed or given up on sugar entirely (Billig 2003: 251, 254). In Martinique, the Békés (the island’s white elite) have successfully diversifed away from the sugar industry and remained economically powerful. However, in contrast with the Filipinos, they are still much more strongly associated with their plantation past (Vogt 2005: 215, 313, 314), in part because they remain in possession of large tracts of (agricultural) land (Zander 2013). I think that diferences in geography and the small size of Martinique and Mauritius when compared to the Philippines are the reason that the sugar industry (and the memory of it) is much more omnipresent in the two former cases. For example, in the Philippines the sugar industry is only located in certain regions, and with its declining importance a change from rural elites to urban-based commercial, industrial and fnancial interests has occurred (Billig 2003: 3), in the process making many Filipino’s unaware of the origins of the related wealth. In Mauritius and Martinique, in contrast, most people seem to be aware of the origins of the white elites, partly because the islands are too small to create a strong urban/rural divide. In Mauritius, for example, nobody can ignore the existence of sugar-cane because it grows everywhere on the island. Even today the largest Franco-Mauritian business groups remain involved in the sugar industry. More and more of the land, however, has been converted into other kind of developments, real estate in particular. Te legacy of Franco-Mauritian landownership is signifcant in these cases – as I will show later, these developments often happen in close collaboration with the government. Te legacy of Franco-Mauritian economic power is considerable also in how diferent individuals and families link a large number of Franco-Mauritian-controlled companies in an interlocking network.

Interlocking Directorates Based on public information about the Mauritian top one hundred companies in 2007, and using my knowledge of (Franco-)Mauritian family names, I have analysed the management and board of directors of the companies. When looking at interlocking directorates, the Franco-Mauritian grip on the private sector seems to be even stronger than it might appear at 77

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frst glance. Of sixty-six Mauritians that had two or more seats on boards of directors, forty-three were Franco-Mauritians. Tis is an indication of higher elite cohesion, because when the boards of directors are linked to each other by people holding directorships on several of these boards, interests are more likely to be identical as these linkages imply a relatively strong crossover of opinions, interests, practises and strategies among board members (Davis, Yoo and Baker 2003). According to the pioneering work of Brandeis (1914) and, in the mid 1950s, Wright Mills (2000) and his contemporaries Domhof (1978) and Dahl (1961), the study of networks is especially relevant in the understanding of elite power – notwithstanding their disagreements about the presence of one unifed elite. Interlocking directorates, in that sense, give a good indication of shared interests and opinion, even though they are in themselves not sufcient for explaining the function and origin of networks. After all, the range of possible networks is substantial: boardrooms and educational institutions, ties of friendship, the openings of exhibitions, ofcial events, clubs, hunting parties, families and so forth. A focus on formal networks with a high degree of visibility limits the potential for spotting the importance of informal networks and other sources of interconnection (Camp 2003: 149). Cohen, for instance, has argued that in liberal societies adhering to the principle of equality of opportunity (usually upheld by their constitutions), the networking serving the particular interests of elites is often performed secretly (Cohen 1981: xvi). In light of shared opinions and practices, networks moreover do not necessarily emerge out of strategic intent. Instead, they can be unplanned and embedded in social and cultural logics and smaller face-to-face milieus, such as the elite family (Wright Mills 2000; Schijf 2013). I will examine this more closely in the next chapter and show that, to understand elite power, looking beyond the direct exercise of power is also required. Figure 1 shows Mauritius’ top one hundred companies in 2007, highlighting connections to each other through interlocking directorates. Sixty-two out of a hundred are interlinked, with only six not being directly connected to the grid. Te circles inside the bold box nodes – thirty-seven in total – are the companies that have a substantial degree of FrancoMauritian control – that is, Franco-Mauritians make up more than 50 per cent of the boards of directors or joint ventures with foreign companies (this last category assumes that Franco-Mauritians are the only Mauritians involved). Subsequently, the lines connecting the companies indicate that an individual director has board positions in both companies connected by the line, i.e. the interlocking directorates. Te thicker the line, such as between company two and sixteen, the stronger the overlap between the board of directors of both companies. 78

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Figure 1: Interlocking directorates of Mauritius’ top one hundred companies, 2007. Note: Numbers correspond with ranking in the list. Circles inside the bold box nodes are Franco-Mauritian-controlled companies or joint ventures between Franco-Mauritians and foreign companies, with the lines representing people holding directorships at companies at both ends of the lines. Te graph of interlocking directorates is made with the help of the program UCINET 5.0 Version 1.00 (Borgatti, Everett and Freeman 1999).

Tat Franco-Mauritians controlled about one-third of the top one hundred companies in 2007 implies that many companies are owned and controlled by businessmen from other backgrounds. Although there is no comparative data set for 1968, it is safe to assume that since the end of the colonial period there has been a substantial increase in non-Franco-Mauritian input into the private sector. Te contemporary Mauritian economy has a larger variety of players, a more diverse portfolio and relies less on the sugar industry than at the time of independence in 1968. Te evidence from 2014 indicates that Franco-Mauritian input has remained more or less the same – I will show below that their control over land has actually helped to consolidate their position after the turbulent years following the 2005 elections. Criticism of ‘Franco-Mauritian capitalists who control everything’ seems not to be valid anymore; nevertheless, a widespread and persistent Mauritian perception that the private sector equals the Franco-Mauritians remains. In

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2006, a Sino-Mauritian businessman told me, ‘the Franco-Mauritians own the big multi-something companies and for the rest of the Mauritians there are some niche markets left’. In a more nuanced way, a Mauritian businessman of Muslim origin argued, ‘Te dominance of the Franco-Mauritians in the private sector depends what economic sector you look at. If we talk about the sugar industry, we talk about Franco-Mauritians only; if we talk about tourism then Franco-Mauritians are very powerful; and if we talk about the textile industry then players are quite diverse’. Moreover, as shown in Figure 1, Franco-Mauritians are connected to other Mauritian businesses. Tese are not altogether separate worlds. And besides, Franco-Mauritian businesses have always employed non-Franco-Mauritians. In the past they employed them mainly as labourers and lower-ranking staf, but nowadays they also increasingly employ them in management positions formerly reserved for Franco-Mauritians. Tus, on the one hand, Franco-Mauritians have been able to maintain a strong grip on the private sector, though it is difcult to precisely determine the Franco-Mauritians’ stake in the local economy. Te data available is just too vague and is not sufciently targeted according to ethnic background to really establish a reliable fgure for this. Both Mauritians and FrancoMauritians alike, however, assume that the stake represents up to 50 to 60 per cent of the Mauritian economy. A Mauritian economist even argued that the Franco-Mauritians ‘control 75 per cent of the economy’, although this appears farfetched. It is clear, though, that Franco-Mauritians still control, in relation to their numbers, a disproportionate part of the private sector. Moreover, there is, as already illustrated by the interlocking directorates, (relatively speaking) close co-operation among Franco-Mauritians – they are often perceived as a united block that knows how to defend its interests collectively, notwithstanding that there is also competition between and within Franco-Mauritian businesses. Besides, the economic power of a limited number of Franco-Mauritians has a positive efect on the whole community. Not all Franco-Mauritians are proprietors, neither have they all been involved in the sugar industry, yet virtually the whole community reaps the benefts of their strong economic presence, as I will show in the next chapter.

Land ‘Without [control of the] land there would be no Franco-Mauritians, because the land is the wealth they rely on’, remarked a foreign businessman with lengthy experience in the Mauritian private sector in 2006. His remark demonstrates the strong relationship between the Franco-Mauritians’ economic position and the land the community’s ancestors received during the colonial 80

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period. To understand Franco-Mauritian economic power (in particular of the economically most powerful families) is, therefore, to understand the practice of retaining land within the hands of the Franco-Mauritian community. Land was often sold between Franco-Mauritian families, however, as there hardly seem to be families that have been able to pass on land from the frst concession holders to the present generation. Te exceptions are two small concessions in the south-east that have belonged to the same family since 1770 (Boudet 2004: 55). As the Hindu-controlled estate that was the scene of the 1937 riots showed, small numbers of estates and their lands have also been in the hands of non-white Mauritians for a long time. A more common sequence of landownership is the following. Te ancestor of one of Mauritius’ most economically powerful families, the Franco-Mauritian Gougeards, received a concession for a plot of land some years after he had arrived on the island in 1760. His grandchildren, however, sold the land that he and his sons had acquired. Some of the descendants remained active in the sugar industry as employees, but the family has owned one large tract of land continuously since 1912. In that year, the great-grandfather of Guillaume Gougeard, the present CEO of the family holding, bought his own small sugar estate. Obviously, the colonial system facilitated the consolidation of landed property within the confnes of the white community since the Franco-Mauritians had few economic competitors in this respect. As I have already mentioned, FrancoMauritians were often better placed to buy up land, yet they are also suspected of applying cunning ways to repossess the land of others. In postcolonial Mauritius, Franco-Mauritians have largely managed to keep land within the community. In general, then, Franco-Mauritians still remain associated with landownership, although how much of the island’s land they actually possess is difcult to establish. A general estimate suggests that Franco-Mauritians own approximately 36 per cent of the total available land,2 while only about 10 per cent of the island’s land is stateowned.3 Another portion of the total land is made up of small plots of residential land: the newspaper L’Express has estimated that about 90 per cent of Mauritians own the small plot of land that their house is built on.4 More specifcally, about 46 per cent of the island’s surface area is covered with agricultural land,5 of which the Franco-Mauritians own a large stake. In 2007, of all the agricultural land, 66,732 hectares were under sugar-cane cultivation, and only 8,182 hectares were used for other crops – a ratio of 89 to 11 per cent.6 Of the land under sugar cultivation, 68 per cent is owned by the large sugar estates. Tese estates’ landed property, moreover, also include woodlands, mountains and so forth.7 Te remaining 32 per cent of agricultural land is predominantly owned by small cane growers – the majority of them of Indian descent – whose ancestors acquired the land during the grand morcellement, as I have described in Chapter 1. 81

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Owing to the large possession of agricultural land, Franco-Mauritians have been able to maintain their dominance in the sugar industry, the historical pillar of the Mauritian economy. Te Franco-Mauritians produce the bulk of cane, control all the mills and are the dominant force in the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate, which is responsible for the marketing of Mauritian sugar and for bringing together all Mauritian sugar producers. Tis control of the sugar industry by one single elite is not characteristic of all former colonies with a historical involvement in sugar-cane production. In the Philippines, for example, the process of production from planting to milling and trading is divided among several groups, this leading to clashes of interest and the obstruction of moves to improve yields and milling efciency (Billig 2003: 3, 49, 61, 117). In terms of competitors, Franco-Mauritians mainly have to deal with small planters. But as a consequence of the Franco-Mauritian domination of the sugar industry, the small planters, as in colonial times, have difculties competing with the FrancoMauritian estates. A challenge to Franco-Mauritian economic power, in this respect, is that small planters tend to be backed by the government: In 1972, the government agreed to raise taxes on sugar to support the MSIRI [Mauritian Sugar Industry Research Institute; a scientifc institute, founded in 1953, meant to serve small planters and estates alike], but only on the sugar that the estates with factories and large planters produced. Te government even took the opportunity to reduce the levy on small planters’ sugar production at the same time. (Storey 1997: 173)

Historically, the reason for the government’s involvement in the industry has been obvious: until the 1970s Mauritius relied on sugar for 99 per cent of its export revenue (Hein 1996: 19). Te close involvement of the government has barely changed, even since the relative contribution of the sugar industry to the island’s economy declined signifcantly. On the one hand, it could be argued that the government’s involvement has a negative efect on Franco-Mauritian economic power. On numerous occasions, the government has tended to defend small planters but also the interests of labourers employed by the estates. For example, in the ongoing restructuring of the sugar industry, the number of mills has steadily declined. When a mill closes down, the Franco-Mauritian owners are required to have a social programme – approved by the government – for their workers. Tis requirement is not always to the liking of the Franco-Mauritians. Adrien Guidamour, an important player in the sugar industry, said: ‘Te sugar industry in Mauritius is not efcient because Mauritians have a low level of productivity. Te workers, compared to other countries, operate some of the least hours of any in the feld’.8 He continued by stating, ‘the social

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laws in Mauritius are also very constraining, which makes restructuring a painstaking process’. Of course, this is the perception of a proprietor within the industry. Guidamour’s remarks should, furthermore, be seen in the light of FrancoMauritians’ historical attachment to the industry. Franco-Mauritian identity, argues Boudet, is not only marked by their white skin colour, the French language and ‘French’ culture, but also by their monopoly within the sugar industry (Boudet 2005: 24). One Franco-Mauritian argued that possessing a mill is a signifcant status symbol among economically powerful FrancoMauritian families. I would add that their monopoly within the sugar industry and possessing a mill is also very much an indication of control over land. In other (former) colonies, one can observe similar situations. For example, in Martinique, where the sugar industry has substantially declined in economic importance, ‘the plantation past represents a kind of “golden age” for Békés’ (Vogt 2005: 88), while in the Philippines the sugar elite is considered to be too attached to its inherited land to the extant that this has a negative impact on their economic potential (Billig 2003: 85). On the other hand, government involvement has also been a help to the Franco-Mauritians. Sailor (2012) even contributes the ‘Mauritian miracle’ to the state capacity developed as a consequence of close collaboration between the island’s export-oriented sugar planters and colonial ofcials. Notwithstanding occasional disagreements, the British colonial government and the Franco-Mauritians shared similar interests: sugar production for the British market. Te postcolonial government has continued the collaboration, thereby seeking a balance between being perceived as too supportive of Franco-Mauritian interests, and taking charge of the island’s economic needs more generally. Bräutigam, with Diolle (2009) attribute the island’s successful economic development to a large extent to both sides seeing the need to collaborate. Tere has, for example, been close cooperation between Franco-Mauritians and the government regarding the issue of access to the European market under advantageous conditions because the industry has been an important employer and revenue provider (Hein 1996: 23). Te government has always been a strong negotiator in dealings with the European Commission (EC) for selling Mauritian sugar to the unifed European market. Trough the Sugar Protocol of the Lomé Convention and the Cotonou Agreement, Mauritius, under the umbrella of the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacifc) countries, negotiated quotas and preferential prices for their sugar.9 Tese prices were well-above world market prices. Considering that Mauritius was the biggest benefciary of these negotiations (Hein 1996: 23), the Franco-Mauritians, who frmly controlled the land and the mills, thus gained substantial profts. With the Mauritian economy – until the 1970s – unconditionally linked to the ups and downs of the 83

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sugar industry, the paradox of government’s aims to improve the conditions for small planters, labourers and the economy more generally was that it also tended to increase the wealth of the Franco-Mauritian controlled sugar industry. Te export of sugar to British and other European markets, after all, was the engine of the economy, with the Mauritian population’s purchasing power strongly related to revenues from sugar exports. Mauritius may be far away from international business fows, the international market is, at the same time, the bedrock of Mauritian existence.

Control over the Private Sector Access to agricultural land meant access to the sugar industry. Due to control over the land and the sugar industry, Franco-Mauritians were subsequently able to establish a strong infuence over the island’s economy more generally. Tey have, for example, been closely associated with the largest Mauritian bank, the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), for some time. Originally this was not a Franco-Mauritian bank, as it was founded by a British trader in 1838 in response to the Bank of Mauritius. Te latter was a FrancoMauritian bank, founded by Adrien d’Epinay in 1832, which ceased operation in 1848, due to a fnancial crisis in London. Te MCB was afected by the crisis as well, but managed to survive (Lagesse 1988: 3–43). As previously shown, however, Franco-Mauritians were then the dominant local elite, and there were only a small handful of British residents. Over the course of time, the expansion of their interests in the bank helped the Franco-Mauritians to secure a dominant position within the MCB – this kept pace with the decreasing input of British traders, in general, in the Mauritian economy. A retired Franco-Mauritian businessman told me: ‘Some decades ago you could always fnd a job at the MCB as a Franco-Mauritian. It was the bank of the whites, and even if you weren’t too smart you could get employed there’. According to him, this has now changed: ‘average’ Franco-Mauritians are no longer automatically employed at the bank. Besides, all ranks within the bank up to senior management have become increasingly diversifed since the 1980s (Lagesse 1988). Nevertheless, Franco-Mauritians are still dominant at the top of the bank hierarchy: twelve out of the eighteen directors on the board of the MCB were Franco-Mauritian in 1988 (Lagesse 1988). In 2013, the upper management was still completely white, with two out of three being Franco-Mauritian, including the CEO – the third was a foreigner. Te chairman, vice-chairman and a number of directors were Franco-Mauritians as well (Business 2013: 208, 209). Hence, the perception that the bank is a Franco-Mauritian stronghold is both persistent and representative of the current reality. 84

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Mauritius has never been self-reliant, and the island has always imported many of its necessities from Europe, Africa and other parts of the world. Trading frms were thus important on the island, and these tended to be in the hands of British and the small number of Muslim families involved in trade, although some were also owned by Franco-Mauritians. Money from the sugar industry, however, also found its way into trading companies. On the eve of independence, one trading company – involved in, among other things, trading sugar and running its own merchant feet – that had been founded by the British in the nineteenth century changed hands. Te shareholders of the company thought that it would be advantageous for the company to be ‘Mauritianized’. Tey studied various options, and then chose the simplest solution: a merger with another large company in Port Louis. Tis second company was also originally a British-owned trading company, but by this time the two main shareholders were two groups related to several large Franco-Mauritian-owned sugar estates (Austral 2004: 242). Te shareholders of the frst company, the largest of the two, were based in the UK and considered the Franco-Mauritians to be the best option. Besides, there were already ties between the two companies because the young Franco-Mauritian Jacques Gougeard, who belonged to one of the families involved in the second company, was already working with the British company. Te departure of the British traders was thus to the advantage of the Franco-Mauritians. Tere was also little choice in terms of another option as Franco-Mauritians did not have many competitors around the time of independence. Trough the merger, the Franco-Mauritians obtained 51 per cent of shares in the new joint company, while the British retained 49 per cent. Shortly after independence, the newly established frm also purchased one of the oldest companies in the capital, a company which dated back to the French period. According to Jacques Gougeard, the expanding number of Franco-Mauritian heirs to this company considered it too complicated to manage the business themselves, and decided to sell. A few years later, the British decreased their shareholding in the joint company to 41 per cent, and another six years later the British sold all their remaining shares (Austral 2004). Jacques Gougeard told me in 2006: ‘An outside party had made an ofer for the remaining British share. Yet, since we were already involved we could make the frst bid and did not hesitate to do so’. Consequently, Franco-Mauritians now fully control this business group. Te departure of the British, then, facilitated Franco-Mauritian consolidation in the private sector.10 Other than British investment during the colonial era, the small size of the island’s economy has limited the interest of foreign investors in the local market. Beside a limited number of joint ventures with foreigners, there 85

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are only a few multinationals involved in importing into Mauritius – other global brands catering for the Mauritian market such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Phillips and BMW are franchised. In general, it can be argued that Mauritius has historically been too small a market and too far away from international markets for internationally operating companies, something which has been to the advantage of the local private sector.11 According to the Franco-Mauritian CEO of a large business group, limited international interest in Mauritius is an important explanation for the prosperous position enjoyed by the island’s economy: ‘In the end money is reinvested in Mauritius and not transferred to the shareholders of the international businesses in, for example, France [where a large hotel chain like Club Med is based]’. He argued, ‘it is not only the Mauritian companies who proft, but also the Mauritian population at large’. According to this logic, then, the Mauritian success story is to a certain extent explained by Franco-Mauritian emotional attachment to the island. Te small size of the local market has also led to waves of Franco-Mauritian investment abroad. Te relatively small size of Mauritian companies limits their potential, as they can hardly compete with, for example, South African conglomerates involved in sugar-cane production. Over the years, and with varying success, they have found some niches in countries such as Mozambique, Madagascar and Tanzania. Nowadays, Franco-Mauritians are pragmatic in their approach, yet in the past they seemed to have been limited by their beliefs and prejudices. India, for example, is increasingly receiving attention as a place to invest, notwithstanding that India is largely associated with the Franco-Mauritians’ closest Mauritian rivals, the Hindus. A renowned Mauritian (former) editor-in-chief said in 2006, ‘if I had predicted this move thirty years ago the Franco-Mauritians would have laughed at me’. He does admit that this move would have been difcult to predict at that time, though, because even for most Mauritians of Indian descendants ties with India were until recently hardly more than ancestral cultural ties with some sentimental afliation attached. It was only from the 2000s onwards that Indo-Mauritians started to develop interests in the economic opportunities of their ‘motherland’. Te editor-in-chief ’s argument was that the traditional lack of interest of Mauritian Hindus and Muslims in their ‘motherland’ would probably also explain the Franco-Mauritians’ lack of interest in India: if someone close to the land does not show interest then, logically, others more removed would not show an interest either. India’s economic progress has, however, increased global interest in the Indian economy, and the journalist considers it a missed chance on the part of the Franco-Mauritians because, with their close relationships with people of Indian descent, they had an advantage and could have made a proft before the whole world got interested. 86

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Hence, to a certain extent investment abroad, and international business more generally, may be afected by cultural afliations. Yet FrancoMauritians (and other Mauritian businessmen) are not oblivious to the changing geopolitical spectrum, marking the island more and more as a hub between Asia and Africa – a recently established Franco-Mauritian fnancial services boutique is appropriately called AfrAsia. Mauritian businessmen seem to be partly moving away from traditional Western markets, on which they extensively relied for selling sugar and for the new economic ventures Mauritius witnessed from the 1970s onwards.

Diversifying the Economy With a growing population and a mono-crop economy, postcolonial Mauritius needed to rely less on sugar in order to develop. Te government again played a crucial role in the development of the island’s economy, and although this brought new opportunities for Franco-Mauritians it certainly also ofered possibilities for other Mauritians. Te extraordinary structural change the economy of the island has undergone since the 1970s (Lincoln 2006: 59), eventually changing Mauritius into a middle-income country, has been a process with many dimensions to it: the state acting as an important motor behind the restructuring and keeping a close control over the economy; and reinforcement of Franco-Mauritian economic power at the same time as this group was receiving challenges to its economic dominance. To understand the position maintained by a white elite in a postcolonial state, then, is to also realize how (the need for) collaboration infuences the elite’s control over resources. Barbara Wake Carroll and Terrance Carroll attribute the island’s success partly to its political leadership: Mauritius escaped the worst excesses of leadership found in newly independent states in that the commitment of Fabian socialism of Ramgoolam and his allies meant that they did attempt to improve conditions of ordinary citizens. Tey were neither gangster politicians using the state to enrich themselves nor factional leaders committed only to the welfare of their own members. Most other colonies have well intentioned leaders at least from time to time, however, without achieving anything like the success of Mauritius. (Wake Carroll and Carroll 1999: 186)

From the beginning of the postcolonial period, and following up on the colonial period, the state actively engaged in the island’s economic afairs. Te implementation of economic reforms by successive governments, according to Frankel (2010: 9), highlights the stability of the political system and the 87

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state’s ability to do what is best for the country, even though the political spectrum was simultaneously characterized by personal and factional politics. Te frst postcolonial government controlled, among other things, the exchange rate, capital export, parastatal bodies established to promote its social and economic goals, and which also imposed an export tax on sugar. During this period, advice and loans from the IMF and the World Bank were welcomed. Notwithstanding the fact that the state, more than in the colonial period, aimed at creating economic benefts for Mauritians more widely, they had to collaborate with the Franco-Mauritians. Considering that the sugar industry was the sole pillar of the economy, the state needed the industry’s input for the restructuring of the economy. Richard Sandbrook et al. argue, ‘[r]evenues from sugar exports were used to diversify and industrialize the economy, as well as support an expanding welfare state’ (Sandbrook et al. 2007: 125). Te example of Mauritius’ Export Processing Zone (EPZ) shows that the state closely collaborates with Franco-Mauritians (but also other businessmen) to improve the island’s economic conditions, though the by-product of this is the reinforcing of Franco-Mauritian economic power. Drawing on the examples of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, the Mauritian university professor Edouard Lim Fat lobbied for the creation of an EPZ, which targeted Western markets predominantly. Tis export-oriented manufacturing or service venture would, among other things, beneft from special investment promotion incentives, and exemption from customs duties (Bräutigam 2003: 458; Neveling 2006: 2). In the 1970s, the EPZ took on form. According to Antoinette Handley, ‘[a]gain, sugar was to prove the country’s cash cow … Between 1970 and 1983 Mauritian businesspeople provided almost half the total equity capital to the new sector – and 47 per cent of that local equity capital came directly from investment by private sugar companies’ (Handley 2008: 109).12 Te Franco-Mauritians were, thus, able to invest much of the wealth that originated from the sugar industry in the new sector, thereby securing their position. Bernard Lepargneux, for example, comes from a well-established family which has been involved in the sugar industry for generations. In the early 1970s he initiated activities in the EPZ when the Mauritian Ministry of Industry, Commerce and International Trade brought him into contact with a European agency specializing in connecting investors and producers – a clear example of collaboration between the government and Franco-Mauritian businessmen in the island’s economic development. Subsequently, a European contact introduced him to another European friend who initiated a new cooperative business venture which now has around 230 employees. Tereafter, many of Bertrand Lepargneux’s joint ventures were established through the expanding of this network. Tus, 88

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initially stimulated by the Mauritian state, he established his own network. Eventually his family ceased their sugar activities altogether and sold most of their land. Nowadays, he is involved in a variety of joint-ventures in the EPZ and other businesses – the family owns, for example, shares in a top one hundred company. Bernard Lepargneux explained, while showing me his EPZ business situated in a number of white buildings along a strip of asphalt and surrounded by neatly maintained lawns and shrubberies, that all of the companies are joint ventures. Te majority of these are with European companies, though one is with a Franco-Mauritian partner, with share ownership in the realm of ffty-ffty or with the Lepargneux family possessing a minority part of the shares. Lepargneux told me in 2006: ‘I preferably have 30 per cent of the shares when the proft is good instead of 50 per cent without proft. Besides, my foreign partners often bring their specialized know-how, while I look after the local logistics and infrastructure. Te contribution of this vital know-how is why partners sometimes have the majority of shares.’ Te EPZ also provided an unequalled economic springboard for other Mauritians, because EPZ ventures required only relatively small plots of lands and could largely operate outside of the island’s existing business networks. A Sino-Mauritian co-owner of one of the largest Mauritian textile companies – which has successfully adapted by modernizing its production process – argued that the success of a new generation of businessmen was actually related to the nature of the EPZ: ‘When you are engaged in the European and American markets, local circles and networks are of little importance. Te clientele is international. If [my company] had served the local market, it could not have progressed as it has done’.13 Tis quote perfectly illustrates the opportunities the EPZ ofered Mauritians who had fewer opportunities in a local market dominated by Franco-Mauritians – the latter had the economic power to prevent others from initiating economic activities that would directly interfere with their own. Te company of the Sino-Mauritian quoted is, as a matter of fact, among the island’s twenty largest companies but, regarding interlocking directorates, completely independent from the Franco-Mauritian network detailed in Figure 1.14 Te Sino-Mauritians, many of whom were already involved in retail trading and small-scale manufacturing, were connected through business and family networks with the Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Tese Chinese businessmen had the fnancial means and the know-how for large-scale textile manufacturing. It is estimated that 59 per cent of the equity capital in the EPZ came from Hong Kong Chinese in 1982 (Bräutigam 2003: 456–60). Tese Hong Kong Chinese were attracted to Mauritius because it granted them access to the European market – Mauritius had preferential access to Europe under the same agreements as it had for its sugar (Handley 2008: 109). Furthermore, they were worried about the negotiations that 89

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had started between the Chinese and British governments about the future of Hong Kong. Trough their connections with the Hong Kong Chinese, the Sino-Mauritians established joint ventures with these overseas Chinese. Noteworthy, however, is that these joint ventures were certainly not only ethnically driven, since joint ventures were also established between FrancoMauritians and Hong Kong Chinese (Bräutigam 2003: 456–60). Forty years after the establishment of the frst EPZ frms, much has changed. Te textile industry has lost its preferential access to European and American markets. Factories had to close down because of this and increasing labour costs, and many of the Hong Kong Chinese involved in the textile industry left the island, often transferring their production to mainland China, which has become a more accessible economy. In tourism, another emerging sector, Franco-Mauritians largely took control, especially because of their ownership of land (see also Grégoire 2008). Although the large international hotel chains like Accor, Club Med and Hilton are also present, they hardly seem to challenge the local balance of economic power. Tourism slowly developed from the 1950s onwards. Te retired Franco-Mauritian businessman Julien Bodrais was one of the frst involved in the tourism industry in the 1950s. According to him, everyone thought they were crazy to invest in tourism. ‘Te frst tourists were French from the neighbouring islands of Réunion, Madagascar, and other whites from South Africa, Rhodesia [present-day Zimbabwe] and English from Kenya’, he told me. But it was not until the 1980s that Mauritians developed the full potential of this sector, mainly due to the large infux of European tourists (nowadays the Asian markets are also targeted, even though the majority of tourists remain European). Once again, money originating from the sugar industry proved vital, as this was heavily invested in the hotel business.15 According to Handley, ‘[T]he pro-business Creole politician, Gaëtan Duval, was a crucial fgure dynamizing government’s response in this regard. However, this was one of the few areas where the private sector in Mauritius played the lead role in developing a vision for its long-term development. (It was only as late as 1988 that the government established a specifc ministry for tourism.)’ (Handley 2008: 111–12). Gradually, Mauritius developed into an upmarket tourist destination. Franco-Mauritians are often accredited for the success of the Mauritian hotel industry. Tey may have learned the trade from others, such as from the South African tourism mogul Sol Kerzner, but they have certainly been important in maintaining high standards. In the case of the tourism industry, however, competitive advantage also stemmed from Franco-Mauritians’ land possession: building hotels and golf courses required land. But some collaboration with the government was also required, since the hotels had to lease the small strip of shoreline along the island’s coasts that was traditionally state land. 90

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In the past, this pas géométrique was exempted from private ownership in order to give free access to the military for control of enemy ships during the French colonial period. Hence, though tourism may have contributed to the prosperity of many Mauritians, it especially consolidated Franco-Mauritian economic power, something which, forty years after independence, is not always approved of by competing powers.

Managing Troubles When I was conducting feldwork in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the island’s sugar industry faced a problematic situation. In 2005, the European Commission announced the gradual abolition of preferential prices for Mauritian sugar. Owing to problems in the EPZ sector as well, two of the three main pillars of the Mauritian economy were at that time experiencing difculties. Tat preferential prices would be abolished had already been known about for a long time. However, Mauritius had hoped, as it turned out in vain, to negotiate a new deal. Te depression experienced by the sugar industry not only afected the Franco-Mauritian bosses but also all the labourers and the Mauritian economy in general. To make the industry competitive, some factories have had to close down; while there were over two hundred mills in the nineteenth century, in 2006 there were only eleven left, and it was then assumed that only four would remain in the future. What happened as a result of the economic problems perfectly illustrates the complexity of Franco-Mauritian economic power. Tey simultaneously oppose and use their power defensively, and they beneft from collaborating with the government and use their power pro-actively.

Breaking the Monopoly Strong ties between Franco-Mauritian business and politics had already been disrupted in the transition to independence in Mauritius, due in part to the fact that the divide between the political and economic domains became emphasized by ethnic diferences. To a large extent, relationships between Franco-Mauritian business interests and the public sector and politicians actually appear to represent a perpetual power game – with the government often expressing its intention to break Franco-Mauritian economic power. Te increasing number of Indian businesses investing in Mauritius is allegedly politically motivated. For example, the only local Mauritian brewery is controlled by Franco-Mauritians and has no local competitors. With the help of an Indian brewery, the Mauritian government aimed at breaking the 91

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monopoly of the Franco-Mauritian-controlled brewery and weaken exclusive access to economic resources that Franco-Mauritian power relies on in the early twenty-frst century. A well-informed non-Franco-Mauritian businessman said, ‘politicians, reinforced by their cultural ties, use India to break the hold of the Franco-Mauritians on the economy’. Interestingly, a FrancoMauritian businessman said that prior to this he was ofered the chance to cooperate with a foreign investor in setting up another brewery. But he refused the ofer because he did not want to have problems with the FrancoMauritian family that controlled the existing brewery. As I will show in the next chapter, internal group dynamics tend to restrict competition among Franco-Mauritians. Indians, however, are not limited by such restrictions. Te example of the brewery shows that Franco-Mauritians have only limited power to counter their adversaries. In the case of the brewery, all the Franco-Mauritians could do was initiate an advertising campaign to stress the ‘Mauritianness’ of their beer compared to the ‘Indian background’ of the new competitor. Te ‘success’ of the Indian brewery was short lived, nevertheless. It had pulled out and ceased operation when I visited the island in 2014. Most likely this cannot be attributed to Franco-Mauritian opposition. Te local brewery is such a household name on the island that it is difcult to compete with. Moreover, and as I have said before, the Indian brewery may have considered Mauritius too small a market to continue to compete with the Mauritian brewery. Te victor of this struggle was the Franco-Mauritiancontrolled brewery, though maybe more as the result of other causes than their own actions. Te economic troubles Mauritius faced in the early twenty-frst century further sparked confrontations between Franco-Mauritians and the government, once more showing Franco-Mauritians apply their power defensively. In 2005, Paul Bérenger of the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), who had by then become prime minister, lost power after an electoral campaign in which he was branded as ‘favouring the whites’ (see Chapter 5). Te hope was that after the elections things would calm down again. Tis hope turned out to be in vain, however. Directly after the Labour Party alliance came to power – headed by Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, the son of Mauritius’ frst prime minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam – the government transmitted mixed messages. Te government did, indeed, approve a number of Franco-Mauritian-led projects and did not, in fact, end a number of projects, as it had said it would, but actually cooperated with the private sector involved. Some Franco-Mauritian businessmen hinted that the new government had cooperated and given their approval to projects much faster than Bérenger’s regime. But at the same time, politicians continued to challenge Franco-Mauritian privileges in general. Firstly, it decided to change the conditions for the lease of the campement sites (discussed in the 92

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next chapter). Secondly, it introduced a policy designed to allow for the ‘democratization’ of the economy. Te idea behind this was to reform the economy, open it up internationally, break the economic monopolies and, in particular, to ‘increase chances for other local players’. Te president of the government’s commission on the democratization of the economy justifed the new policy by stating, ‘[t]he concentration of wealth brings about distortions in the free play of the market and does not allow the economic system to function in an optimal way’.16 Te government’s proposal for the democratization of the economy – and how they associated this with the issues of the concentration of wealth and the unequal distribution of land – quickly became muddled and more and more ‘ethnicized’. In a country where ethnicity has come to play such a prominent role, this often happens, as I will illustrate below. As a result, the government’s urge to restructure the economy became rather problematic; even so, this policy certainly constituted a challenge to the Franco-Mauritian elite position. In response to the new policy, Franco-Mauritians accused the government of once again resorting to ‘white-bashing’. Jacques Gougeard actually argued that the whole anti-white campaign was unjustifed, because the whites were in Mauritius before the ‘Indians’. His remark was one of the few examples of Franco-Mauritians explicitly referring to the Hindus as invaders.17 A more widely shared argument was that there is a hidden agenda to the democratization of the economy, namely the consolidation of (then) Prime Minister Ramgoolam’s (political) power. According to this view, Ramgoolam intends to take the wealth from the whites in order to distribute it to his own community and other proxies. With respect to this issue, repeated comparisons were made with Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe expropriated white farmers’ land, causing the free fall of the economy. Many Franco-Mauritians said that, in principle, they adhered to the idea of the democratization of the economy, although this depended on what exactly was implied. Tey support the idea of sharing the cake with everyone, but oppose the idea of taking wealth from one group (FrancoMauritians) and giving it to another (Ramgoolam’s cronies and supporters). Franco-Mauritian businessmen involved in the large business groups (the main targets of the ‘democratization’ initiative) also said that there is already a fundamental democratization in process: their businesses are listed on the stock exchange and, thus, they argue, anyone can buy shares in them. It should be noted, however, that even when these companies are listed they are still controlled by Franco-Mauritians because they have the majority of controlling shares – this appears, therefore, to be somewhat of a non-argument. Politicians accused of white-bashing stress that their intentions are not ethnically motivated.18 However, the problem remains that FrancoMauritians still have an unequal share of the island’s wealth, and the 93

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intended democratization of the economy is thus easily ‘ethnicized’. Tis is comparable to the late 1970s and early 1980s when, as Simmons (1982: 195) argues, the MMM and its anti-capitalist rhetoric appeared anti-white not because it was anti-white but because most whites were capitalists. It is, nevertheless, difcult to avoid resorting to exploiting resentment of the colonial origins of the Franco-Mauritians’ privileged position for political gain. Contradictory statements coming from the politicians involved further heighten these suspicions. One politician denied that the democratization of the economy was ethnically driven: ‘Tis policy is not racially and ethnically based, nor based on an arbitrary ideology or revenge for history’.19 But another stated in a newspaper: No economic democratisation policy can leave untouched the present pattern of land ownership, inherited from historical circumstances of inequality and dominance linked to the colonisation – slavery – coolie labour paradigm and subject to an unacceptable level of concentration of ownership. Terefore, the economic democratisation policy needs to address the land ownership/control and management issue as a matter of urgency.20

Even Prime Minister Ramgoolam took an opportunity to associate FrancoMauritian wealth with colonial injustices when he gave a speech at Britain’s bicentennial celebrations of the abolition of slave trade in Hull in the UK in 2007: In my own country, it has left us with a distribution of wealth that is still skewed in favour of those who benefted from slavery. One of the legacies of slavery, that continues to hamper development, is the concentration of ownership of assets. Tis concentration is unfair in a way but also gives rise to misallocation and ineffciency in the utilisation of resources, and impedes growth. My Government is aiming to reform the national economic structure and open doors of opportunity to the population at large. We will achieve this by enlarging participation in mainstream activities and opening access to land ownership. As we see it, the key to economic democratisation is empowerment.21

From the above quotes it appears that the underlying idea is to ofset the perceived unfairness of a situation inherited from the colonial period, which shows how easily an emphasis on ethnicity can divert the discussion. As a result, the ‘real issues’ of monopolies and unequal economic power, disregarding ethnic background, are no longer discussed. Even though FrancoMauritians feel targeted, the emphasis on ethnicity also facilitates them. Te counter-arguments of Franco-Mauritians and others alike almost seem like an excuse for inaction and for maintaining the status quo. Franco-Mauritians say they are in favour of true democratization, but by discrediting, correctly or not, the government’s intentions they end up not actually feeling any 94

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urge to oblige in this process. Playing the victim, however, appears to be a common strategy used by elites who come under siege from counter-elites. With regard to the situation in the Philippines, Billig writes, ‘[o]ne would think by talking to the planters that they are the much-beleaguered objects of government conspiracy to undermine them in every possible way’ (Billig 2003: 156) – even though this elite has a lot more political connections than the Franco-Mauritians do. Tis shows how perceptions of a lack of power shape the elite’s practice, with, in the case of the Franco-Mauritians, land as both a blessing and a curse.

Pay Of Since independence, a pattern of applying economic power in the form of fnancial contributions and donations to government-related projects has emerged as a form of realpolitik among Franco-Mauritians. For example, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, perceived as a politicized institution (see Chapter 1), is situated on a plot of land donated to the government by a large Franco-Mauritian business group.22 In general, Franco-Mauritian businesses make approximately equal payments to the diferent (large) political parties (see also Handley 2008: 123). In the past, these donations were not ofcially declared, something which led to a system with a marked lack of transparency. Donations were paid under the table in ways which could amount to corruption. A signifcant number of old and recent cases of corruption involving politicians and Franco-Mauritian businessmen and related companies still come to light. However, any real and defnitive insight into the scale and impact of corruption is hard to obtain.23 Today, fnancial donations are made more openly, and some of the largest Franco-Mauritiancontrolled business groups even publish details of their donations to political parties in their annual reports. Te sugar industry appears particularly vulnerable to government pressure due to its (symbolic) associations with the colonial past, land possession and the Franco-Mauritian maintenance of economic privileges. Resonating with the newspaper article cited above, a Mauritian journalist close to the Labour Party said in 2006, ‘the unequal distribution of land is at the centre of the problem; without a change nothing will happen’. Here land is obviously a curse in the sense that it attracts the opprobrium of the government – this notwithstanding the fact that the Mauritian economy nowadays relies far less on the sugar industry than before, since agriculture, of which around half is sugar-cane-related, now makes up only 6 per cent of Mauritius’ GDP.24 Hence, when the European Commission’s ending of the system of preferential prices for Mauritian sugar plunged the sugar industry into recession in 95

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2005, confrontation almost seemed inevitable. Reform was required, which would involve the closing of mills and, subsequently, social programmes for the laid-of workers – in these cases the government often demands land from the sugar industry to bring these social programmes to a successful conclusion. Initially, a deal was struck between the sugar industry’s owners, the government and the European Commission (which was willing to fnancially contribute to the reform). But the government stalled and brought the issue back to the negotiation table, demanding extra compensation of a total of 2,000 arpents (about 1,000 hectares), to be paid by the sugar industry for social projects, as it considered the deal to be too advantageous to the Franco-Mauritian sugar industry. It also wanted electricity plants afliated to sugar mills (partly run on bagasse, a by-product of sugar-cane production) to cede some of their shares and to decrease the price of electricity. Tis would, according to the government, compensate for the (allegedly) exorbitant profits they had made on the backs of Mauritian electricity users. Interestingly, it was under an earlier government headed by Prime Minister Ramgoolam that contracts were signed between the state Central Electricity Board and the sugar industry. Te result of all this was deadlock, with the owners accusing the government of making excessive demands and not respecting the rules of fair play. At no point had the extra compensation been brought up in the initial deal, and then, when everything had been agreed, the government came up with the extra demand. Te government was also accused of having an ethnically motivated agenda designed to ofset the injustices of the past.25 Te government, on the other hand, blamed the industry for trying to avoid its social responsibilities. For other politicians, this scenario provided a good opportunity to raise the issue of the unequal distribution of land. It moreover reinforced the perception that the Franco-Mauritian ‘sugar barons’ dominated the private sector, and that ‘private sector’ essentially meant ‘white’.26 In the end, the Franco-Mauritians had to give in to government pressure. Ten the government came back with yet more additional demands. Again, the sugar industry said it could not possibly meet these demands, before it eventually agreed to satisfy a substantial part of them. Te two sides subsequently came to an agreement. Te fnal result: the sugar industry gave 2,000 arpents of land for social programmes, and opened up 35 per cent of the shareholding of the mills – the government demanded 40 per cent and the industry was initially only willing to give 30 per cent.27 Tese shares were, however, not given for free as the government had demanded. And tricky issues like shareholding and other matters relating to the electricity plants were postponed until a later date in order to safeguard the European Commission’s fnancial contribution to the restructuring programme, since the European Commission demanded that the Franco-Mauritian sugar industry and the 96

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government come to an agreement. Someone involved at the European Commission actually considered that the EC had been efectively taken hostage by means of a local feud between the two parties. It was obvious that the Franco-Mauritians and the government were highly dependent on each other and needed to come to an agreement, even though the Franco-Mauritians eventually got the short end of the stick. Mobilization of political power by the government through its privileged access to political resources is something Franco-Mauritians fnd difcult to halt, despite their economic power. Clearly, the sugar industry, despite its resistance, came out second best here: it had to accept most of the government’s demands even though it had initially said that it could not comply with them. Hence, this was clearly a challenge to Franco-Mauritian economic power, though to ease the tension land here worked as a blessing as only ceding resources (land) appeared to help (Salverda 2013). With regards to the theoretical understanding of elite power, Franco-Mauritians ‘had’ to give in to avoid exacerbating the confict and thus jeopardizing the assistance of the government in other endeavours relevant to their economic position.

Te Benefts of Collaborating Te government and Franco-Mauritian businessmen not only clashed but also collaborated in the face of the economic problems the island faced, which is in line with the argument that economic progress in Mauritius largely relies on collaboration between the two. Te positive side of the problems faced by the sugar industry was that many saw the need to reform the economy and create new opportunities. One Franco-Mauritian businessman said that he had never seen the Franco-Mauritians working as hard as they did in 2006 – the government and private sector alike were looking for solutions. One of the plans for tackling the recession was thought up by the government under the guidance of Anerood Jugnauth and Paul Bérenger (2000 to 2005). Tese two initiated the Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS), the main goal of which was to have the private sector initiate plans to build exclusive villa resorts with a substantial level of luxury, golf courses and other attractions. Te IRS is especially aimed at wealthy foreigners who, for a minimum investment of US$500,000 in Mauritius, will be eligible for permanent residence status. Since land is a vital element of this scheme, a number of Franco-Mauritian-controlled sugar estates have initiated such projects. It is an endeavour to produce satisfactory earnings from their vast landholdings. Tese projects increase foreign investment on the island in two ways. 97

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Firstly, the villas and the land they are built on will become fully owned by the foreigners. Franco-Mauritians sell their land but, unlike the case of the grand morcellement, the new owners are predominantly foreigners instead of other Mauritians. Secondly, some of the projects are initiated with overseas business partners. Franco-Mauritians bring their land as the main asset, and foreign partners come with fnancial means and expertise. As a result of the apparent advantages for Franco-Mauritian landownership, the incoming government, in the 2005 election campaign, said it would end IRS projects. Once it came to power, however, the new government approved a number of Franco-Mauritian led projects; in fact, a Hindu was granted approval for a small IRS project he had initiated, but this was allegedly just for show. Prime Minister Ramgoolam of the new government even expressed his hopes for new sectors similar to the IRS.28 When I conducted feldwork on the island in 2014, I witnessed a large number of new property developments, ranging from IRS projects to business parks and commercial centres. Tese projects were not exclusively Franco-Mauritian controlled, yet large Franco-Mauritian landowners were certainly the dominant force behind the developments. Almost all the large Franco-Mauritian business conglomerates had initiated projects, to the extent of saturating the market in commercial centres and IRS projects. Another Franco-Mauritian, who has also been reaping benefts from property development, though without a history of possessing land, said, ‘the diference between us and the big sugar estates is that we are really acting as property developers’. His argument was that the big landowners develop projects where they have the land, while ‘real’ property developers develop projects where the demand is. Interestingly, in his case he benefted from the Real Estate Scheme (RES), which was initially set up to let smaller landowners have a piece of the property development pie. IRS solely catered for the big (Franco-Mauritian) landowners and, thus, small landowners also demanded involvement in the property boom. Te RES only applies to landowners who own less than 10 hectares. Initially, they needed to own the land for at least fve years before they could sell it. Tis prevented property developers initiating projects. Te aim was that only the small planters, often of Hindu background and whose ancestors had obtained land during the grand morcellement, would proft from the scheme. Yet many of the small planters were not particularly successful, and eventually the government changed the terms of the RES. One FrancoMauritian property developer said: ‘Te small holders have no expertise in development. RES has never worked for them. We [the developers] lobbied to remove the fve-year clause. Why should we wait for fve years? Te government then decided to remove the fve-year clause’. I probed him about the fact that it was mainly the developers who appeared to beneft, instead 98

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of the small growers. ‘Small planters could also beneft, because they could sell the land for a better price. Tey could sell it for development and not as agricultural land [which is worth a lot less]. It also works for small growers, though in a diferent way’, he replied. Te diference, in his case, even if he may not have owned any land, probably originates in educational background and business networks that gave him an advantage compared to the small planters. However, his success would not have been possible without the collaboration of the government through, for example, changing the requirements. Also, during the development of the projects it is evident that there is a close collaboration with state institutions. Property developers (including those involved in IRS projects) work closely with the Board of Investment, a state agency promoting investment in Mauritius. Similar collaborations between the private and public sector can be observed in developments in information technology and the fnancial sector, which to a large extent are aimed at attracting foreign investors. According to Sandbrook: ‘Mauritian governments do not lack boldness. Having learned from Taiwan and Singapore in the two earlier phases, the developmental state now seeks to emulate the Bangalore experience in India. Te plan is to transform Mauritius into a “Cyber Island”’ (Sandbrook 2005: 567). Whether or not it has become a cyber island is a matter of opinion. Mauritius is certainly marketing itself as an ofshore fnancial centre in general and as a (politically stable) fnancial gateway into Africa’s expanding markets more particularly – the Franco-Mauritian-established AfrAsia Bank markets itself as headquartered in the ‘Mauritius International Financial Centre’.29 With the growing importance of its ofshore fnancial centre, however, the island is also increasingly branded as a tax haven that deprives African states and India of revenues.30 With increasing global pressure to close tax havens, how the sector will develop in Mauritius and/or how it will afect Mauritian society requires further investigation. So far Franco-Mauritian domestic economic interests have hardly been afected by this economic diversifcation, since the term ‘ofshore’ implies that the fnancial activities are not targeting the local market on which most of their economic power relies – they may actually beneft from it, since numerous Franco-Mauritian businesses actively participate in ofshore fnance. Visually, however, the impact can be seen, as (Ebène) Cyber City, a large government-initiated property and infrastructure development in the centre of the island, has substantially developed over the last few years. New ofce blocks have been built, though the residents are certainly not exclusively involved in fnance and information technology. Many businesses moved to Cyber City because of active promotion by the government, which sold land at advantageous prices. Te land came into the possession of the state via the Illovo deal, which as I will show in Chapter 5 is

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an interesting example of the complex relationship between the postcolonial government and Franco-Mauritian private sector.

Bound to Each Other Just as in the past, for the economy to be a success and for the well-being of the island’s population in general, the Franco-Mauritians and the public sector have to rely on each other. Government ofcials are joined by representatives of the private sector on exploratory missions abroad, for example. Te EPZ and IRS were thought up by the government, which seems to confrm Handley’s argument that, ‘[i]n Mauritius, it was government that drove economic policymaking while business largely responded to government proposals’ (Handley 2008: 102).31 Tis perception is shared by state ofcials, who argue that they have often been pioneers and who demand that the private sector take more risks.32 Countering this view, the Franco-Mauritian Jacques Gougeard said, ‘the facts are that Mauritius has developed thanks to the private sector’ – an argument voiced more often by Franco-Mauritian businessmen, who also tend to stress that it is the Franco-Mauritians who take the risks and invest locally. ‘We were the motors behind the development and the government never comes up with an idea’, said Jacques Gougeard, ‘though this might not be the general perception in Mauritius’. Notwithstanding who actually initiated new business projects, collaboration between the state and the Franco-Mauritians, as well as others involved in the private sector, has always shaped economic development. Jacques Gougeard said: ‘the [Franco-Mauritian] private sector has, in general, always been on good terms with the government. Sometimes the relationship is a bit difcult, because it is normal that [the government tries] to put into practice some of its infuence. But both know that it is necessary to cooperate’. Tey also know that the development should be of an inclusive nature, taking into consideration the position of workers. Tough there is certainly room for improvement, the absence of large workers’ protest in the last decades appears to confrm this. Handley depicts the relationship between the government and the (Franco-Mauritian-dominated) private sector as follows: ‘[b]usiness and government in Mauritius: public hostility, private pragmatism’ (Handley 2008: 101–35). I feel that at the end of the day, the government also has a rather pragmatic approach, even though the relationship between the two sides is often paradoxical. Te Joint Economic Council (JEC), which was set up by Franco-Mauritians in 1970 to function as a coordinating body between the private sector and the government at the highest level, and which aimed at smoothing relationships with the government 100

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in general, exemplifes the pragmatism of both sides. Te JEC supposedly represents the whole private sector and functions as an umbrella organization for multi-sector institutions and sector associations – among others, the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), the Association des Hôteliers et Restaurateurs de l’île Maurice (AHRIM), and the Mauritius Sugar Producers’ Association (MSPA). Te JEC can be considered as the institutionalization of the practice of creating dialogue between the private and public sectors since hostile relationships are seen to bear within them challenges threatening the Franco-Mauritian elite position. Initially, the JEC was considered a Franco-Mauritian club. However, in line with the increasing ‘ethnic’ diversifcation of the private sector, which according to Handley is evidence of the softening of rigid ethnic divisions, the JEC is changing. Handley writes, ‘the appointment of non-whites to represent the JEC, the MCCI and the Chamber of Agriculture (all bastions of white business) would have been unthinkable in the 1980s and even in the early 1990s – but has since occurred’ (Handley 2008: 134). However, the perception of the JEC as a Franco-Mauritian stronghold remains. According to one of the former non-white presidents of the JEC, the organization is seen as a lobby group for the sugar industry. He told me in 2006, ‘it is more the public perception [than anything else], although it might have been a reality in the past’. Nevertheless, he alleged that in his role as president he had felt the difculties of reconciling the pressure of Franco-Mauritian business interests with the JEC’s objective of representing the whole private sector. Lack of success smoothing these relationships can be seen from the case of the president of the JEC between 2006 and 2008, a white Frenchman with a Mauritian passport and with a long history of service in the Mauritian private sector, during whose time the JEC openly criticized the government for its shortcomings. Te JEC said that the absence of dialogue between the government and the private sector, due to lack of cooperation from the government, was unhealthy and harmful to the country. It was extremely disappointed at the government’s attitude and expressed its belief that the state must not interfere in spheres where it is not needed.33 Te JEC’s president, moreover, openly voiced another even stronger opinion: ‘Te inefciency, the corruption, the absence of equal opportunities and meritocracy as well as communalism are evident at the heart of the state and state-controlled companies. And the people know this very well. Te private sector is an example, even though it always needs to improve’.34 Generally speaking, such criticism is not expressed openly because it can have unwanted consequences. Following his criticisms, the JEC president was strongly criticized for being white. Franco-Mauritians are aware of the negative connotation of their skin colour in some contexts, as the case of Adrien d’Epinay has shown. Hence, the open criticism and the frank talk 101

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of the JEC’s president were not entirely appreciated by all Franco-Mauritian businessmen, who tend to have learned from their past experiences in this respect. Tey preferred not to express such criticism openly, because it interfered with abstaining from having a ‘political’ opinion. Tis appears to refute Moeletsi Mbeki’s claim that ‘the political elite is comparatively more vulnerable since the economic oligarchy can promote new political parties to challenge a hostile ruling party’ (Mbeki 2009: 83). Even in the case of South Africa, to which Mbeki also refers, this is not necessarily the reality, as ‘[white] capital has survived a variety of storms since the advent of ANC government by “adapting like a chameleon”’ (Sampie Terreblanche, cited in Davies 2012: 392). For the Franco-Mauritians, this corresponds with the realization that a low-profle is benefcial to their elite position. It appears that among Franco-Mauritian businessmen a consensus has gradually developed that it is best to support the government in place and remain neutral during the electoral campaign. Many difcult moments appear to happen around the time of elections because politicians, in order to gain votes, criticize Franco-Mauritian economic power. A widely shared perception is that after the elections the politicians tend to tone down their criticism because in the end the private sector and the government need each other. Dominique Dervillers, the CEO of one of the island’s most powerful family holdings, said, ‘when I’m having a drink with politicians they tell me that [the white-bashing] was just talking politics’. In these settings, FrancoMauritian businessmen have to carefully maintain their relationships with the government as (perceived) cultural diferences signifcantly determine these relationships. In short, they thought the JEC president’s criticism could jeopardize cooperation with the government.

Conclusion Franco-Mauritians have undoubtedly maintained a strong economic position in postcolonial Mauritius. In the process they have applied their power proactively and, as in the struggle over independence, defensively. Collaboration or confict often comes in waves, even though they certainly also occur simultaneously. In the aftermath of the 2005 elections, Franco-Mauritians clearly felt targeted as whites. Yet, as in the past, government pressure has calmed down again, and the democratization of the economy hardly featured as an item on the political agenda in 2014. Tis chapter shows that FrancoMauritians, and with them other (white) elites in former colonies and/or a former apartheid state like South Africa, are not as powerful as political analysts like Mbeki argue. Politicians and the state are often able to put quite a lot of pressure on the (white) private sector. Franco-Mauritian opposition 102

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to change, however, does not imply that Franco-Mauritians and politicians do not cooperate at all and/or white elites are able to infuence the government. Both sides share the same interests: a good running economy. Owing to collaboration with the government, economically prosperous times and a number of developments, Franco-Mauritians seem to have actually successfully maintained control over economic resources – or even expanded their hold. Or as a retired university professor said in 2014, ‘Franco-Mauritians have never had it so good as today’. Notes   1 Only one company out of the top ten, ranked third, is directly related to another ethnic community. Te frst and the ninth are semi-government-owned companies and, owing to high global oil prices, two are multinational oil companies, these being ranked fourth and tenth.   2 Te newspapers talk about hectares and arpents, an old French unit of measurement for land still widely used in Mauritius and roughly equivalent to half a hectare. Te 36 per cent is based on a total of 135,000 arpents (about 67,500 hectares) owned by the large sugar estates out of a total of 186,500 hectares.  3 L’Express Dimanche, 13 May 2007; L’Express, 31 May 2007.  4 L’Express Dimanche, 13 May 2007.   5 Retrieved 10 October 2007 from: www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/mif06/land.pdf: 27.  6 Retrieved 10 October 2007 from: www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/report/natacc/agri06/ sumtab.pdf: 27.  7 L’Express Dimanche, 13 and 31 May 2007.   8 In comparison: ‘In the Philippines, planters tend to deny any personal blame for the poor conditions under which their workers sufer. Many cite “our culture” or “our ways of doing things” – forces beyond their own control – as the culprits, while others cite such intangibles as “seasonality,” the “shrinking size of the farms”, or “the population explosion of the farms”. Almost no one sees the least irony in the need for their organizations to sponsor livelihood projects’ (Billig 2003: 210). Consequently, Billig argues: ‘Te use of the “it’s our culture” explanation is the most interesting of all. In one sense, the planters are right. It is their culture, and they did not create it. On the other hand, the usage illustrates the static, even reactionary, implication of such a reifed, post hoc, conception of culture. It is a usage that functions as an explanation and excuse for inaction’ (Billig 2003: 211).   9 Retrieved 7 December 2007 from: www.acpsugar.org/Sugar%20Protocol.html. 10 Equally, in the time of apartheid South Africa, the white Franco-Mauritians had an advantage. Many edible and perishable products were imported for the Mauritian market due to the close proximity of South Africa. Te Mauritian government was very pragmatic in terms of these business contacts; as one retired Franco-Mauritian businessman said, ‘given the number of products coming from South Africa it would have been costly for the Mauritian population if the government had decided to boycott South Africa’. FrancoMauritians, especially a number of individuals representing South African organizations responsible for trading fruit, vegetables and steel, directly profted from business contacts

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with South Africa, profting substantially from this exclusivity. With the collapse of the apartheid regime, however, the situation changed, and Mauritius became less interesting for South Africans because there was no boycott any more. South Africa, though, owing to its proximity, remained important as a business partner for Mauritius. Te advantage provided by the Franco-Mauritians’ white skin colour became, however, inefective, and nowadays any Mauritian can trade with South Africa. 11 One Franco-Mauritian businessman also argued that foreign investors require local Mauritian partners for them to be successful because the Mauritians know how to navigate through the maze of the Mauritian economy and bureaucracy. Indeed, many foreigners seem to have actually come to Mauritius by invitation from local partners. Cooperative and joint ventures between Franco-Mauritians and foreigners have been initiated by Franco-Mauritians when they did not have the know-how themselves. For example, a Franco-Mauritian-owned construction company teamed up with a big South African construction company for the building of one of the island’s frst high-rise ofce towers – South Africa was a logical place to look for cooperation because of its proximity and because many of the present generation of middle-aged Franco-Mauritian engineers in the local construction industry studied in South Africa. Equally, joint ventures in the hotel industry existed, although here the presence of large multinational hotel chains invalidates the argument of always requiring local partners. 12 Te origin of other capital is not completely accounted for in the literature, other than that much of the international capital came from Hong Kong (Handley 2008: 109) and that small-scale entrepreneurs have probably invested a part of it, as ‘[m]any of the EPZ enterprises are small, family-owned textile factories, often located in the family’s living quarters’ (Eriksen 1998: 154). 13 ‘Quand vous êtes engagés sur le marché européen ou américain, les cercles et les réseaux domestiques importent peu. La clientèle est internationale. Si [mon entreprise] desservait le marché local, elle n’aurait pu progresser comme elle l’a fait’ (L’Express, 15 March 2004). 14 Te EPZ also infuenced the social and economic composition of Mauritian society as a whole. After an economically difcult period in the early 1980s, the second half of the decade was characterized by the success of the EPZ. Many Mauritians jumped on the bandwagon of the EPZ, and new economic ventures created employment, especially for low-skilled labourers. In 1986, the sum of EPZ industries became the largest employer on Mauritius, surpassing the sugar industry. Tis led to economic prosperity for many of the island’s inhabitants and to a high rate of social change. Women increasingly participated in the labour market and, indeed, most employees in this sector are now women. Te work foors of large EPZ factories were more ethnically diverse than in traditional businesses as well, leading to increasing interethnic contact (Eriksen 1998: 153–57). 15 To cater for the hotel industry, a local carrier, Air Mauritius, was founded from collaboration between the government and Franco-Mauritian businessmen. Bräutigam states: ‘After independence, Ramgoolam saw the establishment of a national airline as a way to help ensure adequate arrivals to bolster the new tourism sector. Yet the government had little money, and was strongly committed to a fscal austerity program to address an overly expansionist pre-independence budget. Te establishment of Air Mauritius provides a good example of the pragmatic government business networks that existed between Ramgoolam and Franco-Mauritian businessmen such as the Maingard brothers,

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and that enabled political leaders to leverage private sector resources for ends of mutual beneft’ (Bräutigam with Diolle 2009: 21). Nowadays, Franco-Mauritian participation in the carrier has diminished, with the government now having a controlling stake. 16 ‘La concentration des richesses entraîne des distorsions au libre jeu du marché et ne permet pas au système économique de fonctionner de manière optimale’ (L’Express, 30 December 2005). 17 Franco-Mauritians and Creoles perceive themselves as the island’s original inhabitants, since the dominant narrative is that their ancestors arrived before the Indian indentured labourers – this being in line with the Franco-Mauritian focus on the establishment of the island during the French period (Boudet and Peghini 2008). To a certain extent, this has an impact on the relationships between the communities in postcolonial Mauritius. Apart Jacques Gougeard, however, most Franco-Mauritians I interviewed and talked to did not in so many words express this diference in terms of times of arrival on the island, though they certainly criticized the Indo-Mauritian population. Only in reply to the questionnaire I conducted did a number of respondents defne the Hindus as ‘invaders’ when I asked them how to describe the island’s communities in three characteristics. Once again, this largely fnds its origins in present-day and persistent power struggles and the plight of post-independence society. Te Sino-Mauritians who also came much later to the island are never defned in these terms, as the relationships are of another kind – besides, it is a much smaller community. 18 Week-End, 27 May 2007. 19 ‘Cette politique ne constitue pas une considération raciale et ethnique, un arbitraire idéologique ou une revanche sur l’histoire’ (L’Express, 26 May 2007). 20 Le Mauricien, 28 May 2007. 21 For a full transcription of the Prime Minister’s speech, see: www.gov.mu/portal/site/ pmsite/menuitem.ade81d8b85e53623040d013400b521ca/?content_id=a78c5c7483033 110VgnVCM1000000a04a8c0RCRD, retrieved 18 September 2007. 22 In an article published in Le Matinal (3 March 2008), a pro-Labour Party daily newspaper, the writer’s reference to the donation made by the (Franco-Mauritian) sugar estate had been deleted and instead changed to ‘the MGI was built on a vast terrain’. Apparently, the editor of the article considered it better not to show the relationship between the government and Franco-Mauritian donations too openly. 23 One view, though hard to prove, is that the consolidation of Franco-Mauritian privileges also relates to corrupt relationships with politicians: Franco-Mauritian businesses pay politicians and civil servants secretly – almost as employees – in order to guarantee a smooth working relationship with the public sector. Obviously, the backroom nature of corruption makes it hard to study. Most likely there has been corruption, yet with an increasing focus on corporate governance among listed companies in particular, this is most likely in decline – now companies have to state their fnancial contributions to the political parties more openly. Besides, if there was corruption, it is only one of the factors in the continuity of Franco-Mauritian economic privileges. 24 Retrieved 10 October 2007 from: www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/report/natacc/agri06/ sumtab.pdf: 24. 25 Week-End, 4 November 2007. 26 Le Mauricien, 7 June 2007. 27 L’Express, 6 December 2007.

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28 L’Express, 4 April 2006. 29 Retrieved 13 March 2014 from: www.afrasiabank.com/. 30 Retrieved 20 October 2014 from: http://www.theafricareport.com/North-Africa/ismauritius-a-tax-haven.html. 31 Shared investment in the sugar industry in Mozambique by three of Mauritius’ most economically powerful business groups was also preceded by a government-initiated mission in 1996, which took the Mauritian private sector to explore economic possibilities in the country. After investments in South Africa, present-day investments are predominantly in and around the Indian Ocean region, such as in the sugar industry in Tanzania, in tourism in the Seychelles and the Maldives and in textile production in Madagascar. Dominique Dervillers, the CEO of one of the most powerful family holdings, said: ‘Mauritian companies are small and cannot compete on the world market. Tey have their own niche market and can develop new markets in the region, which is relatively left aside by large companies. Franco-Mauritian companies beneft from unstable situations in the past and present in the region, because these markets are uninteresting for large foreign companies to invest [in]’. 32 L’Express Dimanche, 8 January 2006. 33 L’Express, 11 May 2007; Le Mauricien, 28 June 2007. 34 ‘L’inefcience, la corruption, l’absence d’equal opportunities, de méritocratie ainsi que le communalisme sont évidents au sein de l’État et des entreprises publiques. Et le peuple le sait parfaitement. Le secteur privé est un exemple, même s’il faut toujours progresser’ (Le Mauricien, 11 May 2007).

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Chapter 4 A Culture of Economic Privileges

n Franco-Mauritians have been relatively successful in maintaining their elite position, but, as I have shown in the previous chapters, with the loss of their hegemony their power has certainly declined. Nowadays, they are much more inclined to defend their position, and as a result they have chosen to adopt a low-profle – this to such an extent that Franco-Mauritian businesses prefer their employees to refrain from active political participation.1 Notwithstanding diversity within the community, it seems that with the closing of Le Cernéen most Franco-Mauritians have followed the example of the businessmen and opted for a low-profle attitude in the context of public debates related to their ethnicity. As this chapter shows, the economic interests of these people trickle down to the whole community and, thus, in my opinion, there is a strong incentive for Franco-Mauritian employees to be on the same side as their Franco-Mauritian employers. Tese employees will, in general, support and follow their employers because Franco-Mauritian proprietors grant other Franco-Mauritians an elite status by employing them in well-remunerated positions. Contrary to whites in South Africa, Franco-Mauritians hardly work as civil servants. If not proprietors (of small, medium and large businesses) to start with, they predominantly work in Franco-Mauritian companies. Tis is an indication that to more fully grasp the Franco-Mauritian elite position we have to also look beyond the direct exercise of power. A closer look at the workings of their socio-cultural life and practices – and the interaction of these with their economic privileges – is required. Te success of an elite, after all, relates to how well it succeeds in organizing itself particularistically (Cohen 1981: xiii) – that is, how it shares a number of characteristics that shape cohesion and distinguish it from other social groups, both for internal and external purposes.

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Belonging Elites often share of a number of perceived characteristics that, in their mind, makes them superior to others, thus reinforcing a sense of ‘eliteness’. Tis formation of a habitus – the internalized behavioural routines and social ideas of a defned social group – tends to shape their practices and the means by which their mark their distinction from others. It is, moreover, inextricably linked with elite power, as Bourdieu (1994) but also Cohen’s work on the Creole elite in Sierra Leone (Cohen 1981) clearly illustrate. Tis is refected in elite networks, as these often serve to create culturally validated bonds of trust, which enhances solidarity and commonality of interest. Tese networks, as I have said before, can be of diferent kinds: boardrooms and educational institutions, ties of friendship, the opening of exhibitions, ofcial events, clubs, hunting parties, families and so forth. Teir strength and functioning in the working of power lies furthermore in the fact that diferent kinds of networks are often interrelated. In this chapter I analyse how a variety of networks shape Franco-Mauritian socio-cultural patterns and practices, and vice versa. Tis, subsequently, helps us understand the origins and nature of Franco-Mauritian business networks, as well as how white elites position themselves in predominantly non-white societies. In elite circles, the elite family, a smaller face-to-face milieu (Wright Mills 2000), is often closely connected to power, not the least because the family is often central to the prolongation of businesses and succession issues (e.g., Pina-Cabral and Pedroso de Lima 2000). In Mauritius, for example, popular belief is that a handful of Franco-Mauritians families control the economy. In reality it is slightly more complex, as I have already shown. Te issue concerning the role of Franco-Mauritian families in all this, and especially why they have a certain role, is nevertheless a pertinent one. According to a joint IMF-World Bank report, the domination of family businesses infuences the state of the economy: Te Mauritius economy faces certain economic challenges to promoting good corporate governance. Te ownership structure of Mauritius companies is dominated by a small group of family-owned companies. Many family-owned companies listed their stock in response to tax and other incentives provided by the Mauritius government. Despite the stock market listings, many of the listed companies are still controlled by a family holding company or a partnership acting as the holding company. Tese holding companies often control a range of diverse enterprises and typically own vast landholdings that have failed to produce satisfactory earnings. (World Bank 2002b: 1)

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Tis report does not specifcally state that the family businesses at issue are Franco-Mauritian ones, in part because most Mauritian companies are family-run businesses. But most holding companies with vast land holdings, to which the report refers to, are Franco-Mauritian-controlled holdings. Te dense Franco-Mauritian network of interlocking directorates I presented in the previous chapter, moreover, relates to the fact that proprietors of these companies and their close Franco-Mauritian associates tend to constitute the majority on the board of directors and the management of the (listed) companies. To fully grasp this, a closer look at the origins of this ‘domination’ and of interlocking directorates is required. In this chapter, I show that Franco-Mauritian family networks – and networks more generally – do not necessarily emerge from strategic intent. Instead, they can be unplanned and embedded in social and cultural logics. Elites are also infuenced by similar cognitive patterns to those of other social groups, and these patterns tend to have an impact on their cultural behaviour and practices. Elite habits, customs and cultural behaviour patterns can be passed from generation to generation in roughly the same way as material benefts are passed down (Hartmann 2007: 105). Old French (business) elite families, for example, have a strong focus on the family’s patrimony and the family members’ role in ensuring the transfer of that patrimony to future generations (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 327–79). Economic practices, this implies, can only be understood by also addressing the social and cultural logics that these practices are embedded in. Te foundations of family networks and marriage patterns clearly illustrate this. FrancoMauritian endogamous marriage patterns certainly have their economic advantages, but as Douglass notes, with reference to white Jamaican elite states: ‘[E]lites are not required to marry within their social circle, but they usually do. Tey marry within their circle not because they are restricted by prejudicial beliefs about color and class, but simply because they tend to fall in love with someone like them’ (Douglass 1992: 270) – though this is certainly informed by a historical pattern of disqualifying marrying non-whites. In the case of Franco-Mauritians, this social circle predominantly consists of other Franco-Mauritians, and thus marriage patterns are embedded in a wider set of (in)formal networks. A sense of belonging shapes not only Franco-Mauritian marriage patterns and vice versa, but also strengthens their cohesion as an elite; it also contributes to understanding why many Franco-Mauritians, even if they are not proprietors themselves, beneft from the wealth present in the community. As I shall show, the strength of (in)formal ties often relates to a shared past, as elite members often share similar educational backgrounds and a history of participating in the same leisure activities. Bourdieu, indeed, has elaborately illustrated the importance of schools and universities in the 109

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education, training and recruitment of younger elite generations (Bourdieu and Clough 1996). Franco-Mauritians equally put a strong emphasis on the quality of education – which they have successfully maintained in the face of challenges to their educational advantages. In a similar vein, FrancoMauritian exclusive leisure activities shape their networks and vice versa. Te role of educational patterns and leisure activities shows, as I argued in the Introduction, that an elite consists of a group which is larger than only the ones controlling the elite’s resources. Treats to the elite’s lifestyle, then, are equally signifcant in the analysis of elite power. With the ‘forced’ opening up of once exclusively white clubs and threats to the continuation of the way of life associated with campements – a very signifcant aspect of Franco-Mauritian elite culture – maintaining social-cultural exclusivity is not ensured. Interestingly, however, these changes not only jeopardized Franco-Mauritian exclusivity; their anxiety about – and opposition to – change has also enhanced Franco-Mauritian elite solidarity.

A White Wedding On a Friday evening in 2006 I attended a wedding in a small Catholic church somewhere in the centre of Mauritius between a young FrancoMauritian woman and a young white Frenchman. In the church, FrancoMauritian friends and family of the girl occupied many of the benches. Te family of the groom and a number of foreign guests were also present. A well-known Franco-Mauritian priest married the couple, and during intervals in the service a choir graced the wedding with its singing. After the wedding ceremony the guests moved to a nearby colonial mansion which today functions as a museum, and which can be rented for parties and functions. Upon arrival, I lined up with all the other guests on a path lined with fickering candles to congratulate the newlyweds – the bride was dressed in a white wedding dress and the groom in a handsome suit. Inside, a band was playing and (alcoholic) drinks and snacks were served. Apart from a friend of the groom, a business acquaintance of the bride’s father, the staf and the band, everyone was white. All the men were dressed in suits – a foreign friend of the bride, who had not brought a suit with him, was wearing a borrowed jacket so that he would not stand out – and most of the women wore dresses or other outfts suitable for the occasion. Te wedding seemed to follow the Franco-Mauritian norm of marriage in church followed by a reception, even though the groom was not of FrancoMauritian origin. Judging by the relaxed atmosphere at the wedding and the fact that many of the guests knew each other, the marriage seemed to be widely approved of. Moreover, many of the guests were long-time friends of 110

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the parents and business partners and acquaintances of the father, who was a CEO in a services company at that time. Among them were a number of prominent Franco-Mauritian businessmen I had interviewed before. Tis, as I will show below, also illustrates the close overlap between kinship and business circles. Tat the wedding was so widely attended shows that the parents and the Franco-Mauritian community approved of the marriage, and that the white Frenchman was considered an appropriate choice for their daughter. With the choice of a white Frenchman, the couple had not breached Franco-Mauritian (white) endogamous marriage patterns. Endogamous marriage patterns are not exclusively a Franco-Mauritian characteristic; they are, in fact, a common feature of all of the communities in Mauritius (Eriksen 1998: 60– 62; Nave 2000). In the next chapter I illustrate the impact of the wide acceptance of this common practice. More than in other communities, however, the long tradition of endogamous marriage within a small community has linked many Franco-Mauritian families to each other, especially as families tended to be bigger in the past, with eight children not being out of the ordinary. Te practice of marrying cousins furthermore shows this endogamous tendency, although frst-cousin marriages seem to occur less frequently now than in the past. Historically, there were also class divisions between the grands blancs and petits blancs preventing marriages between these two groups. Even socializing between the groups was restricted. In 2005, when I visited a middle-aged FrancoMauritian man with whom I shared a Creole-style lunch of rice, lentils, vegetables and spicy tomato-based stew,2 he told me: ‘My parents were very strict about maintaining boundaries between the elite and other whites and excommunicated certain members of the society. Tey were not let into the house’. Stories circulate about children who brought friends home who were not allowed into the house by their parents because of their lower social ranking. Today, however, diferences seem less obvious, and certain FrancoMauritian families have altered their status through fnancial advancement. My assumption is that increasing pressure from counter-elites has led to reduced internal Franco-Mauritian competition, and this has made status and class diferences less decisive. Nevertheless, some of the older generations have still to come to terms with this. Te above-mentioned man’s nephew married a girl who his father considered of lower status. He said, ‘my brother had some problems with his son’s choice, but did eventually accept it’. Tis is an indication of how cultural patterns are changing across the generations; however, when it comes to the preference for marrying white, change is very slow. Te widely accepted marriage between the young Franco-Mauritian woman and the young Frenchman shows that marrying a white foreigner is regarded as equally bearing fruit, since one will still remain within the 111

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community. It is a sign that race can be decisive. Te symbolic signifcance of white skin colour prevails because foreign partners visually blend into the community – in the end, a community that bears the colloquial name blancs has to marry white, although in the case of the French the language helps as well. Tis is a trend observed with other insular white elites as well. For example, the white Jamaican elite refers to this practice of marrying foreign partners as marrying ‘out’ (Douglass 1992: 144) while, talking about the case of Martinique, Vogt writes, ‘[French metropolitan whites] can serve as acceptable marriage partners because they help to keep the group white’ (Vogt 2005: 205). Te advantage lies partly in the fact that Franco-Mauritians lack information about the foreign partner’s genealogical background – the opposite being the case when their partner is a Franco-Mauritian. It seems that the assumption of a foreigner’s ‘pure’ whiteness and, specifcally, the lack of information proving the contrary are sufcient. Spouses from South Africa, (metropolitan) France, the UK and other European counties are considered white. In general, whites from Réunion are less sought after because of the alleged level of métissage – that is, the mixing between whites and non-whites within the island’s white population.3 Despite being strongly embedded in the Franco-Mauritian community, a number of foreign spouses argued that this did not make them Franco-Mauritian automatically. Tey felt that they always, in some senses, remained associated with separate French, English or other overseas identities. Adaptation to Franco-Mauritian family life, moreover, appears to play a role. A Franco-Mauritian student, whom I met in Paris in 2006 and with two out of her three sisters married to a Frenchman, told me, ‘my sister said that if I meet a French guy who drinks whisky on the rocks then he will integrate easily [into the Franco-Mauritian community]’ – a reference to the somehow masculine lifestyle of Franco-Mauritian men. According to the student, her two brothers-in-law adapted well, especially because she said that they travel a lot. Tis thinking is related to the often-heard argument that a foreign spouse, in order to deal with the remoteness and small size of the island, should be able to travel frequently. Franco-Mauritians themselves often refer to the possibility of travelling abroad, a privilege not available to many other Mauritians. Success, in these examples, seems to relate to living a certain lifestyle that fts in with the Franco-Mauritian perception of their culture. A substantial advantage of these marriages, however, is that within the Franco-Mauritian community their children’s position is safeguarded. I met Franco-Mauritians of a variety of age groups of whom one of the parents was a white foreigner. Although other FrancoMauritians may be aware of a foreign parent, the children are considered Franco-Mauritians and are not distinguished from their Franco-Mauritian cousins and friends. Sharing a similar upbringing seems to be important 112

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in this respect. Tey share the same culture from childhood onwards, go to the same schools and clubs (as I show below), and many of them eventually marry other Franco-Mauritians. With the right choice of partner then, one keeps everything within the family and the community, which brings with it a lot of economic advantages.

A Wrong Choice Te fact that there is a right choice for marriage also implies a possible wrong choice. A closer look at this is revealing for the understanding of maintaining an elite position and associated privileges. For this, Franco-Mauritians have relied, to a large extent, on the practice of sanctioning and disqualifying deviant partner choice. Tis prevents the Franco-Mauritian community from becoming diluted, and is thus very important in the maintenance of an elite position. It is interesting, moreover, that the feature of organizing oneself ‘particularistically’ is not completely entrusted to ofspring since they are sanctioned if they do not make the right choice. Yet certainly not all Franco-Mauritians are equally strict on the subject; the level of acceptance difers from family to family, and although many may have some reservations about the consequences of marrying outside the confnes set by the Franco-Mauritian community in a society that leaves little room for hybrid identities, as I will show below, the strictness of endogamous marriage is also characterized by inconsistencies and nuances.4 Historically, marrying outside the Franco-Mauritian community has never been well thought of, and has often led to disinheritance and efective banishment from the community. In the past, Franco-Mauritians’ skin colour corresponded with class boundaries, and marrying outside the community was considered a misalliance. Any choice other than a white Franco-Mauritian or a white foreigner could seriously jeopardize the respective Franco-Mauritian’s privileged position. For the ‘well to do’ FrancoMauritians, risking disinheritance and exclusion from the community had considerable economic and social consequences. As a consequence, the standard of living, compared to less ‘well to do’ Mauritians, could diminish substantially. Clémence Hanneaux, a Franco-Mauritian woman in her forties, said: We always celebrated 25 December at my grandparents. After lunch my grandfather’s brother … always dropped by. He was thrown out of the family because he had children with an Indian … I don’t know if he was still with his wife or married. It wasn’t a topic we talked about. Te children are my father’s

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cousins but we never saw them. When [grandfather’s brother] died, his daughter called us and we went to the funeral.

Tis shows the impact that a wrong marriage choice can have on one’s social life. Whether her great-uncle’s choice had a signifcant impact on his fnancial situation is more difcult to establish. Clémence Hanneaux told me, ‘[my uncle’s children] are less well-of than Franco-Mauritians but they are not in poverty, they are middle class’. Te disqualifcation of mixed marriages shows the impact of social pressure in the matter of choosing a partner. Te Franco-Mauritians constitute a small community, and one which demonstrates strong social control. Clémence Hanneaux said, ‘in Mauritius your hands are tied, you have to live how one ought to live (comme il faut)’. Apart from marital choices, this goes for many other aspects of Franco-Mauritian life as well. From earliest childhood, the importance of choosing properly whom to marry is impressed on people through the examples of exclusion that have occurred and through a discourse that disqualifes mixed marriages and the status stemming from making a wrong choice. Stéphane Ruette, a FrancoMauritian in his thirties living in Cape Town, South Africa, said in 2006, ‘in Mauritius you always hear horror stories about mixed marriages’. Vogt also refers to a Béké woman in Martinique who had ‘been “brainwashed” by her parents for as long as she could remember that Békés were the only suitable marriage partners for her’ (Vogt 2005: 2). In Mauritius, the rejection of mixed marriages is widespread among all communities. Tis is especially prompted by concerns people have about the identity of ofspring of such unions.5 Te importance of ethnic afliation in Mauritian society, as I will discuss in the next chapter, does not allow much room for having a hybrid identity: ‘the most difcult aspect of mixed marriages in this kind of setting – the self-defned plural society with no hegemonic group – may be the identity of the children’ (Eriksen 1998: 125). Franco-Mauritian discourse confrms this. Many of the counterarguments against mixed marriages focus on the position of the children. Franco-Mauritians fear a situation in which their children could not become members of the several Franco-Mauritian whites-only sport and social clubs, of which the most well-known is the Dodo Club.6 A marriage between a Franco-Mauritian man from a well-established family, the de Montfaucons, and a gens de couleur woman, however, proves that the opposite is sometimes possible. Te marriage was approved of by the man’s mother and, in efect, by the whole family.7 Tey had feared the man’s downfall, and thought that the woman had a good infuence on him. However, one of the man’s nieces told me that the birth of the couple’s frst and only child in the 1980s was importantly focused on whether the baby 114

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would have white skin. Te Franco-Mauritian family anxiously awaited the outcome. Firstly, they hoped for a girl because she would, in the future, marry and take her spouse’s name. Tis would save the white patrimony and status of the family name. Secondly, they hoped for a baby with a fair complexion so it would be hard to notice from its appearance that it had a non-white parent. In fact the child turned out to be a girl with a complexion which would suggest parents with diferent coloured skin in the Mauritian context. In France, where the girl, Elodie de Montfaucon, studied in 2006, she could easily be seen as native white French since there are signifcant diferences in complexion in the country, especially between the north and south of France. And, as she said, ‘my mix wouldn’t be an issue whatsoever in Europe, but it is in Mauritius’. Although Elodie de Montfaucon always felt like an exception, she was accepted in the Franco-Mauritian community. Most likely, the de Montfaucon pedigree played an important role; it even granted her membership of the Dodo Club. She said, ‘it was difcult to be accepted but my parents thought it was good for me to be a member since all the young children around me were members … I only went twice or so. I don’t like a club where my mother can’t become a member’. Te de Montfaucon case shows how, on a small scale, the FrancoMauritian community can and does incorporate ‘irregularities’. In another exception confrming the rule, one of the daughters of a mixed marriage even married into the wealthiest Franco-Mauritian family. Te daughter has since been assimilated into the Franco-Mauritian community to such an extent that it took a while for a Franco-Mauritian informant to remember that she actually had mixed parents. In 2014, however, I met two relatives of the Franco-Mauritian husband. Tey referred to what was for them, the obvious diference in complexion of the couple’s children. It illustrates how for numerous Franco-Mauritians the community’s identity remains reliant on white skin colour, even though marrying with non-whites no longer results in complete banishment from the community. For a number of reasons, neither case jeopardized Franco-Mauritian marriage patterns. Te mixed couples and their ofspring associated themselves more with the Franco-Mauritian community than with the other parents’ communities – Elodie de Montfaucon said, ‘even with my parents it was taboo to discuss their mixed marriage until a year ago … until recently we saw my mother’s family a lot less [than my father’s]’. Hence, the girls from both cases are efectively part and parcel of the Franco-Mauritian community. Tat it was two Franco-Mauritian men marrying ‘down’ appears to have facilitated the matter as well. Gender has an impact on what is possible, although this seems not to be as strongly pronounced as among the white elite in Jamaica, where there is a clear diference between what is accepted for men and for women: ‘[T]he pattern is clearly organized by gender: Women 115

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marry “up” and men marry “down”’ (Douglass 1992: 136). Hence, when a man of colour marries a white Jamaican woman it breaks the rule that a man should ‘marry down’, because in the colour hierarchy white is considered superior.8 Gender diferences are importantly related to economic independence because men, in general, have more control over their own incomes. Te two Franco-Mauritians referred to previously were wealthy men who could decide over their own fate and provide their ofspring with a good upbringing. Noteworthy here is that economic arguments are rarely voiced in this circumstance, neither for making the ‘right’ choice nor the ‘wrong’ one. Te discourse surrounding marriage choice and the ‘bad’ examples cited predominantly focus on the social disadvantages: a mixed marriage jeopardizes the social and cultural embedding of the couple and their children in the Franco-Mauritian community. Te economic consequences may be taken for granted since social exclusion, especially in the past, would almost automatically have had an economic impact. Franco-Mauritians are, however, no longer the only elite since recent social stratifcation among all Mauritian communities has modifed this imbalance. To a certain extent this new reality afects Franco-Mauritian marriage patterns. In contrast to the cases above, two high-profle marriages at the beginning of the twenty-frst century did not involve hiding the mixed character of the unions. In one case, a Franco-Mauritian married a daughter from a wellestablished Muslim family, and in the other case a Franco-Mauritian married a daughter from a well-established Hindu family.9 Both the Muslim and Hindu families were economically powerful, with a history in the private sector barely diferent from that of the powerful Franco-Mauritian families. Many Franco-Mauritians approved of the marriages because the Hindu and Muslim families were considered to belong to the same class and not associated with a history of indentured labour. Tis shows Franco-Mauritian class consciousness, as they would often refer to themselves as being of higher class than most Mauritians. Yet, at the same time they often consider the term ‘elite’ as something not applicable to them. As a consequence of sharing a similar class background, in both marriages ethnic diferences were essentially not referred to as unbridgeable, although there was some hesitation at the beginning on both sides. In one case, the colonial background of one of the Franco-Mauritian families was frowned upon by the other. In the other case, the wider acceptance of the marriage was taken into consideration: the non-white father-in-law asked his potential Franco-Mauritian son-in-law whether his white Franco-Mauritian boss would approve of the marriage. Te son-in-law stated that he did not care about what his boss thought. Te relatively widespread acceptance of the last two cases within the Franco-Mauritian community seems to have been facilitated by several 116

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aspects other than wealth. Today Mauritians of all backgrounds can be wealthy, and yet many Franco-Mauritians still consider non-Franco-Mauritians to have a lower social position. Te long tradition and involvement of the respective Hindu and Muslim families in business, however, placed them above other Mauritians, and on a par with the Franco-Mauritians. Conversely, current Franco-Mauritian perceptions of choosing a marriage partner deem many of the members of the island’s new elites to be of lower social rank, or to be mere nouveaux riches. I think that the approval of the two cases mentioned above also had to do with the fact that the Hindu and Muslim families involved are both exemplary role models in their respective communities. Te families are involved in the private sector, but there are relatively few Muslim and Hindu families as economically powerful as they are. Tey are not, therefore, directly part of an ethnic counter-elite challenging Franco-Mauritian economic power. Moreover, many Franco-Mauritian businessmen are on a friendly footing with members of the two families, and it seems that openly objecting to the marriages could have jeopardized these relationships as this reaction could have been interpreted as blatantly racist – I assume that it is easier to object to marrying down when dealing with less renowned and less wealthy families. A (hypothetical) high profle marriage between a Franco-Mauritian and the son or daughter of a Hindu politician, on the other hand, would most likely have caused many more frowns and objections because many FrancoMauritians share the perception that Hindu politicians represent the main challenge to their elite position. Te small number of Mauritian families with a comparable history in the island’s private sector may, therefore, have only a limited efect on Franco-Mauritian marriage preferences, even though the two mixed marriages referred to signify a defnite change from the past. Widespread acceptance and acknowledgement of the marriages proves that, in the case of having the right pedigree, marriages with non-whites are no longer a complete taboo. Moreover, the children will most likely have the two sides of their parentage interwoven in their (elite) identity. Te elevated statuses of the Hindus, Muslims and Franco-Mauritians involved are too prominent to ignore, and thus the mixed couples will most probably not associate themselves primarily with only one of the communities. Tis represents an important diference to the de Montfaucon case, where only the Franco-Mauritian family had a prominent role after the marriage. In the above mentioned cases, the mixed couples are also at ease with their choices and identify themselves as having undertaken mixed marriages, having no intention to solely belong to one of the communities. Te mixed marriages are not surrounded by taboos, and consequently the couples will raise their children with an awareness of their mixed cultural background. Tis may be

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a frst step towards establishing an elite without strong ethnic characteristics, even though it may form part of a very slow process. One cannot ignore the fact that many Franco-Mauritians have been born and raised within a discourse about the ‘rightness’ of marrying a FrancoMauritian. Tis has had a profound impact on many of them, and many Franco-Mauritians remain sceptical about mixed marriages. Tings may be gradually changing, certainly as regards being completely banished by the community. I encountered, for example, a few more ‘mixed’ couples in 2014, and although the families involved may have had some reservations, these marriages were accepted. To a large extent, however, the marriage patterns of previous generations, who pressured their children (and grandchildren) and sanctioned deviant behaviour, continue to shape the choices of the present generation. Te saying remains, ‘you do as your parents did because that is what you know’ – or you just simply do not want to ofend your parents and grandparents. For many Franco-Mauritians, then, their white identity appears to still represent a boundary that is difcult to cross. Hence, what the outcome will be of more Franco-Mauritians being less negative about mixed marriages and dating non-whites, especially among Franco-Mauritian youngsters, remains to be seen. At present, though, love simply does not easily fnd its way outside the community. Te exclusivity of Franco-Mauritian social life makes it inevitable that many are bound to date, fall in love with and marry other Franco-Mauritians – as already shown by Douglass’s point that elites tend to simply fall in love with someone like them. Many Franco-Mauritians, then, may put the emphasis on the social and cultural advantages of marrying within the Franco-Mauritian community – or marrying someone who is white. I would certainly not deny this, but as the historical examples clearly illustrate there are economic consequences related to Franco-Mauritian marriage patterns. Economically ‘rewarding’ the right choice is still the prevalent behaviour, thus ensuring that those who make the right choice maintain a stake in the island’s richest economic network – starting with the family business.

Te Family Business Te interlocking directorates of the top one hundred companies in 2007 have a strong family component (see Chapter 3). Within the formal business networks of the top one hundred companies, Franco-Mauritians are by far the most connected to each other. Tese connections have diferent causes, which often originate in more informal networks, especially the elite family. Te family is an important starting point for understanding FrancoMauritian leverage and business practices: the businessmen with the seven 118

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highest ranks in terms of board and management positions represent the economic interests of fve diferent (extended) families. Tis corresponds with the common perception that the private sector in Mauritius is predominantly a family afair: ‘During the 1970s the MMM [Mouvement Militant Mauricien] numbered 14 families; today the ones who matter most on the economic chessboard are restricted to: … Tese four families own or control at least one out of every two hectares under sugar-cane cultivation. Tey also control the largest business groups in the country’.10 References to the economic power of a number of families, as in the quote above, are frequently a reference to Franco-Mauritian families. All the ethnic communities have a strong tendency for family businesses though, and there are a number of almost equally economically powerful non-Franco-Mauritian families. Family businesses, moreover, are not uncommon in many other parts of the world: ‘a large part of the French industrial, fnancial and commercial enterprises in 1996 were in the hands of private owners of capital, represented in most cases by families rather than individuals’ (Dogan 2003b: 28). It is often assumed that it is easier to maintain economic wealth within the family than to maintain political power within the family since the transmission of political positions by direct inheritance is impossible (Dogan 2003b: 30). In business elites, on the contrary, the transmission of positions is possible, and in the case of the previously mentioned Gougeards, they have successfully maintained their family sugar estate since 1912. When I met the present CEO, Guillaume Gougeard, in his well-maintained and air-conditioned ofce in Port Louis in 2005, he told me, ‘there is quite a large degree of business sense in our family, which can be gathered from the past of the family in the private sector’. Te Gougeards have found new ways to enlarge their business interests, and today the family has large fnancial interests in tourism, the EPZ and other segments of the Mauritian economy. Guillaume Gougeard, however, said: ‘Not that all the heirs of my great-grandfather, who started the small sugar estate in 1912, are equally wealthy. Some have made their own investments or sold their shares to other family members’. (Family holdings often demand that shares are frst ofered for sale to members of the holding and, therefore, shares tend to stay within the family.) In the case of the Lisbon fnancial elite, Antónia Pedroso de Lima has argued that when a family grows into its fourth, ffth and sixth generation it is not only about the family but also much more about the links to the family enterprise: ‘Being such an important part of the family group identity, the [family] enterprise becomes the raison d’être of the family, since it engenders a sentiment of the family as a group of shared substance. Terefore, shared kinship is not what sustains active kinship relations in this dynastic family’ (Pedroso de Lima 2000: 36).11 119

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Of great importance, then, in the pursuit of prolonging the business over time is successfully dealing with family matters. Owing to the long tradition of many Franco-Mauritian families in the private sector like the Gougeards, wealth has been passed on from generation to generation. Te number of heirs can be substantial; the Gougeard family has eighty to a hundred shareholders.12 Noteworthy, and comparable to the case of French elite families (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 328), is that Guillaume Gougeard is not only an individual managing the family business, but he also has a function and role within the family structure: he manages the family assets and has to make sure that they are safeguarded for future generations. Te family is not only about the heritage stemming from previous generations. Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot show how in the case of established French elite families the family name itself becomes an ‘asset’ or status symbol in matters of heritage. Te carrying of wealth and power across several generations means that, next to the transfer of property, the symbolic aspect of the family name, family status and family history all infuence behaviour relating to inheritance matters (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 331, 334). Te fact that many Franco-Mauritian families have a historical involvement in the private sector and public life in Mauritius suggests probable similarities, something further stressed by a strong tendency within the Franco-Mauritian community to study and cherish family genealogies. Tis also explains the acceptance of the two high-profle mixed marriages, because, as with the French elite, being able to transfer the family patrimony over several generations identifes one as being of a certain class. Established French families are suspicious of the nouveaux riches because they have not yet proven the capacity to safeguard their patrimony over several generations (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 151). Franco-Mauritians accepted the two respective cases, but would not necessarily accept marriages with equally wealthy families who had been much less historical prominent in the island’s afairs. Hence we can see that in many situations wealth alone does not defne class. With respect to his role, then, it is expected of Guillaume Gougeard that he will add value to the family business for the coming generations – for instance, through diversifying and successfully investing in other sectors of the economy. Tis shows, in my opinion, how the internal logic of elite families is one of the driving forces behind Franco-Mauritian business practices. Moreover, this underlying long-term approach of family businesses may also enhance stability in comparison with companies with a short(er)-term approach – under pressure from fnancial markets. Te importance of the family may not be that much diferent in other social groups, yet these correlated economic privileges appear to infuence family relations and vice versa. Many elites are wealthy, and this may be a feature that enhances a strong family life: ‘Money helps to keep family 120

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together in a practical sense’ (Douglass 1992: 212). As Douglass notes with respect to the white Jamaican elite, a long tradition of wealth shapes family life (and marriage patterns) into something diferent from that found among most other social groups: To claim that family has special signifcance for the elite is not to say that other Jamaicans do not share this value or that they are any less family oriented. What may be more strongly stressed among the elite, however, is the intense sentiment that surrounds ‘family’ as a name and as an identifable and cohesive group with common history and heritage that serves as a basis for all business and social activity. (Douglass 1992: 2)

In Franco-Mauritian business families, traditionally succession is from father to eldest son. Notwithstanding the few exceptions, women tend to be absent from the management of the family business, and of all the sixtysix persons of the interlocking directorates (of 2007) there are only two women. Jacques Gougeard told me that in other communities succession was more complicated and often ended up in fghting between heirs, something which afected the business. ‘It happens less between children in the Franco-Mauritian community’, he said, ‘because Franco-Mauritian families may be more business-minded families’. Nevertheless, with large numbers of heirs, often in diferent branches of the business, it is not always a foregone conclusion who will be the successor, and in the Franco-Mauritian community there are examples of brothers who left the island and never talked to each other again because of this. During my feldwork I noticed that all the ins and outs of succession tend to be difcult to study since they are not often openly discussed – and as a Franco-Mauritian informant told me, families would not share details of their succession battles with a researcher. But since these battles tend to provide winners and losers, information does not always remain secret. Dominique Dervillers, who also fgures among the seven businessmen with the highest number of directorate positions in 2007, told me, ‘I come from a friendly minded family without struggles over succession like those that happen in other families’. Other data I gathered, however, suggests that it was not a foregone conclusion that Dominique Dervillers and his brothers would become the leading branch of the family. Control of the family assets has historically shifted from branch to branch. One of these shifts came about due to his cousin not managing the assets to the liking of the other heirs, although Dominique Dervillers said that his cousin was not interested in succeeding Dominique Dervillers’ father, with whom he had run the company. Te cousin eventually left the family company, sold his shares and now successfully runs his own company.

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In another case in 2006, a business group with a shareholding divided between diferent branches, with distinct family names, ended up in a mediacovered ‘boardroom battle’. Tis started because of a group that wished to oust the branch in control of the company. Te struggle was spread over diferent subsidiaries and investment holdings. Alliances between diferent branches were forged, and the ones initially in control were temporarily suspended from their duties. Subsequently, the suspension was taken to court, where the verdict was reversed.13 Te branch initially in control, at that time at least, successfully settled the succession to their advantage. Economically irrational factors, such as power over assets and big egos, appear to have been infuential in this battle. Economic considerations were infuential too, however, since one of the heirs was considered incapable of running the business even though he had succeeded his father who had successfully run the company before. In the Franco-Mauritian case, Douglass’s remark certainly holds true: ‘Family is not about hierarchy or power at all, but about afnity and love. Te elite are consumed by a passionate involvement with family’ (Douglass 1992: 2). But as the ‘boardroom battle’ illustrates, a family business is not necessarily a recipe for success. Te close afnity that successfully held the family’s wealth together in the frst generations was no longer present, facilitating conficts over the management of the family’s wealth between diferent branches. Afnity is probably better maintained among family members in the frst and second generations, although by no means are siblings and frst cousins exempt from conficts regarding the management of family wealth – especially, I would argue, because sentiments often interfere with management. Following up on a number of new family conficts in the years preceding 2014, a Franco-Mauritian informant told me that these are the result of a perpetual confict: ‘Managers see shareholders as parasites because they just sit there and do nothing, while shareholders see managers as overpaid, “eating” their dividend’. Family disputes emerging out of this confict, then, may have a negative impact on the position of individual families, yet as I will show below wealth has tended to remain in the Franco-Mauritian community. Te Franco-Mauritian elite position, as the whole notion of an elite implies, cannot be understood without assessing the role of the community. In the Franco-Mauritian case, being part of the community is also central to their identity. Not only the family but the whole community is important for establishing a sense of eliteness – and, as a matter of fact, for shaping marriage choices and the maintenance of economic privileges for the whole community.

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Franco-Mauritian Kinship Regarding the particularistic tendencies of an elite, the elite family not only plays an important role in transferring fnancial capital, but also in transferring social, cultural and symbolic capital (Bourdieu 1984, 1994). Tis, in general, helps ofspring secure their position within the elite. And by means of social, cultural and symbolic capital, elite members can easily identify whether someone belongs to the elite or not. In the Franco-Mauritian community, the infuence of these diferent kinds of capital is certainly present as well. As I will show more clearly in Chapter 6, the symbolic aspect of elite distinction is characterized by Franco-Mauritians’ white skin colour – or better, recognition among the Franco-Mauritian that one is of the ‘white race’. As I have already shown, there are Mauritians with an equally white skin colour who are nevertheless classifed as gens de couleur because they allegedly have black ancestors. Tus, the defnition of a Franco-Mauritian is not only related to their phenotype but also to the ‘absence of non-white genes’ – thus genealogies are used to trace ancestors through time and ‘prove’ the absence of black ancestors.14 What is interesting in the Franco-Mauritian case is that the diferent kinds of capital, to a certain extent, have a less prominent role than in the case of other elites. Because of the community’s small size, establishing its boundary is relatively simple: the boundary can be established through knowledge of family names. Virtually every Franco-Mauritian knows all the other family names belonging to the community, and thus directly knows when a name does not belong to the community. To follow up on my example of the gens de couleur woman who feels rather negative about Franco-Mauritians in Chapter 1, at a reception I attended in Port Louis, a Franco-Mauritian asked the woman her maiden name since she was married to a foreigner. Later she said: ‘[Te Franco-Mauritian] asked my name in order to place me. It is difcult to place me because I’m white but not Franco-Mauritian. If I had been Chinese, [the man] would not have asked my name because he could have easily placed me’. Tis shows how a surname has an additional function in cases where a direct judgement about the ‘whiteness’ of a person is impossible to make. But the same strategy also helps to position someone within the Franco-Mauritian community. As the gens de couleur woman said, ‘in the case of Franco-Mauritians themselves, they also ask the name in order to place the relevant person’. Family names are thus an indication of one’s social position in the community. Something similar occurs in France, where family names of members of the higher social circles are published in order to establish who matters (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 165). Some Franco-Mauritians argue that as a consequence of this they lack an individual identity. A 123

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Franco-Mauritian residing in Durban, South Africa, said: ‘I don’t like the mentality in Mauritius. You are not who you are but are always the son, cousin, et cetera of someone. In South Africa you are just who you are because they don’t care’. An additional assumption here is that the white South African community is too big to assess someone’s position from their family name, instead relying more on diferent forms of capital. Information about genealogies in Mauritius is, however, prone to interpretation and, consequently, fuels gossip about whether certain families have non-white ancestors several generations back, a feature that was also present among Békés in Martinique (Kovats Beaudoux and Giraud 2002: 78).15 According to a Franco-Mauritian studying the community’s genealogies, many Franco-Mauritian families have non-white ancestors, though they do not want to know about them. I do not have detailed information about all Franco-Mauritian genealogies, but every now and then Franco-Mauritians gossiped about whether someone has a ‘pure’ white background, as the case of Paul Bérenger will illustrate. Te main function of this seems to be to discredit someone, since it does not lead to sudden exclusion from the Franco-Mauritian community for ‘revealing’ that someone has black ancestors. Franco-Mauritians are just too well-informed about other islanders, which makes it virtually impossible for any Mauritian to enter the feld ‘without a history’.16 Te relatively small size of the community and the island, as well as the setup of the community, contribute to this. Apart from their activities in the private sector, Franco-Mauritians predominantly operate within a relatively small number of exclusive enclaves of leisure activities and education, this further illustrating the role of informal networks.

Franco-Mauritian Club Life and Leisure Spending Te Franco-Mauritians are not a homogeneous group. Like any community, members have a variety of interests, habits and practices. Franco-Mauritians, nevertheless, have been associated (historically) with a number of social and sport clubs and specifc kinds of leisure spending. One Franco-Mauritian man jokingly and critically said that when you want to know whether you are really white you should apply for membership of the Dodo Club, the best-known and purely Franco-Mauritian of all the clubs. While confrming that there are diferences in interests among Franco-Mauritians, the FrancoMauritian in question pointed out that he was not a member himself. Te Dodo Club, situated in Curepipe in the elevated centre of the island, has always screened new members on the basis of their ‘purity’. Consequently, it has remained a ‘whites-only club’ and a symbol of Franco-Mauritian power.

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Historically, it made sense for there to be whites-only clubs because the Franco-Mauritians and the British were virtually the only elite. Changes in social stratifcation have, however, put pressure on a number of these clubs to reform. For example, the Turf Club, an elite club in charge of horse racing in the capital, Port Louis, was the exclusive domain of Franco-Mauritians and British colonial ofcials –in fact, it was founded in 1812 to bring the British and Franco-Mauritians closer together. But horse racing is very popular among all Mauritians, and with the democratization of Mauritius the Turf Club has been democratized as well. Today it has (elite) members from all the communities, even though Franco-Mauritians still represent a substantial element of the club, because for people interested in horse racing it is the only appropriate elite club. One of the prominent mixed couples I referred to above actually met at the race tracks. Albeit a unique example, this shows the potential demographic impact change can have. In the case of the Gymkhana Club in Vacoas, near Curepipe on the high plateau, however, Franco-Mauritians have virtually withdrawn. Tough founded by a British naval ofcer, Franco-Mauritians once frequented this golf club, and until the late 1960s it was a whites-only institution. A retired businessman of Muslim Mauritian origin remembered how he was the frst non-Franco-Mauritian/non-Briton to join the club. He said: ‘When Gymkhana became too “open” Franco-Mauritians went back to the Dodo Club and opened a golf course there. Very few stayed, and I have lost some friendships because they moved away’. Nowadays, Gymkhana’s members come from a large variety of (ethnic) backgrounds, of whom many belong to the island’s newly emerged elites. Judging from its membership fees, it can be considered as one the island’s most elite clubs. Franco-Mauritians, however, now tend to avoid it. ‘I’ve heard from friends that the club became terrible and a mess, because they accepted everyone’, said a Franco-Mauritian. Tis seems to be something of an overstatement, because the club looked decent and clean when I visited it in 2006. Besides, the club follows a thorough process when scrutinizing prospective members. Tis feeling of losing control and of becoming a minority is equally refected in the Mauritian branch of the Alliance Française, where other Mauritians interested in French culture and language could no longer be excluded from the running of the institution’s afairs. Te Mauritian branch of the French institution, which propagates the French language, was founded in 1884 – the Mauritian branch is the oldest outside Paris. A book written in honour of the centenary of the institution indicates that, at the start, the Port Louis section gave the impression that it was a closed circle reserved for FrancoMauritians who had become members or who intended to become members (Decotter 1984: 9). From the 1970s onwards this slowly started to change. In the beginning, the frst non-Franco-Mauritian presidents, often gens de 125

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couleur, were considered to be close allies of the Franco-Mauritians. But the arrival of the frst Hindu-nominated president marked the end of FrancoMauritian control in the late 1980s. According to a non-Franco-Mauritian former president: ‘He was not well perceived by the Franco-Mauritians and there was a “war” between him and [the latest Franco-Mauritian president], but he managed well … Te Franco-Mauritians had lost their power’. An important challenge in this process was implicit in the fact that the nomination of the Hindu president was supported by the French ambassador. Te French increasingly viewed the Franco-Mauritian monopoly of French language and culture as problematic. Franco-Mauritians, who disapproved of this diversifcation, have gradually withdrawn from the Alliance Française. Te small number of Franco-Mauritians that are still members do not stand a chance in the elections. ‘Tey don’t want a Franco-Mauritian elected. Your capacities in this system don’t count, it is who you represent’, argued the former president.

Te Realm of Exclusive Leisure Only the Dodo Club and a number of the island’s yacht and game-fshing clubs – located in Grand Baie, Point d’Esny and Rivière Noire – have remained almost exclusively Franco-Mauritian. In contrast to the Turf Club and Gymkhana Club, the Dodo Club had always been a Franco-Mauritian bastion, with hardly any British members. Membership regulations of clubs that exclude non-whites do not speak openly about the racist practices in their admission articles, but exclusion occurs via the process of nomination – a discriminatory practice Franco-Mauritians do not deny. However, a little inconsistency is not uncommon with the Franco-Mauritians. As is demonstrated by the case of Elodie de Montfaucon, some Franco-Mauritians who are known to have black ancestors are accepted because of their socioeconomic position in the Franco-Mauritian community – there are even some examples of gens de couleur siblings of which one with a fairer skin colour is a member while another one is not. So far, this does not appear to have jeopardized the Franco-Mauritian character of the club, because these are exceptions to the rule and with their (almost) white skin they ft into the club just as if they were Franco-Mauritians. When I visited the club I observed, apart from the non-white staf, only white members – mainly children and youngsters who had come to play sports. Notwithstanding the irregularities, for the majority of Mauritians, then, it remains a white club. Relevant to the understanding of whites-only clubs in postcolonial and twenty-frst-century Mauritius, which many would consider racist anachronisms, is that most Mauritians seem to care little. As I will show in the next 126

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chapter, Mauritian society more generally does not strongly disapprove of the exclusivity these clubs embody. Tis exclusivity facilitates the maintenance of their whites-only character, and this is hardly criticized by FrancoMauritians, even if they are more liberal. Numerous Franco-Mauritians have never been a member of such clubs, for reasons ranging from living too far away, their parents never having been members, a dislike for sports, indiference or their loathing of the membership regulations. Tey may joke about the clubs and consider them a relic of the past, but they hardly ever feel the need to publicly criticize them. Te Franco-Mauritian members disapproving of the clubs’ policies most often withdraw from the clubs instead of challenging the clubs from the inside. In some cases, Franco-Mauritians simply rejected the exclusion of nonwhites, an attitude that they had not realized they had when they were younger. One Franco-Mauritian woman who was a member of the Dodo Club and the Grand Bay Yacht Club (GBYC) told me: When I was ffteen it was quite painful, because my [Muslim] friends didn’t have the right to come to the parties. I think it must have hurt them, because as youngsters we could only go to one of these clubs for parties. Tere was nothing else, or parents only allowed us to go to these clubs because they thought we were too young for the nightclubs. Nowadays you can invite non-whites at the [GBYC], but its membership is still selective.

However, in the end, only a few appear to have cancelled their membership of these clubs because of disagreeing with their racist admission policies. One Franco-Mauritian highly critical about the selection process for entry into the clubs maintained his membership at GBYC in order for his children ‘to have access to the sea’. Te exclusivity of these clubs is also partly related to the leisure habits of Mauritians. Te president of Le Morne Angler’s Club (MAC) on the west coast said: To become a member [of MAC] you need to be nominated [by other members]. But we can’t accept too many members because of the infrastructure of the club. Tere is restricted space. Te sons of members have a preference … And long ago the maximum number of members was fxed at four hundred. We have never refused someone because he has another name [i.e. belongs to another community]. But it is a club for fshermen and other communities hardly fsh […] At parties people from other communities are welcome [when they are brought by members]. It is not a closed and sectarian club.17

Game-fshing and boating are, indeed, typically Franco-Mauritian activities. Consequently, this limits the membership of clubs who specialize in these activities. Nevertheless, Franco-Mauritians and foreign whites do appear to 127

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be favoured. Te president said, ‘if you have four hundred members then it’s obvious that some like fshing and some don’t’ – hence, it has in an important sense become a social club as well. He argued that the club does not accept people who want to become members of the social club only, and this, indeed, seemed the case when they were not from the Franco-Mauritian community. At the GBYC, the argument that there is only so much space for so many boats is used in a similar way. Te club does, however, have a number of white South African members (in Chapter 6 I analyse the infuence of an increasing number of white foreigners on the island). Hunting, like game-fshing and yachting, is also a leisure activity strongly associated with the Franco-Mauritian community. In fact, around the world (trophy) hunting is an activity more often than not associated with elites (Douglass 1992; Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998). Traditionally, hunting has been a Franco-Mauritian afair, which explains the continuing interest in it within their community, and the limited interest of other communities; it also remains a rather expensive leisure activity, and only small numbers of other Mauritians hunt. Many Franco-Mauritian men joined their fathers hunting when they were young, and today they take their own children on hunts. Moreover, exclusivity comes from the fact that hunting cannot be practised all over the island, and that hunting reserves are essential. In this sense, Franco-Mauritian landed property provides an advantage, as many sugar estates, for example, have reserves, though a number of reserves are also found on land leased from the government. Tis exclusivity shows how Franco-Mauritian clubs and leisure activities reinforce a sense of belonging and particularly bonding among Franco-Mauritians. In July 2006, I joined a hunt with around thirty Franco-Mauritian men, among them a number of members of the economically most powerful families. At daybreak, a Franco-Mauritian, his two sons and one of their friends, picked me up. On the way to the hunting ground we stopped to buy a green raincoat and trousers for me, so at least I would have the appearance of a hunter. At the clubhouse of the reserve we were welcomed with tea and cofee. Apart from two women (one middle-aged and another the young daughter of one of the men), all those assembled were men. Tey were dressed in their green hunting outfts. After about an hour, one of the Franco-Mauritian organizers gave a short introduction about the rules and we were set to go. We were grouped into teams and dropped of at wooden towers spread over the fenced reserve. Tere the waiting started. A few times the beaters, who were all non-white, together with packs of dogs, drove the deer out of the thick forest on to the plains. On one of these occasions, the eldest son managed to shoot and kill one of the deer. In the meantime, I chatted with his father, the Franco-Mauritian who invited me, about the economic power of the Franco-Mauritians. He also explained to me that the 128

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beaters are paid in meat (parts of the deer that are killed and later butchered by the same beaters). Te dog-owners are mainly whites, but according to my host they are often whites of a lower rank. It is a bit awkward, he said. Tey often do not stay for lunch, but leave directly after the hunt through the ‘back door’. After a couple of hours, we were picked up for the second part of the hunt: drinking and lunch at the clubhouse. Te whiskies and other alcoholic beverages (before midday) relaxed people, encouraging a mode of joking and socializing. After more drinks and chatting, the hunt was rounded of with an extensive Creole-style lunch. Wine and more jokes accompanied the lunch. To me the part after the actual hunting shows how all the Franco-Mauritian men are familiar with each other and really at ease – facilitating their close collaboration in their professional lives. Te exclusivity of Franco-Mauritian leisure activities was even refected in the Mauritian national rugby team, a striking example that demonstrates how it is more than just membership policies that exclude non-whites. In December 2005, I attended the international match between Mauritius and Burkina Faso. It was probably one of the largest gatherings of FrancoMauritians in the island’s contemporary history. Up until now, FrancoMauritians have been about the only Mauritians interested in rugby. Te fact that it was played at their exclusive clubs made it, as in South Africa, a ‘white’ sport. Accordingly, the Mauritian national team was almost exclusively a Franco-Mauritian afair. My observation was that about two-thirds of the supporters were also Franco-Mauritians – football is far more popular than rugby among Mauritians in general, with rugby being a specialist niche interest. Te small size of the community and the long history of endogamous marriage meant that almost every Franco-Mauritian knew either a player or someone who knew or was related to a player on the team. Te remaining Franco-Mauritian club and leisure activities, however, have faced challenges as well, but of a diferent kind to those experienced by the previously mentioned organizations. Te president of the Dodo Club told me, ‘many of the members used to live in Curepipe, but when the campements started to have electricity [in the 1980s] many moved to the seaside’. Accordingly, Franco-Mauritians cancelled their membership and no longer introduced their children to the club. Also, membership fees at the Dodo Club are relatively low. One member said, ‘at the Dodo Club the membership is awfully cheap and because of the expensive maintenance of the premises we often have to do some fundraising to “tie the knots”’. Te club ceased, for example, the traditional annual Bal du Dodo, held on 31 December, in the early years of the twenty-frst century. Te president of the club said: ‘Te costs were becoming too expensive because everything, like labour costs, is more expensive on the thirty-frst of December. Te frst reason [that the ball ended] were the costs. Te second was that people like to do something else 129

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on the thirty-frst [because, in contrast to the past, there are now more special events in hotels and restaurants]’. According to the president, the club still had 2,000 members, of whom 250 to 300 were actively involved in club activities in 2006. Te remaining members often kept up their membership for sentimental reasons, or so that their children could play sport there. For young teenagers it is a place to meet with their peers without direct parental control, while the parents feel reassured because it is a safe Franco-Mauritian stronghold. Declining enthusiasm among Franco-Mauritians themselves, however, is a threat to the continuation of the club. Challenges to club life thus come from ‘within’ as lifestyles are changing. It is argued that the younger generations are less club-minded, and that they have more alternative leisure activities now. Tese range from playing golf on hotel courses, dining at restaurants, drinking in bars and shopping. Recently, a number of high-end sport clubs have also opened in the coastal regions, and these have flled a gap because these regions lacked clubs other than nautical clubs before, and because new clubs exclusively for one ethnic community are not established anymore. Franco-Mauritians are, for example, now being pulled towards the ethnically mixed River Club on the west coast. It is an elite sports club with membership fees. Although in 2006 it lacked the social component that other clubs have, this may gradually change. Members of the Dodo Club were, consequently, discussing how to guarantee the continuation of their club, for example by opening up the club’s membership. Te president said, ‘As a Franco-Mauritian-only club, the club is too closed. [When we cannot assess someone’s eligibility by their FrancoMauritian identity, in the case of opening up] we will decide whether someone is good in terms of behaviour. We want the Dodo to remain a socially decent club, and many of the rich in Mauritius aren’t especially decent’. In 2014, one of the members involved argued that they now admitted members with a gens de couleur background. He said, ‘We do research on the background, what kind of friends they [i.e. prospective members] have … Some of the white kids now don’t become members [because they don’t have the right backgrounds and friends]’. In all likelihood the club has changed relatively little with regards to its (elite) composition, as by far the majority will still be white. Besides, the ‘opening up’ appears rather equivocal, driven not so much by a desire to welcome non-Franco-Mauritian members than by the need to ensure the club’s continued existence.18 Arguments against ‘opening up’ are equally illustrative, as the most commonly heard argument is that other ethnic groups have clubs with exclusive membership rules as well, but that it is only in the Franco-Mauritian case that this is seen as racist. In a sense, the FrancoMauritian perception of being victims stops them from opening up. Yet there also seems to be a genuine anxiety about becoming a minority in their 130

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own club, as happened in the Alliance Française. What is diferent, however, when compared to the Alliance Française, the Gymkhana Club and the Turf Club, is that there is little external pressure to open up these last whites-only clubs (as I will show in the next chapter, this is also an advantage to the maintenance of the Franco-Mauritian elite position). Apart from Mauritians who are relatively close to the Franco-Mauritian community, other Mauritians are not particularly interested because they have never taken part in certain leisure activities specifc to the Franco-Mauritian community. Franco-Mauritian club life and leisure activities show that from early childhood onwards Franco-Mauritians grow up in an environment enclosed by their community. Tey meet each other at the same exclusive clubs and, as I show below, they spend their weekends and holidays at the seaside with their cousins and other Franco-Mauritians. Franco-Mauritians do have friends from other communities, but these tend to number just a few among large groups of Franco-Mauritians – and almost all their closest friends are Franco-Mauritians, whom they have known for years. Teoretically, open gatherings can still, in efect, become predominantly Franco-Mauritian in character. Zanzibar, a nightclub in the north, organized nights catering almost exclusively to Franco-Mauritians. Tis exclusivity is facilitated (as a Franco-Mauritian girl explained) by lower class Creoles, for example, being kept out with the excuse that they are not members. At the same time, Franco-Mauritians’ non-white friends are allowed in. Within the context of the overwhelming presence of Franco-Mauritians they are, however, a tiny minority. In 2014, I still observed the same pattern. Te young FrancoMauritians no longer socialized, drank and danced in the same venue because a diferent (not overwhelmingly Franco-Mauritian) crowd now frequented the nightclub formerly known as Zanzibar. Instead, they now gathered in another bar in the north. It is illustrative of the Franco-Mauritian desire to operate in exclusive domains, and increasing pressure on these domains can be potentially disruptive. Franco-Mauritians apply all their means to defend this exclusivity, reinforcing a sense of cultural homogeneity. Tis leads to a vicious circle in which the desire to maintain social and cultural homogeneity drives exclusivity, and this subsequently reinforces the continuation of a homogeneous environment (Salverda and Hay 2014). Franco-Mauritian adaptation to challenges to their educational exclusivity equally illustrates this.

Education Nowadays the majority of Franco-Mauritian children attend a small number of French (curriculum) private schools. Tis separates them from the 131

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majority of other Mauritian pupils, who attend state schools, which follows the English curriculum, because the latter follow the southern hemisphere calendar while the French private schools follow the European calendar. Hence, Franco-Mauritians have their long holidays in the Mauritian ‘winter’, when most Mauritians are at school. During much of the colonial period, Franco-Mauritians, however, followed the English system. Tey had the advantage of a quality education because this was something that they could aford and because they valued education. Together with the children of British colonial ofcers, the Franco-Mauritians attended the Royal College in Curepipe. After the abolition of the colour bar in 1828, gens de couleur were allowed to join them (Allen 1999: 79, 80). Pressure on the FrancoMauritians’ privileged position within the educational system only started with the emancipation of the Indo-Mauritians and other groups in the early twentieth century. Among these groups, Western education gradually gained prestige. Burton Benedict argued that: ‘Economic betterment is not the only incentive for education; prestige and the possibilities of upward social mobility play a great part. A Western education carries with it considerable prestige not only for the individual who has received or is receiving it but also for his family’ (Benedict 1958: 320). Te new constitution of 1948 contributed substantially to the importance of prestige among the Indo-Mauritian population: ‘Every successful Indian candidate was Western-educated. Te leading politicians in Mauritius are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Most of them have completed their education in the United Kingdom. Te prestige attaching to education weighs heavily at the polls’ (Benedict 1958: 322). Tis was a challenge to the Franco-Mauritian elite position as they lost their lead in this feld, with other Mauritians obtaining similar levels of education. Franco-Mauritians, however, faced up to this challenge directly. From the very frst day that the quality schooling of Franco-Mauritian children was rivalled by that of other groups, the community has been very resilient in this respect, safeguarding a good standard of education for their children. Focusing on quality education and even turning good education into a privilege is a characteristic that many elites share, as is shown by American Ivy League universities (e.g., Golden 2006) and the French educational system (e.g., Bourdieu and Clough 1996). When in the early twentieth century other ethnic groups began vying for places at the Royal College, many Franco-Mauritians transferred their children to Catholic mission schools. For much of the twentieth century, Franco-Mauritian pupils have dominated the best of these missionary schools. In other schools, the Catholic Church also looked after the education of Mauritians from other backgrounds, although not on the same level. A Mauritian priest said, ‘the Franco-Mauritians were not in favour of educating the masses, although

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at the same time the Catholic Church, which initiated education for the masses, was an important Franco-Mauritian vehicle’. In the 1950s we see the onset of a major change for the Franco-Mauritians. Both the Royal College and the missionary schools had an English curriculum and were single-sex schools. In 1953, a group of French and Franco-Mauritian parents established the Lycée La Bourdonnais, the frst French-curriculum school on the island, in Curepipe –named, as I explained before, after a historical fgure from the French period. Te establishment of this school corresponded with increasing competition from other communities in the mission schools, and refects the elite’s desire to regain some measure of control over the ‘geographies’ in which they operate (Salverda and Hay 2014). However, it seems that the initiative to start a Frenchcurriculum school was also related to the preference of a number of parents to educate their children in their maternal language and using the French educational system, although at the onset many Franco-Mauritians were sceptical about mixed-sex classes, according to one the Franco-Mauritian initiators. Tis situation changed in the 1970s when the Catholic mission schools came under the control of the state and competition for enrolment increased. Franco-Mauritians were forced to compete for admittance with all Mauritians on the basis of merit alone; before, following the Catholic religion had been important for enrolment. Franco-Mauritian parents who had been initially sceptical about the French system changed their opinion and sent their children to the French school(s). Simultaneously, FrancoMauritians who had moved from Curepipe and its surroundings to the coast initiated a second French-curriculum school in the north, Ecole du Nord. Nowadays, many Mauritians highly value education and put a lot of money and efort into providing a good education for their children, since this enhances social mobility. Te Franco-Mauritians, in answer to this, have safeguarded a good standard of education for themselves through the use of private schools, a practice mutually reinforced by their (elite) income as one needs to be able to cover the school fees to adopt this strategy. In the late 1990s, a third French-curriculum school was opened by a number of Franco-Mauritians. Increasing demand for private French education, also coming from other Mauritians, necessitated the establishment of the Lycée des Mascareignes in 2001, an upper school located next to the Ecole du Centre and that caters for the pupils of Ecole du Nord and Ecole du Centre – previously this need had been taken care of by Lycée La Bourdonnais. And in 2003 on the west coast (where many Franco-Mauritians and expatriates reside), the French-curriculum primary school Paul et Virginie opened its doors as the ffth French school in Mauritius – named after the previously mentioned French writer Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s most famous novel. Consequently, hardly any Franco-Mauritian children are left in the state 133

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educational system, while Mauritius has a relative high density of Frenchcurriculum schools. Franco-Mauritians almost all attend the private French schools or, in smaller numbers, two private English schools, Le Bocage and Northfelds. All in all, Franco-Mauritians have proved themselves to be pioneers in safeguarding a good level of education for their children. As a consequence of what can be deemed elite emulation, many other Mauritians followed suit (see also Chapter 6). I visited a number of private schools and they all had mixed populations, at least community-wise, because the high school fees imply that pupils almost all come from privileged backgrounds. Tere is potential for more intermingling between FrancoMauritians and others, but from a young age the exclusivity of FrancoMauritian leisure and sport clubs, as I have indicated above, is a disruptive element, limiting the possibility of shaping a similar sense of belonging as that which obtains between Franco-Mauritians who attend the same schools and the same clubs after school hours. Franco-Mauritian education has also changed in accordance with economic changes. According to Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot (1998), an increasingly complicated economy requires better education and training. In France, having a university degree did not matter in the past as learning the trade at work proved sufcient. Nowadays, however, French elite families focus much more on getting an excellent education (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 370). Among Franco-Mauritians, too, a good education is required to prepare them for the labour market, and for this reason many Franco-Mauritians complete tertiary education, preferably abroad. In the past this has been diferent because, as in France, Franco-Mauritians typically learned their trade at work after being educated in Mauritius. But most of the current generation of CEOs were, in fact, trained at overseas institutions in order to be able to deal with an increasingly complicated economy. For the purposes of a good education and training, they needed to go abroad as Mauritius had limited facilities. Even now the situation has not changed much, and many Franco-Mauritians send their children to South Africa and France, with a limited number even sending their progeny to Australia and the UK. Tis comes at a price, and despite their substantial economic privileges, not all Franco-Mauritians can aford to send their children abroad – neither do all Franco-Mauritian students want to go or succeed in going overseas. One solution to the fnancial problem is provided by scholarships for overseas training supplied by Franco-Mauritian businesses. Tere is also a Franco-Mauritian organization that provides loans to needy students. A requirement for this is that the applicant’s family be lacking the fnancial means to fnance overseas studies, and that they do not have a foreign passport, because this can have fnancial advantages – for example, a French passport makes Franco-Mauritians eligible for some French state support. 134

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Te system of scholarships involves working for a number of years for the company providing the funding after returning to Mauritius with a degree. To be eligible, being a Franco-Mauritian is not an absolute requirement. Te scholarships are, however, not widely publicized. Hence, through their networks, Franco-Mauritians have the advantage of being aware of these scholarships and of knowing the right person to contact to obtain funding. As one student in France told me: ‘When I was in my fnal class at La Bourdonnais I sent, together with my mother, my CV to [the director of a company]. He gave it to his second, who I know because he is the father of [a close friend]. And my uncle works for the company also’. Tis shows, once again, the aspect of trust and familiarity: Franco-Mauritian businesses are familiar with the situation and families of respective students. Another solution for entering tertiary education is found locally. In the case of Franco-Mauritians, however, the local University of Mauritius is not an option, as it is considered below Franco-Mauritian elite status and is part of the state educational system, which is perceived to favour Hindus. Te acceptable options consist of a few private educational institutes in Mauritius that have foreign universities as partners of their programmes. Te main private tertiary education institution catering for Franco-Mauritians (and other Mauritians) is the Charles Telfair Institute, which ofers courses in subjects such as accounting, management and communication.19 Previously it was named after a Franco-Mauritian-controlled consultancy frm, but with fnancial input coming from a number of new shareholders it was deemed appropriate that it change its name. Interestingly, these new shareholders are mainly large Franco-Mauritian-controlled business groups and the Mauritius Commercial Bank. Tis demonstrates the value the respective business groups give to (locally) training future employees. Nevertheless, overseas education still seems to be favoured as it is considered a good opportunity to leave the island – Franco-Mauritians who attend the Charles Telfair Institute often appear to spend at least some time abroad later in their studies. A Franco-Mauritian woman who was visiting her daughter in Cape Town said: ‘It is necessary for children to leave the island for some time. It helps in broadening the person’s viewpoint’. However, it also seems to further one’s position in the job market as the prestige of an overseas degree appears a useful addition to (secondary and tertiary) education in general. Franco-Mauritians are not by any means the only Mauritians studying abroad, although studying abroad is not what is in store for most Mauritians. It is argued that many of the Mauritians studying abroad try to fnd employment outside Mauritius,20 while most Franco-Mauritians with an overseas education tend to return to Mauritius. In 2014, I had a discussion with a Franco-Mauritian friend who was not directly convinced by my analysis that most Franco-Mauritian students return after their studies. He asked 135

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if I could prove it with numbers. I do not have the numbers of FrancoMauritians returning to Mauritius, but my evidence suggests that many of them return to the island eventually; hence, I told my friend that until proven otherwise I maintain my argument. Franco-Mauritian students in South Africa and France almost all expressed their wish to return – and the few I was still in contact with in 2014 were mostly working on the island. Firstly, they often said that they cherished the pleasures of the Mauritian sea, sun and sand, and that they had fond memories of a carefree upbringing. Secondly, they stated that they would easily fnd jobs via their kin network, and hardly feared the impact of meritocratic criteria at all.21 One explanation of this tendency is, therefore, that overseas tertiary education helps when facing change, and that the potential brain drain in the case of Franco-Mauritians is actually non-existent; it also shows Franco-Mauritians’ commitment to Mauritius – and the development of its economy. Te combination of education, upbringing and Franco-Mauritian community life thus continues to have a signifcant impact on the maintenance of an elite position. A Franco-Mauritian businessman even told me: ‘Meritocracy is passé, because children are raised by television. Life for many is not about principles but about money. You cannot establish someone’s quality by means of a simple curriculum vitae. You also have to take the family background into consideration’. Tis partly explains the promotion of a Franco-Mauritian employee in this man’s business in 2006. He said, ‘I know his family is a long-established family who has always been businessminded. It is an honest family and [the respective employee] is a hard worker, who already works with me. Now he could prove himself by being in charge of a couple of hundred people’. Tis, understandably, relies very much on the social proximity reinforced by sharing the same (elite) culture. Consequently, Franco-Mauritians feel threatened as the educational and social spaces that facilitate the prolongation of a distinctive – or at least what is perceived as distinctive – elite culture is threatened. Teir cherished life at the seaside perfectly illustrates this.

Campements One of the most prominent social and leisure activities of Franco-Mauritians is related to the sea and the island’s renowned pristine beaches. Historically, the Franco-Mauritians were more or less the only ones interested in spending leisure time at the seaside and were, as an elite, almost the only ones in a position to enjoy leisure time. Tis explains why nautical activities, such as yachting and game-fshing, are an important aspect of Franco-Mauritian

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elite culture. It also explains Franco-Mauritian feelings with regard to their campements. As a consequence of malaria, and especially the serious malaria epidemic of 1866, which hit Port Louis in particular, wealthy Franco-Mauritians abandoned the capital and other lower-lying districts for the higher plateau in the centre of the island. In these new residential districts the climate was cooler and the inhabitants were, therefore, less afected by malaria (Benedict 1965: 23; North-Coombes 2000: 40, 41). To enjoy the luxury of the seaside, however, many Franco-Mauritians established second houses on the coast, probably in a similar tradition as elites in Europe. Deauville, on the coast of Normandy in France, became a sought-after destination for the French elite in the second half of the nineteenth and the frst half of the twentieth century – the improvement of travel conditions and increasing leisure time for non-elites later made them leave Deauville for other seaside destinations (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 284–312).22 Unlike the situation of elites found in other parts of the world, FrancoMauritians do not have private beaches and, actually, apart from a few exceptions, do not own the land that their seaside bungalows stand on. As with hotels, Franco-Mauritians need to lease this land from the government; the British colonial government did not sell the littoral (the pas géométrique) after it became irrelevant for military patrols, but it was eager to lease it to individual Franco-Mauritians and the small number of other (non-FrancoMauritian) interested parties – and to hotels, as I have already shown. In the twentieth century, many of these people built simple huts or used old railway carriages to create a place at the seaside where they could spend weekends and the winter months, when the temperature drops on the high plateau. Te eradication of malaria around 1950, together with improved infrastructure and electricity over the following decades, made the coastal zone more attractive. Gradually a number of coastal villages developed, and this increased Franco-Mauritian permanent residence there as many opted for making their campements their primary residence. Equally, FrancoMauritians who did not own campements often moved to seaside villages, though they settled down on private land not directly bordering the ocean. Although tourism was also an infuence, this movement led to the development of a number of coastal villages – the Franco-Mauritian established French-curriculum schools in the north (opened in the 1980s) and a primary school in the west (opened in 2003) cater to this trend. Nowadays, many Franco-Mauritians live permanently in their campements or other, fully owned, properties in these coastal villages, with the main concentrations in the north and the west of the island (and some smaller concentrations in the south and east). Tese villages and coastal regions have diferent characters, which to a certain extent explains some of 137

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the diversity within the community. About three-quarters of the respondents to the questionnaire I administered either own or have a family member who owns a campement. Te historical pattern of campements makes them a feature primarily identifed with the Franco-Mauritian community and their elite culture. Although there are a number of individuals from other communities who own campements as well, this is by no means characteristic of their respective communities in general. Te high walls that hide campements from view – and the hedges, in the case of Franco-Mauritian houses on the high plateau (Curepipe and surroundings) – can in a way be considered symbolic of Franco-Mauritian life (see also Chapter 6). On the island, Franco-Mauritians lead social lives that are somehow separated from those of other Mauritians.23 Campements, hunting, clubs and other exclusive activities appear to be the Franco-Mauritian equivalent of Cohen’s ‘inner networks of primary relationships’ which link the members of an elite group together: ‘It is this inner, highly exclusive, network which provides the real basis of identity and serves as a system of channels for collaboration in developing and maintaining the interests of its members’ (Cohen 1981: 61). From early childhood, Franco-Mauritians grow up in an environment enclosed by their community. Tey spend their weekends and holidays at the seaside with their cousins and other FrancoMauritians. Te majority of Franco-Mauritian children attend a small number of French private schools which, moreover, have been founded by or in close cooperation with members of their community. Increasing pressure on these exclusive domains, however, can have a signifcant impact, as the case of the Macanese, the Portuguese elite in Macau, shows: [Te stigma of exclusivity] explains how there has been a reduction bordering on total disappearance in the Macanese arenas of community, by which I mean the public spaces and occasions where community belonging was openly staged before non-community members and where community members openly performed their own internal hierarchies of prestige. Te clubs, private beaches, theatre performances, café meetings, religious ceremonies, brotherhoods and kermesses that played such a central role during the frst half of the [twentieth] century progressively vanished. (Pina-Cabral 2000: 213)

With the opening up of a number of whites-only clubs, the loss of political power and the challenges Franco-Mauritians have faced with respect to the education of their ofspring, many Franco-Mauritians consider their campements as one of their last exclusive spaces, a place where there is a relaxed atmosphere and where they can retreat from hectic everyday life. In most cases there are opportunities for the children to swim, sail and participate in other aquatic activities. Te adults spend their time relaxing, 138

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fshing and sunbathing. Relatives are often to be found next door because certain families have traditionally settled in specifc regions. Besides, many of the original leases nowadays contain a number of campements in order to provide accommodation for all the (grown up) children. Put briefy, life is rather carefree here because of the sea, the sun and the beaches, and because of the pampering by nannies and domestic staf who look after the children and take care of a number of daily chores. ‘[At our home] we do the formal entertainment, dinners with a set table. At the seaside it’s more informal with barbecues, bare feet. It is a bit like a holiday atmosphere, every weekend’, said Dominique Dervillers. Many Franco-Mauritians have fond memories of their relaxed life at the seaside, with lunches taken care of and family friends and relatives coming over for visits. At one lunch with occasional foreign guests I attended in 2006, it was obvious that the guests had not expected the informal dress code. Formal dinners with other Mauritians are rarely organized in the campements. Life here revolves more around other FrancoMauritians, who know the informal codes, who are familiar with fshing and sailing and with whom the occupants feel at ease. Te campement is, therefore, a Franco-Mauritian afair, both an expression of and a means for perpetuating their culture and their afection for Mauritius. Contrary to the situation in the past, many more Mauritians are nowadays attracted to the coast. Tis is a challenge to Franco-Mauritian privileges because, as with hotels, most Franco-Mauritians do not own the land there but rather lease it. Tis became a constant source of anxiety and FrancoMauritians became concerned about the future of the campements during the third and last term of their leases.24 Nobody knew what the government would decide when the fnal lease term expired. In 2006, government plans were presented and, apart from a few who approved of the proposed changes, virtually the whole Franco-Mauritian community went up in arms since the plans threatened to jeopardize the continuation of this important element of their culture. ‘What will keep us [in Mauritius] if we don’t have the seaside anymore?’ a Franco-Mauritian woman asked me in response. Te government proposed the following: the leaseholders could either opt for a new lease, which meant a substantial increase in the rent, or keep the terms of the old lease and maintain the rent as it was. Accepting the new lease terms would entitle the leaseholders to extend the lease for another sixty years, but the government said it would defnitely not renew the leases of those leaseholders who remained with the terms of the old lease, and would retake the land after the leases expired around 2020. Te government proposed new terms for the leasehold because it considered the rent to be far below market rates. Te rent, it was argued, had not increased in accord with the value of beachfront land.

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Compared to the 1960s, times have changed, because the number of hotels, tourists and Mauritians interested in seaside leisure activities has increased. Public beaches, however, only amount to 12 per cent of the shoreline; the economically valuable hotels account for slightly less than 16 per cent, and the campements for a further 16 per cent; the remaining shoreline consists of clifs, pasture and roads.25 Tere are only 1,288 diferent leaseholders of campements,26 although these cater for a large number of people because, as mentioned, one leasehold plot often contains extra bungalows that have been built for ofspring. Tis fuels the perception that the white Franco-Mauritians have access to more prime beaches than the almost 1.3 million other Mauritians. Many Mauritian sunbathers, who are themselves more or less obliged to visit public beaches (in the summer these can get pretty crowded), are confronted by the image of Franco-Mauritians occupying luxurious bungalows lined along some of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Te issue shows how an elite (re)acts and applies their (defensive) power according to their own perceptions. ‘Te government needs money [this explaining why they are raising the leasehold]’, a Franco-Mauritian student said. Franco-Mauritians argued that the increase in rent was exorbitant, and that Franco-Mauritian pensioners in particular, for whom the campement was their prime residence, could not aford the rise. Under the old terms it was possible for Franco-Mauritians without a huge income to share the costs of a campement and enjoy the luxury of living there. In line with this, one Franco-Mauritian told me: ‘[Many] Franco-Mauritians are good at living in a wealthy manner, while they are not especially rich. Tey share a campement, they manage to go hunting, et cetera’. Te government proposal jeopardized this aspect of Franco-Mauritian life. Many Franco-Mauritians said that nobody wanted the land when they frst took out their leases, and that they had developed the coastal zones. Now that it had become popular, the government wanted to get rid of them and cash in on the land’s value. Some Franco-Mauritians, however, are perfectly aware that this privilege is a legacy of the past. A Franco-Mauritian woman told me, ‘we could never aford a plot of land at the seaside, but because we inherited it we have a privileged position’. An analysis of these perceptions and Franco-Mauritian discourse brings to light a number of interesting aspects. Franco-Mauritians often referred to the fact that nobody wanted the land in the past and that the government now wanted to cash in on it. Te costs of the leasehold should remain as they were, they said, and yet when a compensation scheme was mentioned people said the fgure should increase according to the land’s market value. In the original contract one clause stated that the government would pay Rs 20,000 for a building on the leased land if the contract ended. Te 140

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Franco-Mauritians, however, wanted more compensation than this because their accommodation had changed from being simple huts and carriages in the beginning to more luxurious dwellings which had increased in value substantially. Many Franco-Mauritians shared the perception that the government proposal was targeting them as whites. Te government had been elected in a campaign dominated by anti-white rhetoric. Besides, as I showed in the previous chapter, the government was also discussing ‘democratizing’ the economy while at the same time battling with the sugar industry, both of which were perceived by many as anti-white undertakings. In general, the strongest critiques were confned to the Franco-Mauritian community. A Franco-Mauritian student, for example, said he never discussed the matter with a Hindu friend because he did not know this person’s point of view. Only occasionally was the government openly accused of being anti-white. In one instance, Le Cernéen’s Jean-Pierre Lenoir, in a letter to the editor of Le Mauricien, compared the government to Zimbabwe’s Mugabe.27 Important for understanding Franco-Mauritian community dynamics is the fact that only a small number of Franco-Mauritians approved of the government’s proposal. Tese people argued that with the new lease terms their property would be safeguarded for future generations – they would no longer have to live with anxiety over what would happen when their lease expired around 2020. One Franco-Mauritian critically remarked that Franco-Mauritians do not want to accept that they have to pay for their campements’ frst-class location. However, it was only a minority that expressed their support for the scheme, both within and outside the community. When a Franco-Mauritian CEO openly said in a newspaper that he would accept the new conditions and pay, he was criticized straight away. Te politician Eric Guimbeau accused the government of introducing an anti-white policy, and said it was easy for the CEO to say he would accept the new terms because he was CEO of one of the largest business groups.28 Tis appeared to be a touchy subject within the Franco-Mauritian community in general. For example, Jacques Gougeard, who was willing to accept the new conditions, told me: ‘A number of friends, who can easily aford the increase, are of a diferent opinion to me. But we just do not discuss the matter’. Te atmosphere in the Franco-Mauritian community seems to have created a situation in which the government’s proposal was labelled antiwhite and could not therefore be supported. Internal group dynamics, thus, appear to prevent thinking outside the box, as well as reinforcing a sense of elite solidarity. Franco-Mauritian opposition to the government proposal initially triumphed because the Association of Campement Owners and Users (ACOU) brought the case before a court which ruled for a renegotiation of the conditions. However, the case was brought before the court a second time, and 141

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ACOU lost this round. Te campement owners either had to accept the new lease conditions or return their lands to the state when the original lease expired. According to the newspaper Le Mauricien, three-quarters of the leases were renewed, while those in fnancial difculties ended up not knowing what to do.29 Assuming that this fgure is correct, many FrancoMauritians will, then, be able to continue their cherished life at the seaside and consolidate an important element of their elite culture. When I visited the island in 2014, it was evident that many Franco-Mauritians had maintained their campements, indeed. At one location I visited, most of the original residents were still there. Only a few had had to sell their campements because they could no longer aford the cost. Eight years after the despised introduction, it appeared that the new campement tax also had unforeseen benefts for the Franco-Mauritians. As a result of the security the new sixty-year lease ofers, the prices of beachfront property have increased tremendously. I observed lots of new and fancy property along the beachfront because (new) owners had upgraded their campements to make them more suitable for renting – to the extent that some properties were virtually boutique hotels. Tis unforeseen beneft mainly applies to owners willing to sell or to rent out for a premium, because the Franco-Mauritians using their campements solely as (frst or second) homes only experience the increase in (annual) rent paid for the lease.30 However, with all the economic privileges that come with being a Franco-Mauritian, even as an employee, enough Franco-Mauritians are able to cover the higher costs.

Economic Privileges I have shown that the interlocking directorates have a strong family component. But the network of companies, linked to each other through interlocking directorates, is, importantly, also an illustration of shared investments between diferent Franco-Mauritian families and individuals. In 2007, for example, the Gougeard family shared a number of investments with another family in two of the island’s largest business groups. Tis started when Guillaume Gougeard’s grandfather decided to buy a neighbouring estate in 1948 which he could not fnance alone. In order to fnance it, he asked another Franco-Mauritian to participate in the deal. In another case, a Franco-Mauritian entrepreneur needed investors to enlarge his business in edibles. According to his son, he contacted a wealthy Franco-Mauritian family because he did not have the means himself. Consequently, this wealthy Franco-Mauritian family now controls around 50 per cent of the company’s shares. Network analyses and other data indicate that shared ownership between diferent families is far more widespread within the 142

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Franco-Mauritian businesses community than among other Mauritians. A non-Franco-Mauritian businessman said: ‘Joint ventures between local players are limited in Mauritius anyhow. Te local joint ventures that exist are mainly between Franco-Mauritians’. Te strong connections between diferent Franco-Mauritian families appear to exist for several reasons. Firstly, Franco-Mauritians are frequently linked to each other by (distant) family ties. Tis facilitates shared investment and/or participating in each other’s businesses. Secondly, there is the historical advantage of having substantial wealth within the community: in cases where a businessman cannot gather sufcient capital, he often turns to other Franco-Mauritians to share in the investment. Tis explains the wide portfolio of the large Franco-Mauritian business groups as well, since these are often the result of takeovers and mergers of (family) businesses. Trough the Franco-Mauritian network, companies in fnancial difculty and/or with succession problems were always frst ofered to other Franco-Mauritians. Successfully consolidating economic power is partly the result of this historical pattern: wealth may have changed hands between Franco-Mauritian families, but it remained within the Franco-Mauritian community – derailed succession disputes, thus, hardly afected the Franco-Mauritian elite position as a whole. Tirdly, cultural aspects and ethnicity have an impact on Franco-Mauritian shared investment and cooperation activities, although these are not exclusively Franco-Mauritian practices as I will illustrate more thoroughly in the next chapter. Te perception, however, is that kin solidarity among Franco-Mauritians is stronger than among other groups and counter-elites. A retired non-Franco-Mauritian businessman said, ‘it is not only a perception that the Franco-Mauritians work together to safeguard their interests, it is a fact’. Yet this same man also confrmed that there is competition between the Franco-Mauritians themselves. With respect to the economically powerful Sino-Mauritians, the FrancoMauritian business practice of cooperation is in stark contrast. SinoMauritian businesses are substantially less interlocking and operate much more as separate units. According to one Sino-Mauritian businessman, ‘the Sino-Mauritian community has less solidarity than the whites’. As an elite, ‘the Sino-Mauritians are’, he argued, ‘moving upwards and fairly infuential; yet, not as infuential as the Franco-Mauritians’. For Franco-Mauritians it appears natural to work with their kin, though, since they have a long tradition of doing business with each other. A Franco-Mauritian businessman involved in the purchase of numerous businesses said: ‘You always ask people you know frst if you have something to ofer. For example, people you meet at a cocktail party’. Or at a wedding, because this same businessman was at the wedding I described at the beginning of this chapter. I found him in profound discussion with another Franco-Mauritian man. His wife complained, 143

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‘even when we are at a wedding, he is still talking only business’. Hence, what seems to distinguish Franco-Mauritians from other counter-elites is that they all appear to have been prone to having similar experiences throughout their lives, shaping a strong overriding sense of belonging. Teir participation in a limited number of informal networks are part and parcel of and understanding of their business networks. Franco-Mauritian businessmen would typically downplay their close cooperation and frequently argued that there was strong competition among them. Tis, according to a retired businessman who worked for one of the largest business groups, is one of the explanations for the high number of joint ventures between Franco-Mauritians: Tere is a continuous ‘economic war’ between the families and their companies. Tey will not give each other presents. All the large business groups operate in their own domains and have their own supply chains. Tey don’t want to buy, for instance, fertilizers [for their sugar industry] from the competitor, although belonging to the same community. Instead they create a separate joint venture together for selling fertilizers, so all of them can have a share of the proft.

Tere are, indeed, conficts of interests between Franco-Mauritian families and their related businesses. A couple of years ago, the restructuring of the sugar industry brought two large sugar estates into confict. Of the three mills they had between them, one was about to close down. Tis implied that the cane which was normally processed by that mill would be distributed between the remaining two mills. But the mill that had to close down was controlled by a family that was also involved in one of the other mills. Tey, therefore, wanted part of the sugar processed in their remaining mill while the other estate also wanted to process their fair share of the cane. Hence, a confict over the distribution of the cane was created. In 2014, the two families had put their disagreements aside and were managing their sugar activities in a joint venture. It was likely that they would come to an agreement at some point; as Dominique Dervillers commented when I interviewed him in his Port Louis ofce in 2005: ‘Tere is no hardship between the diferent [Franco-Mauritian] groups. We compete, but not until the bitter end because socially we are also friends. I consider the competition more as a game with sport-like rules’. Tis is facilitated by the shared background and spending of leisure time, as I have shown above. Despite the fact that many Franco-Mauritian businessmen would like to convey the image of strong competition between them, competition is, in fact, limited. Kinship thus ties together Franco-Mauritians in command positions in a close-knit network. Importantly, kinship also afects the rest of the Franco-Mauritians’ maintenance of an elite position.

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Trickle Down Franco-Mauritians are not unique in employing their kin, as many Mauritian businesses do the same. But Franco-Mauritian economic power and the small size of the community make a diference. Franco-Mauritians fnd employment relatively easily with Franco-Mauritian companies – similar fndings have been reported by Vito Laterza (2013) on Swaziland, where a relatively small white elite retains control of a large share of the private sector. Unemployment, it is argued, is virtually absent from the Franco-Mauritian community. Tis absence is in striking contrast with what was in 2006 a 9.9 per cent general Mauritian unemployment.31 It should be noted here that comparative fgures for the island’s ethnicities do not exist in relation to this, as Mauritian statistics do not specify the unemployment rate according to ethnic background. Looking at employment patterns, an interesting practice emerges, a practice that facilitates the maintenance of an elite position because, even though not all Franco-Mauritians possess businesses or land or own shares, the whole community benefts from strong Franco-Mauritian ownership. Franco-Mauritian employees tend to be employed in elevated positions in the hierarchy of the work environment and are not to be found among working-class employees (Eriksen 1998: 62). As in Martinique, where the Békés are mainly employed at management level (Kovats Beaudoux and Giraud 2002: 68, 73; Vogt 2005: 252), this has an impact on the symbolic aspect of their white skin, as I will illustrate in Chapter 6. Moreover, FrancoMauritians also often receive good fringe benefts. In the sugar industry, for example, Franco-Mauritians always constituted the management. Tis gave (and still gives) them many privileges, such as cars with drivers, nice houses on the estate’s premises and servants paid for by the estates. One FrancoMauritian feld manager working for one of the Franco-Mauritian-owned estates said, ‘we are poor billionaires (milliardaires pauvres) because we do not possess much but live a life like a king’. Te declining importance of the sugar industry and the diversifcation of the economy have only changed the position of Franco-Mauritian employees in a limited way, as is shown by comparing income data. Te average monthly household disposable income of a Mauritian was Rs 19,000 in 2006/7,32 and average monthly earnings were Rs 12,600 in March 2006 (the Mauritian rupee fuctuated between €20 and €30 at that time).33 However, the monthly income of respondents to the questionnaire I gave to Franco-Mauritians was substantially higher.34 About three-quarters of the Franco-Mauritian respondents had an income above Rs 40,000 per month. Moreover, almost half had an income of Rs 80,000 or more per month, four times higher than the average Mauritian monthly household disposable income, a clear refection of Franco-Mauritians’ position in 145

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the white-collar echelons of the private sector. A Franco-Mauritian in an executive function also argued that Franco-Mauritians earn a bit more for performing the same function as a non-Franco-Mauritian. He said, ‘we like to earn a bit more’. Probing the advantages that Franco-Mauritian employees have illuminates Franco-Mauritian practices. Te fact that so many Franco-Mauritians fnd good employment is related, as with Franco-Mauritian business-to-business relations, to Franco-Mauritian networks. A Franco-Mauritian businessman said, ‘as a Franco-Mauritian you can always contact a relative or other Franco-Mauritian to inquire after a job for your child’. According to one Franco-Mauritian woman, the network works to the extent that sometimes completely incompetent Franco-Mauritians are helped out and employed in family companies – this is similar to the evidence that until some decades ago Franco-Mauritians could always fnd employment at the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB). Tis type of behaviour appears to equate what Wright Mills critically referred to as, ‘the sound judgement, as gauged by the [corporate] men of sound judgement who select them’ (Wright Mills 2000: 141). Franco-Mauritian businessmen said that they have more control when they employ Franco-Mauritians because they know the parents and the family of the employee. Tey argue that this enhances trust and confdence, vital elements required for doing business and dealing with employees. Tey justify their practices by referring to having a point commun and to the virtue of not being cheated. In relation to this, Alain Trottier, a Franco-Mauritian businessman, said, ‘did you notice Franco-Mauritians have more leadership skills?’35 Equally, a retired Franco-Mauritian businessman said, ‘you can only count to a lesser extent on Indians, Creoles and Chinese’. Tis preference, he told me, ‘has to do with [Franco-Mauritians] being better educated and that others have a style of living that isn’t ours’. A Franco-Mauritian businessman involved in the textile industry further illustrated this way of thinking in 2006. He said: ‘I had problems with a Hindu female secretary who had breached my confdentiality. Besides, I had problems with her professionalism’. Noteworthy here is that the businessman argued that he did not consider Hindus unprofessional in general: ‘I would not have had this problem with a Hindu had I had been in Europe. Te cause is the Mauritian culture in which there exists a lack of trust between the diferent ethnic communities’. For the last six months he had had a new Franco-Mauritian secretary who was, he said, ‘very professional’. A shared cultural background also helps Franco-Mauritians who do not have access to the right networks. A Franco-Mauritian father said: ‘My children lack backing because I, as a father, am not in a position to slap the table at some Franco-Mauritian’s ofce to stress the need for employment for my children. We are not a rich family’. Despite the lack of network, his children 146

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found employment in Franco-Mauritian businesses relatively easily by sending their curriculum vitae around. Te employers may not have known them or their father personally, but they could nevertheless directly recognize their Franco-Mauritian family name. Also, a Franco-Mauritian woman explained how her Franco-Mauritian husband, after they had returned from France, was helped by her father to establish a network. Her husband’s family did not have a network like her father had within the top echelons of the FrancoMauritian business community. During the frst six months after they had resettled in Mauritius, her husband was assisted by his father-in-law in making the right contacts and establishing a network which would give him work as an independent professional. His success did not solely rely on his marriage and the establishing of these new networks, however, because he also still had good contacts with his former French boss. With the help of his father-in-law he increased the number of Franco-Mauritian clients he eventually worked with though. Tis indicates that not all Franco-Mauritians are alike in their networks and economic privileges. Often Franco-Mauritians would refer to poor Franco-Mauritians or state that they were not rich themselves compared to the wealthiest families. I have met and visited a number of Franco-Mauritians who were relatively poor, yet these tended to be the exception and not the rule. Besides, their lack of wealth was never on the same level as the island’s poorest groups. Te other side of the Franco-Mauritians’ powerful economic position is that they are hardly ever employed outside Franco-Mauritian businesses. Contrary to the colonial period they are, for example, virtually absent from the public sector. Like politics, the public sector is considered the domain of the Hindus. Tis perception infuences the lack of Franco-Mauritians in the public sector: Franco-Mauritians will not even apply for jobs as civil servants because they do not expect to be hired. Franco-Mauritians also hardly ever work in non-Franco-Mauritian businesses in the private sector, as in most businesses the ethnic background of the owners is refected in the management of the company – this largely being the result of the strong infuence of ethnicity in postcolonial Mauritius, as I will show in the next chapter.

Conclusion Tis chapter has shown that Franco-Mauritians have succeeded in organizing themselves particularistically. Tey share a number of characteristics, a habitus, which shapes a strong and multidimensional sense of belonging and of eliteness. Te way in which Franco-Mauritians cherish a lifestyle distinct from that of other Mauritians is comparable to Douglass’s argument about the power of sentiment. For the Jamaican case, she argues that when a person 147

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‘loves’ or ‘believes’ someone or something, it almost becomes a choice that is beyond question, analysis or criticism. In that sense, she continues, emotion is a powerful part of the way power and ideology work to maintain and justify the status quo.36 Indeed, Franco-Mauritian emotions and a sense of belonging afect their use of power, especially the defensive power I have discussed in previous chapters. Notwithstanding the examples of inter-elite conficts, what the FrancoMauritian case shows is that the road of least resistance lies in following the community and its cultural patterns – it comes almost automatically and one has to think the least about it. Tis road also tends to be the most fnancially rewarding. Franco-Mauritians relatively easily fnd employment, yet this is also the result of actively anticipating challenges by maintaining high levels of education. Moreover, they can open doors because they always know someone working for another Franco-Mauritian company who can help – via their social network and, for example, through a shared passion for hunting many know each other, that is if there is not a family relationship in the frst place. As I will show in the next chapter, this is also the result of an ethnically divided society. Notes  1 Le Mauricien, 11 May 2007.   2 Notwithstanding the act that the man complained that he had no job and that he was not particularly rich, a domestic servant cooked and served lunch. Tis is illustrative of my observation that although many Franco-Mauritians may think they are not very rich (compared to the wealthiest Franco-Mauritian families) they have a relatively wealthy lifestyle and continue to be serviced by domestic staf.  3 At the public conference on ‘better understanding the Mauritians from the white community’ (Mieux connaître les Mauriciens de la communauté blanche) I attended in 2014, a Franco-Mauritian woman’s reply to an intervention of mine was illustrative. I had argued that marrying a white foreigner is easily accepted because it facilitates integration. She argued that it is not about being white but about the values and morals (and social class) couples share. According to her it would be easier for a Franco-Mauritian to marry a SinoMauritian with the same values than a white foreigner with diferent values. I agree that it is not about skin colour only, and values play a role. However, it remains much easier to integrate, especially for the children, when the ‘integration’ is facilitated by shared white skin colour.   4 Findings from my questionnaire show, when asked whether as a parent a Franco-Mauritian would mind if their child were to marry another Mauritian, that about 60 per cent would mind. Tey would either: regret it but leave it to the child; consider the diferences too big; fear for the future of the child; or be outright against the marriage. However, the answers also indicated a (gradual) change. Tirty per cent of the questionnaire’s respondents said that they would either be happy or consider such a marriage normal these days, while

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the 9 per cent stating other reasons gave answers ranging from ‘it depends more on the person’s social class than [ethnic] origin’, to ‘I hope that happy person accepts our way of life, [which is] very family minded’, to ‘it works in very few cases’ – hence a variety from positive to more negative.   5 In the Indian flm Dil Jo Bhi Kahey (2005), with the famous Indian flm star Amitabh Bachchan, the storyline tells of the forbidden love between a white Mauritian girl and a Hindu Mauritian boy. Tey fall in love at a school in Sweden, but upon their return to Mauritius their love is denounced by both sets of parents. Te white father, in particular, is depicted as a powerful man, forcing the boy’s father out of work. Tis is an interesting reference to Franco-Mauritian business networks, although the clichés in the flm are generally a bit over the top. Under pressure, the white girl and the Hindu boy decide to marry other – ‘right’ – partners. However, their love for each other is so strong that they are inevitably drawn back to each other and, eventually, marry with the approval of their parents. A happy ending, then, as is always the case in this genre of Indian flms.   6 Other ethnic groups also have clubs restricting membership to their own ethnicities. In all cases this is not ofcially sanctioned, but rather the consequence of unwritten, yet commonly known and accepted, membership policies.   7 His father had already passed away.   8 Compared to the Franco-Mauritian case, getting married to a person of colour is less sanctioned in the Jamaican case described by Douglass, though this still does infuence the choice of partner.   9 All examples I have used so far are Franco-Mauritian men marrying outside the community. It is, however, not exclusively a pattern observed among men as there are also examples of Franco-Mauritian women marrying outside the community. 10 ‘Si dans les années ’70, le MMM [Mouvement Militant Mauricien] dénombrait 14 familles, aujourd’hui celles qui comptent le plus sur l’échiquier économique se limitent aux: … A elles quatre, ces familles possèdent ou contrôlent au moins un hectare sur deux sous culture de canne à sucre. Elles contrôlent aussi les plus gros conglomérats du pays’ (L’Express, 15 March 2004). 11 Safeguarding the family business into the fourth, ffth and even sixth generation is not selfevident. A saying goes that the frst generation builds the business. Te second generation, which remembers the sweat and tears it cost to build it up, continues it, while the third generation, which has only lived through the success and wealth of the family business, squanders it. To counter these challenges to the prolongation of a family business, when I visited the island in 2014 I understood that a few well-established (Franco-)Mauritian families with a large number of heirs were following courses ofered by the renowned French business school INSEAD on how to best manage a family business. 12 Te number of heirs has to do with the duration of activities of the families. One wellestablished non-Franco-Mauritian family also numbers about ffty heirs as a result of the fact that they have been involved in their business activities for a long time. 13 L’Express, 2 November 2007. 14 Conversely, in Jamaica the white elite tend to have more acknowledged non-white ancestors. Despite the fact that white is the norm, Douglass illustrates how many Jamaican families have black ancestors. A number of them ignore this fact, yet in general they are more open about it (Douglass 1992) than Franco-Mauritians.

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15 Emily Vogt (2005) does not make any reference to similar accusations in present-day Martinique. 16 In the southern highlands of Madagascar, a world away from the modern luxuries of Franco-Mauritian life, gossip has a function for the tompon-tany, the group highest in the local social hierarchy. Tey use gossip to enforce compliance within their group while keeping the andevo, the group at the lower end of the social hierarchy, in their subordinate position. Insinuations concerning contacts between ‘pure people’ (i.e. tompon-tany, who perceive themselves as pure) and ‘impure people’ (i.e. andevo, in the perception of the tompon-tany) play a central role in this gossip. Gossip is not only a mechanism of social control within the established group, strengthening its internal cohesion, but also serves to confrm the inferior position of outsiders (Evers 2002: 70). What is interesting, moreover, is that the large size of Madagascar and the lack of distinctive physical features between tompon-tany and the andevo creates a situation in which mixed marriages are sometimes only discovered afterwards – the distances on the island mean that local communities often lack information about the social positions of people coming from elsewhere. Te fact that a mixed marriage can be discovered afterwards also fuels accusations of a mixed marriage, even years after the marriage has been consummated (Evers 2002: 62–64). 17 Te club president must not have been aware of the irony of his statement, because there are many Creole fshermen living in Rivière Noire, the region in which the club is located. Te diference, of course, is that Creoles tend to fsh for a living, while for the FrancoMauritians it is a leisure activity. 18 Te British elite in Portugal, for that matter, makes an interesting point for comparison: ‘Given the exclusionary habits in the [British] enclave, it might seem surprising that Portuguese families are allowed in the School and the Club at all. But without participation of the Portuguese members, neither institution could survive fnancially. So there is polite toleration along with visible exclusion by the British [because the Portuguese do not have, for example, the same privileges at the club]’ (Lave 2000: 187). 19 Charles Telfair was of British origin and seems, at frst sight, to break with the FrancoMauritian tendency to only name hotels and schools after historical fgures from the French period. His inclusion is probably due to the good relationships he had with the FrancoMauritian planters of his time. He was himself, as a planter, also an important fgure in the development of the sugar industry during the early period of British occupation. Slavery still existed and, ‘On January 1827, he [Charles Telfair] belonged to the 52 founding members of the Colonial Committee, which was in charge of defending the interests of Mauritian [slave] owners who felt threatened by the partisans of the emancipation of slaves’ (En janvier 1827, il [Charles Telfair] fait partie des 52 membres fondateurs du Comité colonial qui se charge de défendre les intérêts des propriétaires mauriciens, menacés par les partisans de l’émancipation des esclaves) (L’Express, 17 November 2004). Naming the institute after Telfair probably fnds its origin in the important role he played in the establishment of La Société Royale des Arts et des Sciences (L’Express, 18 October 2004). Unlike Adrien d’Epinay, his contribution to resisting the abolition of slavery seems to hardly be an objection. 20 L’Express, 12 February 2007. 21 Bertrand Caudrelier, for example, has a small staf of ofce workers. In the marketing section his employees have Hindu, Muslim, Creole and Franco-Mauritian backgrounds.

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Yet, he said, ‘in [the] case [of ] a Franco-Mauritian with the right qualities [who] applied for a job, he would be hired, because I consider the cultural closeness an element not to ignore’. 22 Surprisingly, the literature on the Békés and the white elite in Jamaica makes little of the elites’ seaside activities. 23 Elite families in France also like to live life strictly among themselves (Pinçon and PinçonCharlot 1998: 115). 24 Briefy put, in the 1960s most leases were set with a three-times-twenty-year extension clause, which means that most leases will expire around 2020. A number of the reserves in the woods and mountains are also held on leaseholds and, as a consequence, have the same potential problems as the campement leases – the diference being that they are not on prime land like the beachfront. 25 Le Mauricien, 24 May 2007. 26 L’Express, 18 June 2007. 27 Le Mauricien, 12 July 2007. 28 Week-End, 9 July 2007. 29 Le Mauricien, 23 May 2008. 30 With the new leasehold agreements, campement-owners had apparently become stricter about who is allowed to sit on ‘their’ beach. Although the beaches are public in Mauritius, the leased property on the pas géométrique starts from the high tide food line. Owners would control this demarcation more strictly. At the same time, a number of owners at one location in the north had also cut trees to discourage beachgoers from sitting in front of their properties and using them as picnic spots. 31 Retrieved 15 February 2008 from: www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/ei593/cmphs.pdf: 1. 32 Retrieved 23 June 2008 from: www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/ei664/toc.htm. 33 Retrieved 23 June 2008 from: www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/ei656/toc.htm. 34 It is assumed that Franco-Mauritian respondents have indiscriminately flled in the respective question as monthly income and/or monthly household budget. Although a clear distinction between the two can, therefore, not be made, this gives a good indication of income diferences. 35 In Martinique, a Béké businessman also referred to the Békés’ ability at running a business (Vogt 2005: 246). 36 Lisa Douglass, personal communication, 21 July 2008.

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Chapter 5 Unity in Diversity

n It was in the frst decades of the twentieth century that the present make-up of the island’s diferent ethnic and religious groups became visible, even though many communities had already settled and maintained their separate identities for a long period by this point. At the top of the social hierarchy were the white Franco-Mauritians. Ten came the gens de couleur and the much larger group of Creoles. Te largest group constituted the Indo-Mauritians, with a majority of Hindus and a smaller minority of Muslims. Finally came the Sino-Mauritians, who, compared to the other groups, were predominantly born outside the colony during the last period of British occupation (Simmons 1982: 34). Te frst Chinese arrived as merchants during the period of French control, and they gradually increased in numbers during the British period. Many of them maintained contacts with their ancestral villages in China for the purposes of family visits and to bring spouses back to Mauritius (Bräutigam 2005: 66). Despite the fact that the habits and customs of Mauritians have changed over time, leading to more similarities, Mauritius remains an ethnically divided society. Or better said, one of the results of the transition from the colonial period to the postcolonial period has been the evolution towards a society in which ethnicity has gained a prominent place as marker of diference, in particular as a consequence of its defning factor in Mauritian politics. Te role of ethnicity in Mauritian society has received a lot of scholarly attention. Starting with Burton Benedict (1962, 1965) at the end of the colonial period, numerous scholars have analysed the workings of ethnicity in Mauritian postcolonial society. Te anthropologist Tomas Hylland Eriksen has written widely about ethnicity in Mauritius, showing how the acceptance of ethnic diference is the common denominator of postcolonial society (e.g., Eriksen 1998). Scholars such as Wake Carroll and Carroll 152

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(2000), Sheila S. Bunwaree (2002) and Anthony J. Christopher (1992) have equally addressed the development and efects of ethnicity in Mauritian society. In similar vein, identity formation among the diferent groups has been addressed. Oddvar Hollup (1994) and Patrick Eisenlohr (2006), for example, have analysed the formation of Hindu identity. Boswell (2006) has analysed the strong impact of homogeneous identities on the more heterogeneous Creoles, while, Amenah Jahangeer-Chojoo (2010) and Huguette Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo and Edouard Lim Fat (2008), for example, have addressed Muslim and Sino-Mauritian identity respectively (see also Eisenlohr 2011 on Muslims). Catherine Boudet, who initially focused on Franco-Mauritian migration patterns to South Africa, has addressed the shaping of FrancoMauritian identity (e.g., Boudet 2005). She is perhaps the only scholar apart from myself who explicitly focuses on the Franco-Mauritian community, and I have benefted substantially from her analyses. Te main diference between our work is that Boudet has a more historical and political-science approach. She also addresses elements related to the Franco-Mauritian elite position, yet more in the context of (historical) identity formation and political developments. I study the Franco-Mauritian elite position from an anthropological perspective, in particular, as shown in the previous chapters, through analysing elite power and the development of the Franco-Mauritian elite position in the transition from the colonial period to the present. In this chapter, subsequently, I analyse how a structural setting in which diferences are amplifed and perpetuated infuence the Franco-Mauritian elite position in postcolonial Mauritius.

Ethnic Elites Elites are elites only in relation to other social groups, which implies a certain level of mutual dependency. As I showed in the Introduction, Cohen argues that an elite is forced to enhance its image and to seek legitimacy for its high status by assuming universalistic functions – that is, by promoting its services to the public (Cohen 1981: xiii). Power (without violent suppression) does not come automatically, and an elite group, which by its very nature only represents a small minority of society, needs support or consent from wider parts of society for its existence. Tis, however, tends to confict with the elite’s particularistic tendencies, especially when the elite is also defned by distinctive racial and/or ethnic characteristics. Te FrancoMauritian loss of political power clearly shows this. With the emancipation of the majority of Mauritians, who demanded a political say, the FrancoMauritian position became difcult to sustain. Yet, as I have shown, most Franco-Mauritians did not leave the island behind like whites elsewhere on 153

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the African continent had done when independence presented itself. Neither did they follow the path of whites in Rhodesia, who unilaterally established a racist state in response to the changing situation, or South Africa, where whites had equally shaped a racist regime in order to prevent the majority of the population from claiming their rights. Franco-Mauritians faced a political system relying on universal sufrage that was unfavourable to them vis-à-vis the more numerous labouring classes, which were also much larger ethnic communities. Contrary to, for example, Hindu elites, Franco-Mauritian ethnicity largely corresponds with the elite group. Tis afects the potential support Franco-Mauritians can obtain, as they do not have a large group of followers sharing the same ethnic background. Teir physical appearance, which has been very benefcial to organizing themselves particularistically, with their socially exclusive lifestyle as I showed in the previous chapter, has also become a liability. Diferences between Franco-Mauritians and the rest of society have become too ‘visible’, which complicates obtaining political support for their elite position by means of their ‘service to the public’. Te case of Paul Bérenger, for example, perfectly reveals how ethnicity can have a negative impact on the position of a white politician in postcolonial Mauritius – not only because of a limited support base, but especially when using ethnicity to discredit opponents. However, ethnic diferences also contribute to the preservation of the position of ethnic elites – and can involve, as I will illustrate in the next chapter, the symbolism of skin colour. In the previous chapter I showed that to understand power a closer look at the indirect efects of social and cultural patterns is required. In this chapter I argue that these efects can only be fully understood by also looking at how the role of ethnicity has facilitated them. Hence, an explanation of the Franco-Mauritian elite position needs to be sought in the (unforeseen) role ethnicity has come to play in postcolonial Mauritius. Notwithstanding the prominence of ethnicity in present-day society, I have shown that marking distinctions on the basis of racial and cultural diferences was already practised during the colonial period. Te present form has evolved from historical realities, with the struggle over independence being a strong catalyst. A closer analysis of the changing role of ethnicity in the political and public domain, then, helps to explain how Franco-Mauritians – and ethnic elites in multi-ethnic and postcolonial settings more generally – could, paradoxically, maintain their position in a context that appears at frst sight to be to their disadvantage. Central to this analysis is that a society shaped by dominant beliefs about ethnic diferences and homogeneity seems to infuence mutual acceptance of other communities’ claims on ethnic homogeneity. Or, in the words of Eisenlohr, peaceful coexistence through accepting and promoting ethnic and religious pluralism is considered a ‘supreme common good’ in 154

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Mauritius (Eisenlohr 2011: 262). In the context of understanding the maintenance of the Franco-Mauritian elite position, then, this chapter gives a new and relevant understanding of the workings of ethnicity (in Mauritius) that has so far received limited attention in the academic literature

Te Evolution of Ethnicity Franco-Mauritians already feared the political potential of the numerous Indo-Mauritians in the late nineteenth century, but the frst popular challenges to the Franco-Mauritian elite position were on the grounds of class diferences, involving mobilizing the labouring classes (see Chapter 2). It was only in the struggle between Franco-Mauritians and Hindus that, from the 1930s onwards, cultural and religious diferences became virtually aligned with political interests. Tis fostered the growth of ethnic politics, which in Mauritius is often called ‘communal’ politics. Te frst politicians to challenge the Franco-Mauritian position by mobilizing the labouring classes, disregarding ethnic background, were mainly of gens de couleur origin. With the increasing participation of Hindus in the labour movement, however, ethnicity became relevant in the mobilization of support. Te prominence of ethnicity in the political and public spheres, which is often the case in plural societies, tends towards an instrumentalist’s interpretation of ethnicity – that is, ethnic bonds are constructed with regard to obtaining certain (material) ends, this being contrary to the notion of ethnicity as primordial, whereby ethnic bonds are considered to be historically static. Te extent to which this prominence is based on existing and historically informed ethnic diferences may difer from case to case, yet it shows that the reinforcing of ethnic differences tends to be infuenced by the political usage of those diferences. Te emergence of ethnic groups as political blocks is often considered to be the result of elite strategies. According to Jessica Piombo (2009), the mobilization of ethnic groups depends on the expected pay-of for elites. In ethnically plural South Africa, for example, ethnic identities like the Zulu, Coloureds and Xhosa were not mobilized in the transition to democracy because South Africa’s highly centralized political system in combination with relatively small ethnic groups did not make it electorally rewarding (Piombo 2009). With hindsight, some of the (white) Afrikaners now regret that in the transition political guarantees for South Africa’s minorities, like them, have not been incorporated in the country’s new political system – as a result, they feel that they no longer have a political say (De Vries 2013: 96, 239). Mauritius, conversely, appears to be an example of the ‘cultural forms, values and practices of ethnic groups [becoming] political resources for elites in competition for political power and economic advantage’ (Brass 1991: 155

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15). Te short focus on class diferences is illustrative, as (upcoming) politicians could also mobilize class for their own beneft. According to François Nielsen, ‘when populations with heterogeneous cultures are progressively incorporated within the modern system of production, the potential membership of a class-based solidarity group becomes culturally heterogeneous [thus reducing its organizational potential]’ (Nielsen 1985: 142). Colonial Mauritius was a society marked by racial diferences. Yet, what could be deemed ethnic markers of distinction were already prominent, as there existed, for example, boundaries between Indo-Mauritians, Creoles and Sino-Mauritians. Tese were expressed in a less essentialist way, however, and did not play a role in colonial politics; politics importantly confrmed the existing colonial (and ‘racial’) hierarchy, excluding most Mauritians on the basis of assets (Jahangeer-Chojoo 2010: 123). Nevertheless, the existence of ‘non-political’ ethnic markers contributed to ethnicity gaining prominence. In unequal settings, like colonial projects, a means for subordinates to gain power is ‘normative inversion’, challenging the existing order by modifying ethnic boundaries (Wimmer 2008). In Mauritius, Hindu politicians realized the advantages of stressing their ethnic background in a system based on democratic representation. Contrary to Franco-Mauritians and elites in 1994 South Africa, they could mobilize substantial numbers on the basis of ethnic afliation – albeit this was certainly not initiated by them alone, but also the result of their opponents, the Franco-Mauritians in particular. Just like established powers, subordinate groups can choose to apply ethnic characteristics in their attempts to obtain power: they used an already shared cultural idiom of cultural/ethnic diferences to alter their position within the (political) hierarchy. Te shifting balance of power I analysed in Chapter 2 was of particular infuence in this process. Within the diferent ‘ethnic’ communities, ‘internal’ cultural and class diferences were increasingly downplayed (e.g., Simmons 1982; Eisenlohr 2006). In the Hindu community, caste was replaced by ethnic identity – a process that had started earlier – but a common Hindu ethnic identity was further intensifed during the run up to independence (Hollup 1994: 297–98). Many Hindus had joined the ranks of the Labour Party, initially on the same grounds as their gens de couleur counterparts. But as they rose through the party ranks, the party became increasingly considered as one favouring the interests of the Hindu masses. Tis shift contributed to the intensifcation of diference between ethnic groups – with the British ‘[providing] the requisite contingency’ (Mozafar 2005: 273). Te changing political landscape, for example, intensifed the separation between Hindus and Muslims (Eriksen 1998: 52). Both were initially classifed as Indo-Mauritians, but as I have already shown, they became classifed as two diferent groups from 1962 onwards. Among the heterogeneous grouping of Muslims, with wide socio-economic 156

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diferences, an ethnic consciousness equally developed (Jahangeer-Chojoo 2010: 126). Te altering of the existing order undermined the position of FrancoMauritians. Unlike to the Hindus, there seemed little reward in stressing ethnic diferences for them, because they only constituted a small minority; Franco-Mauritians have a problem in a ‘one man, one vote’ political system. As I have shown, Franco-Mauritian anxiety of the Hindu community’s potential (political) power contributed substantially to ethnicity gaining prominence, refected in the previously mentioned slogan péril hindou (‘Hindu danger’). Teir teaming up with other ethnic groups further intensifed communal rivalry. Yet, after 1968, this alliance quickly became defunct. Despite an often shared Catholic faith, the diferent ethnic communities realized they had relatively little in common beyond opposing independence. A lasting result, however, was the incorporation of ethnicity in the Mauritian constitution.

Te Institutionalization of ‘Ethnic’ Diferences Initially inspired by the actions of individuals such as d’Unienville, Koenig, Duval and Hindu politicians dominating the Labour Party, ethnic divisions gradually became more salient. Te prominence of a society based on unity in diversity is a lasting heritage of their struggle for independence – in line with this, it is not surprising that Mauritius presents itself as ‘the rainbow nation’ (like South Africa, which uses the same slogan). In the 1960s, after universal sufrage was granted in 1958 and with the quest for independence at the forefront of political debate, (political) elites contributed especially to instrumentalizing ethnicity for political gains (Jahangeer-Chojoo 2010: 122). Owing to the politicization of ethnicity, the British, in their management of the political process, had to fnd a balance between the Hindu demands for independence and the smaller communities’ fears of being swamped by Hindus. Muslims, for example, were not opposed to independence but wanted constitutional safeguards guaranteeing them representation in parliament (De Smith 1968: 608). Tis resulted in the introduction of the Best Loser System (BLS) as part of the new electoral process. Te aim was to guarantee representation of ‘all’ communities, especially minority groups. With the introduction of BLS, ethnic distinctions were incorporated into the island’s constitution (First Schedule, Section 31 (2)). Stanley de Smith, a former British Constitutional Commissioner in Mauritius, states, ‘[t]he most regrettable aspect of the electoral aspect of the electoral system is that candidates must declare, at the time of their nomination, to what community they belong; but this was the price paid in order 157

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to obtain agreement [about independence] between the parties in 1966’ (De Smith 1968: 614) – a rather ironic statement given that the British often played a very active, if not the main, role in dividing the populations in their colonial empire. Via a complex weighting system based on fgures relating to the ofcial four ‘ethnic’ classifcations, which only partly correspond with the colloquial perception of ethnic diferences, BLS guarantees parliamentary representation for the smaller ethnic communities of Muslims, SinoMauritians and the so-called General Population, notwithstanding that this ofcial use is very ambiguous. Te ‘ethnic’ categories nowadays still used ofcially were only systematically accounted for in the 1961 and the 1972 censuses (Christopher 1992) and, in fact, do not refect the island’s daily reality.1 Te irony, moreover, is that, as Christopher (1992) illustrates, the island’s complex ethnic composition, along with intermarriage and close contact between ‘diferent’ groups, presented major problems of classifcation for census commissioners. Yet, it was only an intervention for political ends that halted ethnicity as a category in the island’s censuses. In 1982, the Mauritian government abandoned ethnicity as part of the census, but neither it nor any successive government has abolished ethnic categorization as part of the political system. As a consequence of BLS, every politician still has to indicate on the ballot paper whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Sino-Mauritian or belong to the General Population, even though the criteria for dividing the population into these four groups are inconsistent: ‘two of the categories are essentially religious ones, one of them is based on geography, and the fnal one is a residual category’ (Eriksen 1998: 15). Franco-Mauritians and Creoles (and gens de couleur), for example, belong to the ofcial ‘ethnic’ category General Population, though no Mauritian would argue that they are part of the same ethnic group. Te argument is that ethno-political tensions have been mitigated as a consequence, because small communities are politically represented (Mozafar 2005: 265). Others have challenged BLS, either because it does not refect their perception of the island’s ethnic groups (Mukonoweshuro 1991: 221) or because they believe that ethnicity does not belong in the political sphere. In 2013 the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ruled in favour of the political party Rezistans ek Alternativ opposing BLS. Nonetheless, despite the ever-returning discussions on amending the electoral system among the established political parties, they have so far expressed little intention to abolish the system. Besides, it is questioned whether removal of BLS will stop ethnic voting (Jahangeer-Chojoo 2010: 130). In direct political terms, BLS may have limited impact, because BLS parliamentary seats number just eight out of a total of seventy, and representatives are seldom awarded executive power in terms of cabinet seats (Wake 158

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Carroll and Carroll 2000: 136). In indirect terms, however, the reproduction of a political system with a strong focus on ethnicity has a signifcant impact. Every politician has to indicate their ‘ethnicity’ on the ballot paper – and cannot freely choose to be just a ‘Mauritian’, which was one of the major objections of Rezistans ek Alternativ. Ethnic background is consequently a (hidden) issue in electoral campaigns. Tat many political parties, especially the largest ones, are multi-ethnic, is of little infuence here. To increase their chances, these parties list members with ethnic backgrounds representing their ethnic composition. Hence, the political advantage of stressing ‘cultural’ diferences appears a lasting result of the transition to independence, despite the fact that the structuring principle of ethnicity in plural Mauritius is not static or unchallenged. Starting with the case of Paul Bérenger, I will analyse how the political role of ethnicity infuences the Franco-Mauritian elite position. Te political role of ethnicity has left such a mark on society that the frame of reference of many Mauritians is highly infuenced by the phenomenon of ethnicity in Mauritius. As I will show in the second part of the chapter, this has a paradoxical infuence on an ‘ethnic’ elite, however.

Paul Bérenger Te role of ethnicity in politics, and how this relates to Franco-Mauritian economic power, is perfectly symbolized by the case of the Franco-Mauritian politician Paul Bérenger.2 Shortly after independence, Bérenger, together with an ethnically mixed group of young sympathizers, founded the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM). Bérenger became the most visible member of the party and, over time, its de facto party leader. Although a Franco-Mauritian himself, he openly condemned Franco-Mauritian control of the island’s economic resources. Unlike in the pre-independence period, Franco-Mauritian political power was at this point of little importance in the political debate. Instead, Bérenger and the MMM focused on the concentration of wealth in the Franco-Mauritian community. According to the MMM and Bérenger, the classe possédante (‘moneyed’ or ‘propertied class’) as they called the Franco-Mauritian businessmen, ‘control the sugar industry and behind it the banks, the insurance companies, the docks and so on’. In a way, Bérenger’s critique of privilege made him one of the ‘oppressed’ and freed him from the label ‘white’, so to speak. Te MMM did not just oppose Franco-Mauritians, though, but also the independent nation’s founding father, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. His government was criticized for its alliance with the economically powerful Franco-Mauritians (Simmons 1982: 192), and the MMM also argued that a ‘deal had been struck’ between Franco-Mauritians and Ramgoolam’s governing Labour Party. Te Hindu 159

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politicians involved in the Labour Party were now depicted as allies of the Franco-Mauritians. Te MMM said it sought change ‘for the beneft’ of the workers, dockers and labourers working in the sugar-cane felds (Eriksen 1998: 106). Tis was just like the mandate of the Labour Party, though the MMM now blamed the Labour Party for selling out in favour of the ‘ethnicization’ of Mauritian politics. Te MMM’s outspoken stand against the concentration of wealth in Franco-Mauritian hands and the ‘ethnicization’ of Mauritian politics brought the party and Bérenger great popularity among Mauritians from all ethnic backgrounds, though not so much with ‘members of the recently constituted and expanding Hindu state bourgeoisie’ (Eisenlohr 2006: 59) and the Franco-Mauritians. Te MMM’s popularity frightened FrancoMauritians and the Hindu politicians of the Labour Party. Le Cernéen dismissed Bérenger as a ‘Trotskyite’ and published ‘proof ’ that the MMM was attached to communist ideology.3 Tis anti-communist resentment was especially driven by Franco-Mauritian control of economic resources and landed property – Franco-Mauritians feared the nationalization of the sugar estates. Le Cernéen accordingly played upon the fear that the MMM would implement a system that did not allow private property and that would curtail Mauritians’ freedom: ‘One thing is, however, clear. All in this county who cherish their freedom have to confront a common enemy: the MMM, and its obedience to Marxism’.4 Many Franco-Mauritians disliked Bérenger. In line with gossip about the existence of black ancestors already mentioned (Chapter 4), numerous Franco-Mauritians dismissed Bérenger, who did not belong to a rich landowning family, as not ‘one hundred per cent’ white. A retired FrancoMauritian businessman said to me that he wondered whether Bérenger’s attacks on Franco-Mauritian privileges had to do with the fact that he was a métisse (of ‘mixed’ blood). Clearly the insinuation was that Bérenger was driven by revenge on the white community because he was allegedly not completely white himself (for the purpose of disqualifcation it is of little importance whether it is true or not). Le Cernéen equally perceived itself and the Franco-Mauritian community as the principal victims. According to the newspaper, the anti-capitalism of Bérenger and the MMM was anti-white, and it argued that Franco-Mauritians were being used as scapegoats.5 Te editor-in-chief of Le Cernéen, who considered the newspaper the mouthpiece of the white community, had put himself in charge as their spokesperson. According to him, almost the whole Franco-Mauritian community, for diferent reasons, was against the MMM. He argued that the MMM’s anticapitalist stand was in essence justifed, but that it mixed its anti-capitalist opinion with being anti-white, thus making the MMM a racist party.6 It was

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the Franco-Mauritians who eventually got the short end of the stick, because Le Cernéen was ‘forced’ to close its doors (see Chapter 2).

Te Structural Impact of Ethnicity Bérenger was the odd one out who chose to stay in politics after FrancoMauritians in general retreated from politics. (Another exception, though less exceptional with regards to his political career, is Eric Guimbeau.) Bérenger, owing to his ferce criticism of Franco-Mauritian economic power and his struggle to bridge ethnic diferences, was for much of his career hardly associated with the Franco-Mauritian community. In the early 1970s, to criticize the importance of ethnicity in politics and the political parties’ standard practice of listing candidates according to the ethnic composition of the island’s parliamentary constituencies’, the MMM put up a Hindu in a predominantly Creole constituency. Over the course of time, however, the MMM abandoned its own policy on this issue and started to choose candidates in the same manner as their main political opponents, the Labour Party, that is, according to the ethnic composition of constituencies. Furthermore, after the party narrowly lost the 1976 elections, it created an alliance with a party strongly focused on Hindu support (Eriksen 1998: 68). Tis break with their past opposition to the use of ethnicity in Mauritian politics is a clear indication, in my opinion, of the overriding infuence of ethnicity in Mauritian postcolonial politics, and symbolizes the loss of progressive politicians who want to move away from ethnicity and focus on class and inequality instead. Te coalition the MMM forged then went on to win the 1982 elections by a landslide. Bérenger, however, did not become prime minister. Te relatively recently obtained political power of the Hindus represented an obstacle to Bérenger becoming prime minister since it had become an unwritten rule in postcolonial Mauritius that a Hindu would always be chosen for this position, again revealing the impact of ethnicity on Mauritian politics. Fourteen years after independence proved too early to undo this implicit understanding. Instead, the Hindu Anerood Jugnauth took the position of prime minister in 1982. A year later Jugnauth left the MMM with a number of others and started the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM); he remained prime minister, however (Eriksen 1998: 69). When Bérenger changed from being the opposition to representing the government, the general perception of him started to change and he became more associated with Franco-Mauritian economic power, even though he had hardly ever been associated with this before. Franco-Mauritians also started to perceive him diferently. One Franco-Mauritian told me: ‘You have the Bérenger from the 1970s, when his political ideas and support 161

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for the cause of the labourers was perceived as an attack on the white community. And the one thereafter, when Bérenger and the MMM formed part of the 1982 government and beyond’. One view is that once in government Bérenger could not simply shout at Franco-Mauritian businessmen – he had to cooperate with them as well. Franco-Mauritians tend to say that Bérenger became more realistic. As a consequence of his cooperation with the private sector, he was forced into a complicated position and became an easy target for other politicians. Handley says, ‘[u]ltimately Bérenger lost his job as Finance Minister [in the early 1980s] by making what were considered overtly generous nods in the direction of the sugar barons without extracting any signifcant concessions from them in return’ (Handley 2008: 110–11). Bérenger, however, has a remarkably resilient character and has remained in politics up to this day. His long career has made him an important fgure in Mauritian political history. He has infuenced many of the present generation of politicians, although his often brusque manner has also created to a cohort of politicians who dislike him. In the ethnicized Mauritian context, Bérenger’s opponents, whenever there is an opportunity, publicly associate him with Franco-Mauritian economic power. For example, in February 2001, the South African company Illovo Sugar decided to sell its Mauritian assets, which comprised large interests in the sugar industry and two hotels. A number of Franco-Mauritian businessmen, with the involvement of the government, bought the Illovo assets. All but one of the Franco-Mauritian businessmen involved were directly linked to the sugar industry. Consequently, a non-Franco-Mauritian businessman said, ‘Why were there only whites involved in the Illovo deal? Why were there, for instance, no Sino-Mauritians involved?’ Confronted with this remark, a Franco-Mauritian involved in the deal said, ‘it was logical to choose the ones with experience in the sugar industry [i.e. the Franco-Mauritians]’. However, the way the deal happened appears once more to be related to the functioning of Franco-Mauritian business networks rather than anything else. A wealthy Franco-Mauritian businessman residing outside Mauritius initiated the deal and, it seems, simply turned to Franco-Mauritians instead of other Mauritians because this was more logical for him. With the symbolic aspect of Franco-Mauritian land ownership, and the prolongation of their economic position, this eventually put Bérenger in a vulnerable position. As minister of fnance in the MMM-MSM government, he was responsible for the government’s input, and fnally sealed the deal between the diferent partners, which he qualifed as a mari deal (‘a fantastic deal’).7 Te opposition did not share his opinion, however, and seized on the opportunity to attack Bérenger and challenge Franco-Mauritian economic power. Navin Ramgoolam, the 2005–2014 prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, was in opposition at the time. He was quick to associate the white skin colour of Bérenger with the ‘white 162

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oligarchy’, and stressed that only fve families were benefting from the Illovo deal.8 Referring to these fve families is a strong form of symbolic politics and a proven recipe for successfully alluding to Franco-Mauritian families while avoiding actually naming them –Bérenger made use of similar rhetoric in his younger years. It seems that the deal was not necessarily unfavourable for the government. Trough the deal, sealed on 14 February 2001, the Mauritian state obtained 35 per cent of the assets of Illovo Sugar in Mauritius.9 Moreover, the state obtained part of the land belonging to Illovo for the symbolic price of one Mauritian rupee, while more land was obtained below market price.10 Much of this land was eventually used for the development of Cyber City, the state initiated property development I referred to in Chapter 3, and adjacent residential developments. Te Franco-Mauritians involved bought the other assets, among them two hotels – and a number of them allegedly made huge profts. In postcolonial Mauritius this was not well received, and Bérenger’s opponents hammered away about this proft and how it had been made at the expense of the public. What is most interesting about the afair, however, is how it proved an easy method for associating the white Bérenger with Franco-Mauritian economic power. In a sense, by linking Bérenger to the negative perception of the Franco-Mauritian private sector, the opposition hoped to obtain support. As general elections were still some years away, the Illovo deal disappeared into the background. But it was to come back with a vengeance later on. Te remarkable and interesting feature of Paul Bérenger is that he became the frst non-Hindu prime minister in postcolonial Mauritius during the last two years (2003 to 2005) of the MMM-MSM government. He was not elected directly as prime minister, however. He attained this position as part of a deal between his and the other government parties that had won the elections in 2000: Bérenger’s MMM and Anerood Jugnauth’s MSM. Jugnauth served the frst three years as prime minister, then became president of Mauritius (a more ceremonial position), paving the way for Bérenger’s to become prime minister. A non-Hindu becoming prime minister represented a break with the past, and it appeared that Mauritius was ready to reduce the infuence of ethnicity on politics. Bérenger appears to have been aware of his unique position. He carefully tried not to upset the diferent ethnic constituencies, and he attended, and adapted himself to, many festivities related to the diferent ethnic groups. On 1 February 2005 during the celebrations for the abolition of slavery he wore an African-style suit, and at Chinese New Year he wore a Chinese outft. Bérenger also always addressed parliament and the population in general in the Kreol language. Te choice of Kreol had twofold reasoning behind it. Firstly, it is the lingua franca in Mauritius and the mother tongue for the majority. Secondly, it has 163

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no ‘negative connotations’ with (colonial) power as, for instance, Bérenger’s mother tongue, French, does. But despite his general popularity among Mauritians of all kinds, some Mauritians continued to associate Bérenger with the Franco-Mauritian community, were convinced that he was favouring economically powerful Franco-Mauritian families. According to one Mauritian journalist with a dislike for Bérenger, and highly critical about Franco-Mauritian economic power in general, it is a deadly sin for a politician to get too close to the Franco-Mauritian private sector.

White Bérenger Te 2005 electoral campaign shows how the perception that Bérenger was ‘favouring the whites’ came back with a vengeance, and how ethnicity was still, in fact, very much present in politics. To some extent, almost all the diferent ethnic communities have at one time or another felt disadvantaged. For instance, a discussion in 2006 about the restructuring of the secondary school system was perceived to be a battle between the Hindu ‘state bourgeoisie’ and the Creoles, with the Catholic Church sometimes speaking on the latter’s behalf. Te Hindu minister’s propositions for restructuring the school system were perceived to be to the advantage of Hindus, with Creoles getting the worst of it when, generally speaking, Creoles were already in the least favourable position. Te perception that the public sector favours Hindus is actually widely shared. Access to political resources is, moreover, refected in Hindu identifcation itself, argues Lynn M. Hempel, while this is unrelated to ethnic identifcation among Muslims and Creoles (Hempel 2009). A Franco-Mauritian CEO said, ‘Te Asians copied the model of the private sector, where favouring your own kind was the rule. However, the public sector lags thirty years behind and competence in the private sector is signifcantly better than in the government sector’. According to him, nepotism is the standard paradigm in the public sector, while competence is the last thing they consider; he argued that the private sector has, in contrast, been modernizing a lot in order to be competitive – though, I would say, only to a certain extent, as I have shown that a tendency remains among Franco-Mauritians to employ Franco-Mauritians. In general, then, Mauritian society is characterized by suspicion between communities, to the extent that Franco-Mauritians even beneft from it. A Sino-Mauritian informant said, ‘because politics aren’t neutral, the Franco-Mauritians are of the opinion that they better stay out and let others fght in politics’, while a (Hindu) scholar involved in the Truth and Justice Commission (TJC) told me that the Creoles they spoke to were very defensive. Te Creoles said they ‘didn’t want to say bad things about the whites, 164

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because they provide us jobs’. Even though the TJC wanted the Creoles’ opinion in general, and not just their opinions about the whites, the Creoles interviewed seemed to perceive the TJC as a Hindu government-initiated project with the hidden aim of undermining the power of Franco-Mauritians. In the case of Bérenger, accusations by politicians linked him to FrancoMauritian economic power. According to one journalist, Bérenger jeopardized the implicitly accepted power-sharing deal, whereby politics was the domain of Hindus and the private sector that of Franco-Mauritians. Before, Bérenger had been tolerated because he was not associated with the Franco-Mauritian private sector and did not hold the highest government position. Tis perception changed when he became prime minister, however, because it enhanced the perception that Franco-Mauritians controlled both the private sector and the political domain. Te journalist argued that this situation stirred up the whole white-bashing, anti-Bérenger campaign, and led to the eventual victory of the Labour Party – though the Illovo deal shows how Bérenger was already being heavily attacked because of his white skin colour before this. In the media and at public rallies, politicians accused Bérenger of favouring his ‘cousins’, of being a ‘descendant of the colonists’ and (with the Illovo deal) of giving a ‘present to fve families’.11 In response, shortly before the July 2005 elections, Bérenger said: ‘Our [i.e. MMM/MSM] [electoral] campaign ends in national unity, whereas the other side [i.e. the Labour Party alliance] ends in communalism. Tey talk again about Whites, while I know that the young and the workers have had enough of such comments’.12 Te Labour Party alliance campaigned on the basis that once in ofce they would bring certain projects favouring the (Franco-Mauritian) private sector to a halt. For example, a number of Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS) projects I referred to in Chapter 3 had been approved by Bérenger’s government and were to be stopped. Politicians related to the Labour Party referred to these projects as evidence of ‘a complicity between land barons and people in South Africa’, of ‘economic apartheid’ (d’apartheid économique) and being ‘for big capital’ (conçu pour le gros capital).13 In reference to these accusations, a gens de couleur woman in support of Bérenger said: ‘Racist attacks on Bérenger’s white skin colour were actually the only arguments his opponents could come up with. Tey could not use arguments about his bad governing style, because he worked hard and was not corrupt’. Te political attacks on Bérenger and the strategy of casting him as a ‘white’ were partly opportunistic. As I have shown, after Bérenger and his alliance had lost the elections, the new (Labour Party coalition) government did not, in fact, end IRS projects, as it had said it would, but actually cooperated with the private sector involved. As an editor-in-chief at the time told me: ‘Te white-bashing against Bérenger was political … it was the anti-white discourse of the opposition in 2005, but nothing more than that, because [once they 165

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were in government] they never threw out [a renowned Franco-Mauritian CEO]. [Another renowned Franco-Mauritian CEO] didn’t stop doing business either’. As had been the case in the past, the new government had to accept the reality that one needs to cooperate with Franco-Mauritians in the private sector for the running of the economy, at least to a certain extent. Unlike Bérenger, however, the new government could not be criticized for having a white skin colour. Of course, Franco-Mauritians’ persistent economic power coupled with memories of colonial injustices are at the core of the power struggle. Bringing the past up, such as referring to the ‘mishap of history’, is indeed frequently used as a strategy to undermine Franco-Mauritians. Associating white skin colour with the past appears to be too good an opportunity to miss. Te moment Bérenger became obliged to cooperate with FrancoMauritian businessmen, or allegedly even favour them, he became easy prey.14 Tis case clearly shows the ‘relevance’ of white skin colour. Bérenger had always been a white Franco-Mauritian, but he was widely perceived as a politician for all Mauritians and as someone taking a stand against ‘white’ economic privileges. My analysis is that, when he allegedly became too close to the private sector, Bérenger’s skin colour suddenly became ‘visible’: he was a ‘white’ favouring other ‘whites’. Te strong associations between Franco-Mauritian economic privileges and the colonial past and its injustices backfred on Bérenger in spite of his intentions. From what I have gathered, Bérenger appears not to have favoured FrancoMauritians with malice aforethought; neither, apparently, did he have an ethnic preference. I understood that he was on good terms with certain high-ranking Franco-Mauritian managers, but these kinds of relationship are difcult to avoid on a small island like Mauritius – the son of vice-prime minister who took ofce after the 2005 elections worked at that time for the largest non-Franco-Mauritian business group. In other areas, however, Bérenger was not close to Franco-Mauritians and their points of view at all. Moreover, he was not unconditionally supported by the Franco-Mauritian community either. As I have shown, numerous Franco-Mauritians disqualifed him, with some considering him as not being white enough. However, there were also Franco-Mauritians who supported him. A Franco-Mauritian businessman even said that it may have been good ‘to have someone with the same way of thinking’ (that is, sharing a culture) in power. Te political rhetoric of Bérenger’s opponents infuenced the perceptions of many Mauritians, notwithstanding his relatively neutral stance with regards to ethnicity. In line with Hempel’s argument that many Mauritians are of the opinion that the government, in general, principally represented the interests of Franco-Mauritians (Hempel 2009: 468), they easily accepted the explanation that Franco-Mauritians have ‘all the economic power’ and that Bérenger ‘favoured’ them. A number of non-white businessmen with a 166

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good knowledge of the relationships between the public and private sectors I spoke to also shared this perception. Tey knew that Bérenger was not from the same upper echelon of the elite as most Franco-Mauritians in the private sector, but nevertheless they felt that he still favoured the largest FrancoMauritian business groups. Moreover, some argued that Bérenger became the idol of Franco-Mauritians when he became the island’s prime minister. Discrediting Bérenger because of his white skin colour shows how strongly perceptions are infuenced by (historical) resentment over Franco-Mauritian economic power. Tis is not the whole story, however. As mentioned, many Mauritians, and also Franco-Mauritians, disliked Bérenger for his political style. Besides, as a retired Mauritian businessman put it, ‘Bérenger made some strategic blunders, and did not lose the elections only because he was a FrancoMauritian or was perceived as favouring whites’. After Bérenger had lost the elections, the association between him and Franco-Mauritian economic privileges became less prominent, since this link had lost its purpose. With a touch of irony, he even established an alliance with Navin Ramgoolam’s Labour Party for the 2014 general elections, with a deal that Bérenger would become prime minister again, while Ramgoolam would be the new president of the republic. Tey severely misjudged the public sentiment, however, and lost the elections. As a result, Bérenger’s long political career may be drawing to an end. Judging from the 2005 elections, however, Franco-Mauritians may not regret his loss. Bérenger’s position in the centre of power reinforced a focus on Franco-Mauritian continuous (economic) privileges. Even after Bérenger had lost the elections in 2005, Franco-Mauritian economic power and privileges remained a target after the Labour-led government had come to power, as I have shown with their aim to democratize the economy, the head-on collision between the government and the sugar industry and the campement issue. Notwithstanding the potential for a renewed focus on Franco-Mauritian privileges in the case Bérenger had won, like in the aftermath of the 2005 elections, there would most likely have remained a taboo on addressing the underlying patterns of ethnic homogeneity and racism, with the Franco-Mauritian elite position only superfcially challenged.

Te Paradox of Ethnicity In Mauritius, the strong focus on ethnic diferences is often dismissed as politically motivated. As I have shown, politicians certainly play an important role in stirring ethnic diferences. Once the process of ethnicity gaining political prominence is set in motion, moreover, feedback efects may further enhance ethnic solidarity (Nielsen 1985: 135). Te structural phenomenon of ethnicity in Mauritian society gives Franco-Mauritians – and others alike 167

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– a ‘weapon’ for objecting to (policy) change. Franco-Mauritians do sometimes resist (often through discourse) and do try to change the course of events. Teir (ethnic) rhetoric helps to a certain extent when resisting challenges to their elite position. As I have said, many Franco-Mauritians say they would agree with the ‘democratization’ of the economy if it was not only to the advantage of the politicians proposing the new distribution, and not aimed at taking economic power away from the whites. It should be admitted, though, that Franco-Mauritians may feel genuinely victimized, as do many other Mauritians. In postcolonial Mauritius, the role of ethnicity is not only the result of (political) power struggles but also of the everyday reality of a society that has come to appreciate ethnic organization. Mauritius is often described as an ethnically plural society, that is, a society that has diferent groups living side by side but separately within the same political unit. Te groups are marked by diferences in basic institutions that are considered to belong to the private domain, such as language, kinship, family, education and religion. In a plural society, all the groups have, in theory, equal access to the public domain and share the same political culture (Malaki 2001: 105). In reality, plural societies are often not without socio-economic hierarchies, not the least because basic institutions can have an impact on access to (political or economic) resources. As Akhil Malaki argues, ‘the ethnic pluralism that enters the political system is to a large extent the projection of communal diversity that can develop political interests’ (Malaki 2001: 105). Tis leads to a paradoxical situation, as is evident in the Mauritian case. On the one hand, many Mauritians oppose the strong association of ethnicity with access to political and economic power, yet, on the other, they highly value it as a sense of belonging. In plural societies, then, one often sees a consensus among diferent ethnic groups about the (private) functioning of basic institutions – this does not necessarily mean that these groups tolerate each other, especially because of (perceived) diferences in access to resources. In Mauritius, according to Eriksen (1998: 185), the complex balance between ethnic groups is actually maintained because of an existing diference between symbolic and instrumental ethnicity: symbolic ethnicity, expressed, for example, through ritual is encouraged, while instrumental ethnicity in some of its expressions, notably political communalism, is discouraged. In other words, the ‘expressive’ or ‘meaningful’ pole of ethnicity is accepted while the ‘strategic’ and ‘political’ role is rejected. However, Eriksen remarks, ‘[i]t is unclear to what extent symbolic ethnicity can reproduce itself without a political dimension’ (Eriksen 1998: 185; see also ChazanGillig 2000: 42). In practice, symbolic and instrumental ethnicity, or private and public (Bowman 1991: 63), are difcult to separate. Tis is evident in present-day Mauritius. Ethnic categories remain associated with the 168

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distribution of power (Hempel 2009) because ‘ethnic identity provides clear lines to determine who will be excluded and who will not’ (Horowitz 1993: 18). Te reality of plural societies, as Benedict (1962) remarked, is that they concentrate attention upon diferences and confict. Hence, diferences are not only marked by ethnic components but also by how these components infuence the political and public domain and vice versa. Te Mauritian Truth and Justice Commission states that, ‘Potentially … the celebration of diversity can divide society because the popular representation of diversity can concretize cultural diferences as something that is real’ (TJC 2011: 283). Groups, moreover, tend to be characterized by an ‘illusion of homogeneity’, this leading to downplaying internal diferences (Hempel 2009: 463). Homogeneity is an important trait, and is highly valued among most Mauritian ethnic groups, especially the dominant ones like the Hindus and Franco-Mauritians. Tis is not to say that a plural society like Mauritius is characterized by homogeneous ethnic blocks, as certainly in the political sphere ethnic groups are often internally divided. Notwithstanding internal (ideological) diferences, however, politicians appeal for support on ethnic grounds, which reinforces divisions between the island’s communities (Ramtohul 2013: 6). Many political leaders sense advantages in pursuing ethnic diferences, and tend not to be inclined to give this up. Political leaders, especially of Hindu background, can obtain support by assuming ‘universalistic tendencies’ on the basis of ethnic afliation (e.g., Jahangeer-Chojoo 2010). Here, politics directly interacts with the image of homogeneity: ‘polarization in the religious feld is not encouraged as it poses a threat to Hindu unity, which is important in maintaining certain alliances of political power’ (Hollup 1994: 308). Te underlying structure, then, reinforces the prominence of ethnic diference.

Te Benefts of Consensus In Mauritius, as with other multi-ethnic societies, there is widespread consensus among diferent ethnic groups about the role and functioning of ethnicity in daily life. Te practice of ethnic endogamy and exclusivist patterns of social interaction closely relate to symbolic ethnicity and are hardly challenged. Tese patterns are part and parcel of all Mauritian communities, and criticizing these aspects would potentially jeopardize the overall cohesion of Mauritian society and even one’s own (political) position. As I have said, the whites-only membership of the remaining Franco-Mauritian clubs is hardy challenged; I frequently encountered political arguments against FrancoMauritian economic power, but notwithstanding some expressions of dislike, there were never any seriously voiced objections against the whites-only 169

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clubs. Mauritians, despite the anachronism, seem not particularly interested because they have never taken part in certain leisure activities specifc to the Franco-Mauritian community. Besides, there are also exclusive clubs for gens de couleur, Sino-Mauritians and Hindus. In such a context, an ethnic elite like the Franco-Mauritians is hardly in need of universalistic tendencies, as the shared consensus about the role of ethnicity already sustains its position. Franco-Mauritian marriage patterns, which are in the private sphere and fostered by a society that appreciates homogeneity, positively impact on the maintenance of economic privileges. Tis acceptance of symbolic ethnicity is, to a large extent, refected in Franco-Mauritian internal discourse. Te rejection of mixed marriage is closely associated with the notion of homogeneity, as Franco-Mauritians often make negative reference to ‘mixed’ blood. A Franco-Mauritian told me, ‘my grandmother used to say that if I did not work hard enough at school I would become a mulatto [i.e. a gen de couleur]’. I also encountered Franco-Mauritians who would point at their skin and wave their hand in an expression of doubt when they referred to someone who is not purely white. Métissage is perceived as a weakness, and marrying a non-white is associated with lacking the capacity to fnd a white partner. Tis illustrates how strongly Franco-Mauritian discourse is mingled with negative connotations concerning marrying non-whites – an aspect, which as I will show in the next chapter, infuences the symbolic superiority of white skin. It limits, moreover, the imagining of marrying and dating other Mauritians. A Franco-Mauritian woman in her mid-forties told me: ‘When I was younger they had meetings between the [gens de couleur] Racing Club and the Dodo Club. One guy … was as beautiful as a god, but I never considered marrying him because he wasn’t white’. Her son, who frequently visited the Dodo Club in 2006, said: ‘I don’t really fancy black girls. Even when they are beautiful [me and my friends] don’t care’. Studying abroad, which is partly meant to broaden Franco-Mauritians’ general viewpoint, hardly seems to afect the absence of interest in non-whites either. A FrancoMauritian girl studying in France said: ‘Psychologically I don’t feel attracted to other colours. Even living in Europe, which is much more open, hasn’t changed this. I’m still infuenced by my education and don’t see [myself marrying a non-white]’. When she went to France for the frst time at the age of seventeen, she was actually shocked to see mixed relationships.15 Judging from the literature, this seems rather diferent to the Jamaican and Martiniquan cases. In Martinique, it was common for male members of the white elite to have their frst sexual experience with coloured girls, while the converse was forbidden. It is also argued that Béké men feel strongly attracted to coloured girls, even though they eventually marry white girls (Kovats Beaudoux and Giraud 2002: 95, 137; Vogt 2005: 197). FrancoMauritian men were certainly not encouraged to have early relationships 170

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with non-white Mauritian girls and, in general, attraction in that direction, I have noticed, seems limited – notwithstanding the ‘mixed’ marriages I have referred to. In the frst half of the twentieth century, however, a number of novels appeared in which Franco-Mauritian authors spoke evocatively of the beauty of Indian girls (Hookoomsing 2005). Also, extra-marital afairs between whites and non-whites appeared to be less tolerated among FrancoMauritians than among Békés in Martinique (Kovats Beaudoux and Giraud 2002: 98) and the white elite of Jamaica (Douglass 1992: 169–200). Gaston Trivulce, a Franco-Mauritian man studying family genealogies, discovered two (old) cases of extra-marital afairs which were revealing in this respect. In one case, a Franco-Mauritian, who had since died, had fathered a number of illegitimate children with a black woman. After Trivulce informed the dead man’s legal Franco-Mauritian son, the latter met with one of his halfbrothers on friendly terms. In the other case, however, Gaston Trivulce said, ‘[a certain Franco-Mauritian man] will never accept the news that he has black siblings’. Younger Franco-Mauritians would argue that it is specifcally the older generations that cannot cope with mixed marriages – which is in line with the argument that older people are less refexive about whiteness, and more quick to deploy racist discourse (Garner 2007: 76–77). Yann de Dampierre, a Franco-Mauritian in his early thirties, who made the ‘right’ choice by marrying a white French girl, said: ‘My grandmother can’t understand marrying outside the community. She has racist characteristics, although I don’t consider her to be racist in the sense that she hates others. It’s the colonial upbringing [which is gradually changing, because] my mother can understand a mixed marriage, although she wouldn’t approve of it automatically. And I don’t mind’. And yet in his choice of partner, the changing generational mindset has not resulted in marriage with a non-white person. He said: I believe a diference in culture, but specifcally a diference in the level of education [in the choice of a non-white partner], is a problem. I think education solves most problems. [With most Mauritians having a better education nowadays, the problem] is not between people of diferent ethnic backgrounds within my generation, but between the older generations. A mixed marriage would, from my point of view, be difcult with a non-Franco-Mauritian due to the fact that their [i.e. the non-Franco-Mauritian’s] parents are uneducated.

Tis discourse, associating cultural diferences with educational diferences, is widely shared among Franco-Mauritians.16 Tese types of diferences are often presented as more important objections than that of skin colour, as there is a certain reluctance among Franco-Mauritians to justify their choices on the basis of skin colour. 171

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At the conference on ‘knowing the white Mauritian community better’ (mieux connaître les Mauriciens de la communauté blanche), which I attended in 2014, the only young Franco-Mauritian participant stressed the diference of values he encountered between Franco-Mauritians and other communities. Tey did not share the same values he had, he said, which he underlined by saying that he came from a ‘a very good family’ (tres bonne famille). Other Franco-Mauritian participants criticized him by arguing that highlighting diferences in values is a rather denigrating way of marking diferences. He, however, repeated a typical Franco-Mauritian discourse of marking racial boundaries by stressing educational and class diferences. Due to connotations with the colonial past, Franco-Mauritian choices more than those of other ethnic groups are easily associated with racist preferences. Pointing to culture and education is widely accepted for justifying choices in postcolonial Mauritius. As Kogila Moodley and Heribert Adam state, ‘many analysts have noted how biological heredity [in race-related discourse] has been replaced by cultural diference’ (Moodley and Adam 2000: 57). Yet, referring to cultural diferences seems almost to be an excuse (conscious or unconscious) for a still existing, but not always openly pronounced, choice of partner preference based on skin colour and a preference for maintaining homogeneity. Interestingly, Rahman Khan indicates that elites more generally point to culture as the justifcation for diferences: ‘I suggest that, in part, this is because there is a greater comfort in mobilizing cultural explanations for the advantaged (the tendency when looking at disadvantaged is to emphasize structure)’ (Rahman Khan 2012: 368). Te existence of class, cultural and educational diferences should not be downplayed, but class and educational diferences between communities have become undeniably smaller in postcolonial Mauritius. Objectivity about diference is, however, not what counts; it is people’s subjective perceptions of diference and social stratifcation that matters, and here history seems to count. Te value contributed to (perceived or real) homogeneity cannot be disentangled from the ‘strategic’ pole. In the economy, as I have already shown, the efects of an ethnically exclusive social life are clearly present: Te core problem is actually not concentration of economic power but the hermetic nature of our business community. Our private sector sufers from an unwillingness to expand the net of economic opportunity beyond its own group or community. Tere is an inability to trust, work with and learn from ‘others’ and there is a misplaced notion that synergies means doing more in-house.17

Te Franco-Mauritian case reveals a close association between the organization of social life and economic activities. I have shown in previous chapters that the efects of an ethnically exclusive social life have economic 172

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advantages. Te wide acceptance of symbolic ethnicity seems to a large extent responsible for this situation. Franco-Mauritian ethnic endogamy and exclusivist patterns of social interaction closely relate to symbolic ethnicity and are hardly challenged. Tese patterns are part and parcel of all Mauritian communities, and too openly and vocally criticizing these aspects would potentially jeopardize the cohesion of Mauritian society and even one’s own (political) position: ‘Te practice of multiculturalism in Mauritius … advocates the co-existence of ethnic, religious and cultural groups and mutual tolerance by maintaining a balance in the distribution of power between the diferent groups’ (Ramtohul 2013: 6). Te structuring principle of ethnicity, then, is notably relevant for understanding the consolidation of the FrancoMauritian elite position. Franco-Mauritians may constitute only 1 per cent of the population, but they still have a dominant position in the island’s present-day economy due to the fact that the organization of their private and social life is not – and by virtue of defending the cohesion of Mauritian society cannot be – criticized.

Between Continuity and Change Above and in the previous chapter, I have set out not only how FrancoMauritian social and cultural patterns have an infuence on the maintenance of economic privilege, but also how the structuring principle of ethnicity positively reinforces this. During my feldwork, however, I also saw the onset for change to the Franco-Mauritian elite position – as they know. Bertrand Caudrelier, a Franco-Mauritian businessman with a medium-size business, told me: Ethnic background plays a role in business [in Mauritius]. It is, however, ambiguous, and in my opinion respect and the level of service is, often, more important. Te role of ethnicity should not be seen as playing a systematic role. You also have the personal factor, that you just like someone or you do not like someone, disregarding his ethnic background. I think economic and technical factors prevail in business.

In the same interview Caudrelier also said, ‘employing a Chinese [i.e. SinoMauritian] would certainly help to attract Chinese enterprises to my product’. Nonetheless, he does not intend to hire one for this reason alone. Equally, a retired non-Franco-Mauritian businessman told me: ‘Our family business group has difculties selling [a certain product] to the large FrancoMauritian-controlled hotel groups, because we are the competitors of [a Franco-Mauritian company with a similar product], while at the same time 173

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we can sell [another product] to the hotels because the quality is recognized and it is not directly in competition with a Franco-Mauritian product’. Te change, in that sense, seems gradual: ethnicity remains important, yet more often than in the past business prevails over ethnicity. Comments on the purchase of a Franco-Mauritian car dealership in 2006 show this, for example. Te company was co-owned by two large Franco-Mauritian business groups. Tey had both been the exclusive importers of certain vehicle brands, but had joined forces to cut costs, with each owning 50 per cent of the shares. Tis did not contribute to good management of the company, and the dealership started drifting. Subsequently, a decision was made to sell the company to the largest non-Franco-Mauritian business group. A non-Franco-Mauritian businessman told me, ‘a deal like this would not have been possible ten to ffteen years ago because then the Franco-Mauritians would not have sold it to a non-Franco-Mauritian’. Te change in behaviour of the Franco-Mauritians showed, according to the non-Franco-Mauritian businessman, that the Franco-Mauritians were becoming more intelligent because they were starting to put their business interests frst.18 Tey had overcome their sentiments and opted for economic interest above all else, an adaptation to the new reality in which competition forces them to act more according to their strict business interests. A shift is also present on the shop foor, as the workplace has become ethnically more diverse than in the colonial era. Traditionally, the division of labour was strongly ethnically correlated: Hindus are associated with agriculture (as labourers and small planters) and increasingly with the public service; Creoles are fshermen, dockers, or factory artisans or belong to various other categories of manual, skilled or semi-skilled work; the Coloureds or gens de couleur are lawyers, journalists, or teachers or belong to similar liberal professions; Sino-Mauritians are involved in business; Muslims are either merchants or labourers; Tamils [in other case often categorized among Hindus] are to be found everywhere; Franco-Mauritians are ‘sugar barons’ or high executives. (Eriksen 1998: 13)

In Chapter 3 I have shown how a more diversifed and sophisticated economy has led to a situation in which Franco-Mauritian employees are no longer guaranteed access to functions they traditionally held. Despite a shared cultural background, the elite position of Franco-Mauritian employees is more and more challenged as meritocracy comes knocking at the door of FrancoMauritian businesses, creating more opportunities for other Mauritians. In fact, historically, Franco-Mauritian companies have always employed nonFranco-Mauritians – as a matter of fact, Franco-Mauritians are among the island’s largest employers. Nevertheless, the capacity in which these people have been employed has changed. Initially, non- Franco-Mauritians were 174

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predominantly employed as labourers or lower management; yet, a more sophisticated economy requires specifc know-how, which cannot always be found in the Franco-Mauritian community. In order to secure their position, Franco-Mauritian businesses cannot permit themselves to become less competitive vis-à-vis other businesses just because they want to employ their own kin. In contrast to the past, Mauritians in general have a much better education. One Franco-Mauritian manager said, ‘there are many capable Mauritians who can do the job’. Tese Mauritians, however, seem to have to prove themselves more in order to convince their Franco-Mauritian employers of their worth. In general, establishing trust is a longer process because this is not something established beforehand through acquaintance with family members and a shared culture, such as in the case of FrancoMauritians – besides, they lack access to Franco-Mauritian networks. As I show in the next chapter, however, it is not a foregone conclusion that other non-white Mauritians accept the promotion of one of their peers. Tere is also external pressure. Te big Franco-Mauritian business groups are under pressure from politicians and the media to open up their ranks. Favouring Franco-Mauritians on the basis of (subjective) ethnic afliation instead of (objective) merit is a practice considered to belong to the past. Reserving board seats of large business groups for the ‘nomenclature of whites’ is not approved of, since the companies do not sell their products exclusively to Mauritians of European descent but to an ethnically diverse nation.19 With regards to meritocracy, Franco-Mauritian businesses have certainly changed, as more Mauritians nowadays occupy positions previously monopolized by Franco-Mauritians. In a few cases, this pattern of employing Mauritians in positions previously reserved for Franco-Mauritians has also reached the board level; some large FrancoMauritian business groups now have Mauritians from other communities on their boards. Yet, Alain Trottier told me in 2005, ‘[t]hey are essentially puppets, because they don’t have any real voice in the decision making. In the end the people with the majority of shares decide and they are often Franco-Mauritians’. Tis, then, hardly challenges the proprietors. FrancoMauritian employees may be more anxious that in the future merit will actually become the norm for all jobs, and that they will thus lose the advantages coming from having a shared background and good connections. ‘Within ten years meritocracy will be the rule’, a retired FrancoMauritian businessman said, ‘a pity for our children’ – though in the previous chapter I have shown that not necessarily every Franco-Mauritian proprietor shares this opinion, as one of them stated that meritocracy is passé. Opportunities provided by new (business) networks also appear to contribute to this shift. A renowned journalist explained that FrancoMauritian companies are employing many bright ‘Indians’ these days: 175

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‘From a business point of view the companies have a tendency to open up to the new Hindu elite because employing them may open new networks and enhances cooperation with government ofcials, who tend to be Hindu as well’, he said. His statement seems to be supported by a number of Hindu appointees to Franco-Mauritian companies. Te aim of enhancing cooperation was, moreover, confrmed by a white foreign businessman who had served for many years in a company associated with a FrancoMauritian business group.20 He said: ‘I would not send a white to meetings with the government. Even in the case of the white being better qualifed, I would let him be accompanied by a non-white’. Franco-Mauritians’ tradition of occupying management positions is persistent, however, and change towards appointing other Mauritians to positions previously occupied by Franco-Mauritians is not something always approved of, all as I will show in the next chapter. Tere is, in line with Alain Trottier’s previous remarks, still a widespread assumption in the Franco-Mauritian community that they just are better managers. Changes at the top level are, therefore, slow, as meritocracy seems to stop short of the level of boards of directors, as well as that of senior management positions. Notwithstanding the few non-Franco-Mauritians on the boards of directors and at senior management level, a preference for Franco-Mauritians persists, as can be seen by the fact that these positions are mainly occupied by the largest shareholders, who tend to be Franco-Mauritians. In cases involving appointing independent managers and board members, Franco-Mauritian friends tend to be employed – as one businessmen said, ‘we know them, so we can trust them’ However, especially for the average Franco-Mauritian, employment issues represent a challenge to their elite position. Maintaining a good level of education, as I argued in the previous chapter, certainly helps Franco-Mauritians face this challenge. Furthermore, their white skin colour facilitates to a certain extent the perpetuation of their elite position.

Conclusion In plural settings with a political system relying on democratic representation, ethnicity can play a paradoxical role in the maintenance of an elite position. In this chapter I have shown that the structural phenomenon of amplifying ethnic diference infuences the position of a politician like Paul Bérenger. Any suggestion that a person is too close to the FrancoMauritian elite can harm a politician, in particular when they have white skin. Conversely, Mauritian Hindu politicians beneft from obtaining vertical loyalties via the path of ethnic afliation, this further reinforcing the role 176

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of ethnicity in postcolonial Mauritius. As a result, the legitimacy of an elite like the Franco-Mauritians, who stand out by their identity, can become very problematic. Tey are faced with difculties in obtaining (political) support due to their association with the past and economic privileges. Nevertheless, it seems that the evolution of the working of ethnicity in Mauritius has partly absolved Franco-Mauritians from the necessity of seeking support for their position. Notwithstanding its relatively fair and good working political system, the ‘ethnicization’ of Mauritian politics and society has created a new power balance that appears hard to undo. Discontinuing Franco-Mauritian ethnic endogamy (symbolic ethnicity), for example, would jeopardize postcolonial ‘unity in diversity’ consensus – more strongly put, as a result of this consensus (private) characteristics associated with ethnic groups are positively reinforced. Since private (or symbolic) expressions of ethnicity are inextricably linked with business practices (instrumental ethnicity), socio-cultural exclusivity tends to perpetuate Franco-Mauritian business networks in the private sector. Hence, it should be realized that the emphasis on ethnicity may jeopardize elite power while, at the same time, it also facilitates the maintenance of exclusivity. In the next chapter I will more closely analyse the role of skin colour as a continuing sign of elite superiority. In postcolonial Mauritius, Franco-Mauritians may be an ethnic elite more than a racial elite, yet their distinction is still marked by their white skin colour. Notes   1 Te 2011 Housing and Population Census of the Republic of Mauritius also indicates that the size of the ofcial categories has been subject to change since the last ofcial account of the island’s four ‘ethnic’ categories. Mauritians grouped under the category Hindu number 46 per cent of the total population, while Christians number 31 per cent and Muslims 17 per cent. Derived from these statistics, a comparison can be made with the 1972 census, on which BLS is based and which looked explicitly at ‘ethnicity’. Tis indicates that the Hindu population, comprising 52 per cent of the population in 1972, no longer comprises the majority of the republic.   2 I met Paul Bérenger once in front of his sister’s campement. We agreed upon an interview at a later date, but unfortunately I never managed to organize a meeting thereafter.  3 Le Cernéen, 4 May 1976, 14 May 1976.  4 ‘Une chose est cependant claire. Tous ceux qui dans ce pays SONT EPRIS DE LIBERTE AURONT A FAIRE FACE A UN ENNEMI COMMUN DE CETTE LIBERTE: LE MMM, d’obédience marxiste’ (Le Cernéen, 2 November 1976).  5 Le Cernéen, 9 March 1977.  6 Le Cernéen, 31 December 1976.

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 7 L’Express, 20 November 2007.  8 5-Plus Dimanche, 25 February 2001.  9 L’Express, 12 February 2001. 10 L’Express, 14 February 2001. 11 L’Express, 31 December 2006, 21 June 2005, 15 November 2006. 12 ‘Notre [c à d. MMM/MSM] campagne se termine dans l’unité nationale, tandis que de l’autre côté [c à d. alliance sociale], elle se termine dans le communalisme. Ils parlent encore de Blancs mais moi je sais que les jeunes et les travailleurs en assez de tels commentaires’ (Le Mauricien, 29 June 2005). 13 Week-End, 5 March 2006. 14 Le Cernéen provides a comparable example, in the sense that it had to close down too because it was too strongly associated with economic privileges. It is not comparable, however, in the sense that it was actually defending these privileges, while in Bérenger’s case this is highly debatable. 15 Interference by parents in the choice of partner tends to be present on the non-white side too. In Mauritius, a mixed marriage can, therefore, be an awkward event, similar to Jamaica where, as Douglass writes, ‘[m]any of the family members of a brown man who married into the white family elite seemed uncomfortable around the young man’s in-laws and tended to avoid social events with them’ (Douglass 1992: 151). 16 Franco-Mauritian emphasis on (private) quality education, as shown in the previous chapter, is also part and parcel of their ideas about a good upbringing. It is not about safeguarding a position in the labour market only, but should be seen in the wider context of their elite culture as well. 17 A quote from Agora, a group of four independent opinion makers related to the private sector (see Le Mauricien, 9 May 2007). 18 It was, thus, comparable before to the situation noted by Billig: ‘Often, people act to sustain institutional forms that undermine their own economic interests because they perceive these forms as possessing deep-rooted moral and emotional legitimacy. Certain ways of conducting business become taken for granted as right, just and proper’ (Billig 2003: 14). 19 Le Mauricien, 25 May 2007. 20 Although not in this case, the role of foreign nationals involved in the private sector shows that too much ethnic afliation can also be a problem. Sometimes a business needs someone who has no ties to anyone at all on the small island. For example, the island’s largest (Franco-Mauritian-controlled) brewery decided to appoint an expatriate to its top post in 2006, and the present CEO is also a foreign national. According to a FrancoMauritian informant, the board of directors chose a manager who could reorganize and take unpopular decisions related to the need to downsize the number of staf. In the small setting of Mauritius, a (Franco-)Mauritian could not have done this job, and so they needed a foreigner to do the ‘dirty’ work. In the public sector, expatriates sometimes perform similarly difcult jobs. Te number of foreigners at management level is, however, limited. A retired Mauritian businessman told me: ‘More international input at board level is difcult because, again, there is the barrier of distance. Travel costs and efort are too demanding for attending a board meeting every one or two months, though increasing foreign investment may eventually make it easier’. Most expatriates who work on the

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island either work for foreign companies – in the hotel business, in joint ventures – or have their own businesses. In the next chapter the efect of their presence on Mauritian inter-ethnic relationships will be discussed.

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Chapter 6 The Elite Symbolism of White Skin Colour

n Franco-Mauritians have not only successfully maintained their elite position but also their white skin colour, giving them their colloquial name la communauté blanche (the white community). Te structuring principle of ethnicity in postcolonial Mauritius has certainly facilitated the maintenance of a white skin colour, as Franco-Mauritian preference for marrying white is not necessarily rejected. White skin colour and everything it symbolizes, such as memories of colonial injustice, landownership and wealth, but also good quality, interact with the Franco-Mauritian elite position, however. Following up on the previous chapters, I will here analyse Franco-Mauritian elite symbols of distinction, in particular white skin colour and the distinguishing characteristics it embodies. To fully grasp how elites maintain their position it is important to not only analyse power in its more direct forms, but to also to analyse how markers of distinction, which can symbolize resentment as well as attribution, undermine and/or facilitate the position of elites.

Distinction Te position of elites, and how they are able to maintain this position, is the result of a complex interplay of aspects. Tese aspects range from tangible to intangible and from things that are relatively easy to analyse to those that are more difcult to put your fnger on. In general, an elite position relies frst and foremost on the elite’s control over resources. But research on elites equally indicates that there is more than the control of scarce resources and, ultimately, power: elites need to (noticeably) distinguish themselves from 180

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others. Large and richly ornamented residences, fancy cars, expensive jewellery and lavish parties are among the most renowned signs of symbolic elite distinction (e.g., Bourdieu 1984, 1994; Daloz 2007, 2010). Moderate lifestyles and the absence of conspicuous symbols, although less illustrative, can equally signify superiority (e.g., Daloz 2013). While elite distinction can also be marked through physical appearance (e.g., Salverda 2011), as colonial projects have illustrated in particular. Hence, Rahman Kahn, in the spirit of Bourdieu, argues, ‘[u]nderstanding elites means not just making sense of the resources they control or have access to; it also means considering the conversion of that resource into other forms of capital’ (Rahman Kahn 2012: 362). A similar observation is made by Siegfried F. Nadel: But let us note that this restriction to particular resources, interests or talents indicates essentially … the domains in which [the elite’s] pre-eminence is primarily established; it does not indicate in the same manner the degree the actual infuence it exercises. Tis [can still be] of a broad and embracing kind; we might say, it spills over into other domains of social life. (Nadel 1956: 418)

An elite position, then, may entail more than would be assumed on the basis of the resources an elite controls; the Franco-Mauritian elite position does not rely on their economic privileges alone, but also interacts with their symbolic distinction and social status. Trough a dialectical process, both the elite and other social groups play a role in shaping elite symbols and their meanings in signifying power. Franco-Mauritians have maintained their control over resources, and they also stand out due to the distinguishing characteristic of their skin colour. I have already shown, there are numerous other symbols of distinction, such as patrimony symbolizing proof of being able to transfer family wealth over several generations. Also, the French language distinguishes FrancoMauritians from most Mauritians, who speak Kreol as their frst language. Kreol was considered an inferior substitute for French, and white planters used it when communicating with the slave population; nowadays their descendants predominantly use it to communicate with their domestic staf. Accordingly, most Franco-Mauritians speak Kreol fuently, even though some women argued that they do not master it. Yet this appears more a sign of distinction than the fact that they really do not understand Kreol. At the same time, with most newspapers and the prime national news on television still in French, the (symbolic) association of the French language with formality and power remains prominent. Many of these symbols interact with each other, yet white skin colour stands out in its role as (simultaneously) symbolizing negative and positive elements regarding the Franco-Mauritian elite position. 181

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In the previous chapters I have shown that the symbolic aspect of FrancoMauritian white skin colour serves the funnelling of resentment particularly well. Te status and power of the elite, however, are also a matter of ascription. While resentment is often more overt, as has become evident by now, the ascription of an elite position appears more intangible – as a result of this it may receive much less attention in the study of elites. Te expression of respect, for example, seems to often occur in everyday interactions and without the actors being fully aware of it. By means of resenting and/ or attributing certain qualities to elite symbols, other groups infuence the status and power of elites. Elites, as the Franco-Mauritian case indicates, are (un)consciously infuenced by the way they feel symbols of distinction are interpreted by others. As a result, this may sustain the elite’s (self-)perception of their superior position, although it can also reinforce anxiety. Te particular interpretation of symbols, either through resentment, attribution or emulation, tends to be embedded in the local context, but in interactions with larger felds. Te elite’s position relates to specifc context in which others identify them as an elite. Te position of whites in former colonies is illustrative in this respect. Franco-Mauritians’ white skin colour functions as a marker of an elite position in Mauritius, but would not function similarly in predominantly white societies, such as France. Tere, Franco-Mauritians blend in with the majority and realize that there skin colour does not aford them the same privileges as in Mauritius. Stemming from this, it is relevant to probe how the infux of white tourists and expatriates (with potentially diferent interpretations of white skin colour), as well as geopolitical changes, impact on Franco-Mauritian embodied superiority. It is relevant, then, to not only look at how others resent or respect them, but to also address Franco-Mauritian perceptions of how others treat them.

Embodying Distinction Te symbolic distinction of white skin colour is the result of contact between white and non-white peoples, and between superiors and subordinates. Te European colonial expansion was an important setting in which this racial superiority occurred, although Ann Laura Stoler argues that the onset of colonialism was relatively free of it: ‘Housing, dress codes, transport, food, clubs, conversation, recreation, and leaves marked a distinct social space in which Europeans were internally stratifed but from which Asians were circumstantially and/or formally barred. However, when the colonial industry saw its position threatened, new measures were usually sought to identify its members, their afnities and common interests, along racial lines’ (Stoler 1989: 146). Tis constant pattern of readjusting the parameters of 182

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the colonial elite to delimit those who had access to property and those who did not (Stoler 1989: 154) led to an embodied superiority. In colonial Brazil, for example, whiteness became equated with the possession of material resources and wealth (Linke 1999: 135). At the same time, it signifed superiority because a dark skin colour was commonly associated with poor manual labourers working on the land (Hunter 2007: 3). Colonial projects, then, were a signifcant driving force behind the gradual rise in the perceived superiority of white skin colour. In Mauritius, at the beginning of the French period, the settlers’ white skin colour was also less an essential symbol of elite distinction than it would be later in the colonial project. Te implementation of the French Code Noir in 1723 (Teelock 1998: 30) laid the foundations of the superiority of the white skin colour, even though it may initially not have been reinforced, as I have shown (Chapter 1). Te need for marking distinctions in new social settings indicates that whiteness was (and is) originally a social construct, although one visualized through physical appearances. According to Uli Linke, this is particularly efective as ‘social categories are articulated onto material objects, like the body, in order to render them natural, irrevocable, and permanent’ (Linke 1999: 136). Physical appearance as a sign of distinction, therefore, is diferent from conspicuous and vicarious consumption (Veblen 1994) or fashion (Simmel 1957). As an indicator of elite distinction, physical appearance is an inborn symbol, contrasting with other signs of superiority which are manufactured, such as luxurious cars or jewellery. With the arrival of the British in 1810, physical appearance as an embodied sign of superiority became further entrenched, afecting all layers of colonial society. As I have shown in Chapter 1, with the arrival of the British, who never settled in large numbers themselves, the infux of white newcomers came to a halt. At the same time, a plantation economy developed; this required a need for racist ideology to justify domination and legitimize class exploitation (North-Coombes 2000: 1). Te British, being white themselves, endorsed the symbolic superiority of white skin colour. Te FrancoMauritians and the British shared a set of interests (Teelock 1998: 74), notwithstanding the fact that the British colonial government abolished the ‘colour bar’ in 1829 and slavery in 1835. Te superiority of the white skin colour, however, was hardly challenged. Franco-Mauritians maintained their social distinction from the gens de couleur. In many colonial projects, métissage was seen as a threat to white prestige and considered an embodiment of European degeneration and moral decay (Stoler 1992: 515). Despite sharing a similar culture, French language and Catholic faith, Franco-Mauritians considered themselves superior on the basis of their skin colour. When appreciation was expressed for gens de couleur, Franco-Mauritians often highlighted their white forefathers. Henri Leclezio, a plantation owner and 183

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conservative parliamentary, for example, referred to the ‘appreciable quantity of European blood in their veins’ (Leclezio 2000: 139–40).1 Te transition from the colonial to the postcolonial period has clearly exposed Franco-Mauritians’ white skin colour, in line with the fact that worldwide the symbolism of the white skin colour is much more contested nowadays. Global developments, such as the decolonization process, have exposed the fact that ‘white privilege is an entrenched, powerful and ultimately irrational system that needs to make itself appear natural and benign in order to perpetuate itself ’ (Vera and Feagin 1995: 297). White skin colour is no longer automatically accepted as a sign of superiority, as it is considered to be a form of monopolization and exclusion which is incompatible with current world images (Murphy 1988: 2). Moodley and Adam argue that the ‘aesthetic racism of the colonial past’ has been shed under the infuence of globalized consumerism and corporate wealth (Moodley and Adam 2000: 59). Despite these changes, the symbolic value of white skin has not become obsolete – Franco-Mauritians still often perceive métissage as a weakness, as I have shown. To a large extent, whiteness continues to have a worldwide impact as a symbol of superiority (evoking resentment and attribution) due to memories of the (colonial) past and continuing – albeit changing – ‘white’ Western domination. Some even argue that ideas about the superiority of the white ‘race’ have increased, illustrated by the ‘aestheticization of white skin’ (Linke 1999: 133). Indeed, in countries like Saudi Arabia and Uganda, women are using toxic skin-bleaching creams in an attempt to modify an apparently immutable physical trait (Hunter 2007: 12).2 Among Mauritian, this ambiguous relationship with white skin, symbolizing both sides of the coin, is illustrative and relevant for an understanding of the Franco-Mauritian position.

Resentment In postcolonial Mauritius, Franco-Mauritians could no longer mobilize political support. Te Franco-Mauritians’ role in public debate, as illustrated in the previous chapters, increasingly came to be perceived by many Mauritians as ‘not opportune’ any more. Teir physical appearance had become a symbol of the injustices of the colonial past, leading to the closing of Le Cernéen, for example. Franco-Mauritian businessmen realized that an active role in public debate with a white skin colour jeopardized the maintenance of their economic privileges. Equally, on the Caribbean island of Martinique, local whites had to accept a new role; they argued that they could no longer stand for elections as blacks would be up in arms, arguing that whites would again dominate and exploit them (Kovats Beaudoux and 184

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Giraud 2002: 160). My analysis that Franco-Mauritians have been relatively successful in defending numerous privileges by applying their power defensively is interesting in this respect, as these privileges have often been challenged because Franco-Mauritians are the ‘only’ whites in Mauritius, strongly associated with colonial injustices and the maintenance of an uneven share of the island’s wealth. Subsequently, the successful consolidation of their economic power perpetuates the symbolism of their embodied superiority, this reinforcing the potential for resentment. Te (ab)use of white skin only makes sense in the context of power relations, as Steve Garner states: ‘whiteness is a phenomenon unthinkable in a context where white does not equal power’ (Garner 2006: 262). A Franco-Mauritian businessman told me: Our situation is difcult because we are a small community, we are perceived as rich and this perception does not imply that it is [an] incorrect [one]. In a way we set the standard and other communities don’t like that; and what is the lowest job Franco-Mauritians have? Salesman? Tere are not many secretaries. Other communities don’t like it that the Franco-Mauritians are always the bosses.

Indeed, numerous Mauritians shared their resentment with me. A gens de couleur journalist said, ‘Te Franco-Mauritians are just like the British in India. Tey condemn what is not theirs or purposely hinder others. Tey divide and rule’. A medical doctor of Sino-Mauritian origin said: ‘Te Franco-Mauritians are a bit racist, like in South Africa [where the doctor studied]. Other Mauritians are not racists like them; they don’t have an arrogant sense of superiority. [Franco-Mauritians] still have a colonial mentality’. While a gens de couleur student attending one of the private schools, told me, ‘Te Franco-Mauritians are perceived as arrogant [at the Lycée La Bourdonnais] because they think it is their school because of their relation to the management of the school. Many of the administration staf are FrancoMauritians and their children are among the school pupils’. I have certainly also met Mauritians who know Franco-Mauritians personally and who tend to be much milder about them – it should be noted, however, that many of the Mauritians who have befriended FrancoMauritians have similar class and educational backgrounds. Tey are aware of diferences between individual members of the group. Tey often criticize the structure and socio-cultural patterns of the Franco-Mauritian community, but hold little against the individuals they know personally. Tey do, however, argue that when socializing with befriended Franco-Mauritians one often ends up in a circle predominantly made up of Franco-Mauritians with few other Mauritians. But regardless of the diferent opinions of the Mauritians close(r) to the Franco-Mauritian community, out of the island’s total population, they are few and far between. Tis could be compared to 185

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the Jamaican case: ‘Many Jamaicans presume that whites are racists and unpatriotic, that they spend all of their time in Miami and London and that they are not “real” Jamaicans at all. Others, especially those who knew some members of the prominent families, have more sympathetic and respectful views’ (Douglass 1992: 54). Compared to the colonial period, it seems that Franco-Mauritians are also more of an abstraction in Mauritian society. For example, there are relatively fewer Franco-Mauritian general practitioners and priests now than in the colonial period – although, as I will show, the Catholic bishop of Mauritius is still a Franco-Mauritian. Franco-Mauritians previously lived in more towns and villages, while nowadays many have withdrawn to a few coastal areas. Here they spend time in their campements, hidden from view by high stone walls. With a bit of exaggeration, a Mauritian journalist told me, ‘A nonFranco-Mauritian goes to school, where there are no Franco-Mauritians. Ten to the university, where there are no Franco-Mauritians either [because they predominantly study abroad]. By the time this Mauritian turns twentythree and is employed in his frst job he might, for the frst time in his life, shake the hand of a Franco-Mauritian [manager]’. A Franco-Mauritian woman actually had to show her passport to a nineteen-year-old colleague who could not believe white Mauritians existed. Most Mauritians, however, are aware of the existence of Franco-Mauritians even though they may only be familiar with whites as the ‘big bosses’ depicted in newspapers and on television. As a result of Franco-Mauritian exclusionary patterns, and the abstract image many Mauritians have of them, resentment about Franco-Mauritian wealth and economic power tends to be easily symbolized by white skin colour. Te frequent ‘white-bashing’ by political counter-elites perfectly illustrates this. To a certain extent, Franco-Mauritians are aware of their role in electoral campaigns and political rhetoric, as experienced in the 2005 elections and their aftermath. Te Franco-Mauritians’ small numbers and, ironically, the fact that they have adopted a low profle in the political domain, makes them an easy target. Franco-Mauritians not only stand out with their white skin colour, they also often do not defend themselves publicly. As a Franco-Mauritian CEO said, ‘there are so few whites that if the mechanism of white-bashing doesn’t work for you it doesn’t work against you’. Te limited response of Franco-Mauritians to attacks on their interests surprised some Mauritians. Tey wondered how Creoles, Muslims or Hindus would have reacted had they been attacked in the same manner as the FrancoMauritians have been – a Mauritian even defended the Franco-Mauritians, stating in a letter to the editor of a newspaper that the whole community was being hounded for the sins of the past.3

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In the aftermath of the 2005 elections, some Franco-Mauritians nevertheless felt they had to publicly defend themselves. Tey felt they could not remain silent any longer about constant criticism, and deviated from their strategy of keeping a low public profle. Notably the campement issue, demands for the democratization of the economy and sugar industry reform were perceived as serious challenges to the Franco-Mauritian elite position. Contrary to their normal practice of maintaining a low profle in public debate, some Franco-Mauritians chose to defend themselves more openly. Te Franco-Mauritian politician Eric Guimbeau once more exemplifes this. As a politician he has relatively little infuence compared to Paul Bérenger since the party he belongs to had only two parliamentary seats in 2005. At one point, this party joined the Labour Party-led government alliance, although the two parliamentarians then resigned because they disagreed with certain government-allied politicians’ verbal charges against the Franco-Mauritian community. Guimbeau clearly took a stand by openly defending Franco-Mauritians while, interestingly, Bérenger largely held his tongue in this respect. Apart from his comments that ‘it’s revenge for the past’, Guimbeau said: ‘We have created a lot of work and invested a lot in Mauritius. Te companies are at the stock exchange, so everyone can buy shares’. Moreover, he said: ‘I would be the frst one to approve of the democratization [of the economy], but this is not about real democratization. Te sugar estates have always accepted their social responsibility, but with the government’s demand for the 2,000 arpents this no longer has any logic’. Te resentment Franco-Mauritians experienced, as in the past, enhanced solidarity among Franco-Mauritians. Many Franco-Mauritians, businessmen as well as other people, who were not involved in the negotiations and who had little interest in the sugar industry, for example, took a stand for it anyway, and often used the ‘standard’ counter-arguments of being targeted as whites. Following up on the resentment the Franco-Mauritians experienced in the aftermath of the 2005 elections, a special radio programme was devoted to debate about the democratization of the economy and alleged whitebashing on Radio Plus on 13 June 2007. Tis was like a public relations exercise ofensive to alter the perceptions of Franco-Mauritians. Listening to the radio programme, I noticed that an important starting point for FrancoMauritians and the radio producers was the belief that many Mauritians have little knowledge of Franco-Mauritians other than that they are economically powerful. In the radio programme, language and food habits, amongst other things, were brought to the forefront – everyday practices to do with culture in other words. Te two Franco-Mauritian guests in the studio and most Franco-Mauritian interviewees spoke Kreol, avoiding the negative connotations and symbolic superiority related to their mother tongue, French. Apart from this, a Franco-Mauritian family was interviewed at home to give 187

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an impression of Franco-Mauritian family life. Tey referred to the language they spoke, including Kreol, and the Mauritian food they ate – one of the studio guests and some interviewees also stressed that they ate farrata and carry (national Mauritian dishes), and piments (chillies). Accordingly, they wanted to make it clear that ‘we are as Mauritian as you are’. It is difcult to assess whether or not it really altered beliefs among Mauritians. Gradually, however, the pressure on Franco-Mauritians calmed down. As in the past, the politicians ceased their ‘attacks’ on Franco-Mauritians again, and the democratization of the economy hardly featured as an item on the political agenda in 2014. With regards to understanding how the Franco-Mauritian elite position is maintained, the ‘white-bashing’ is relevant nevertheless. Politicians link whiteness to colonial injustices and to the – perceived – unequal share of Franco-Mauritian wealth in present-day Mauritius. As shown in the previous chapter, ‘white-bashing’ concerns the ‘instrumental’ side of ethnicity, because politicians do not criticize marriage patterns or Franco-Mauritian exclusive leisure spending. It is only a symbol of resentment in relation to the most apparent signs of elite power, such as their economic privileges and executive control. Tis is illustrated by the fact that there is a diference of day and night between Paul Bérenger as prime minister and in opposition. After he lost the elections, attacks in which the colour of his skin featured prominently disappeared almost entirely. He was also no longer associated with Franco-Mauritian economic privileges and the private sector. Franco-Mauritian economic power, however, still exists, and every now and then continues to be slandered by politicians. Notwithstanding that politicians have hidden techniques to refer to Franco-Mauritians without actually mentioning skin colour, this shows the symbolic superiority of white skin from the other side: politicians easily associate it with economic power and the injustices of the past. At the same time, Franco-Mauritians and other Mauritians alike reduce these to skin colour, as shown by the politician Eric Guimbeau’s comment. Te government’s suggested policy changes were unfavourable for Franco-Mauritians, yet they were not only targeted at them. References were made to Mauritius becoming a second Zimbabwe. Te situation of the Franco-Mauritians, however, cannot be compared to that of whites in Zimbabwe. Moreover, white skin colour as marker of elite distinction is highly contextual. Politicians also sometimes appear to forget this, as one did in a newspaper commentary: [O]n a personal level, I have been accused of being anti-white. Yet a good number of my closest friends happen to be white simply because I’ve lived and worked for a good ten years or so in Canada, a country which truly celebrates multiculturalism, a country whose pluralism is by very far, much healthier than ours. But

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maybe Canadian, British, Irish and French white people are not considered to be white enough?4

Either the politician is ignorant or feigned ignorance, because Mauritians tend to be welcoming towards white foreigners, and to a certain extent deal with their whiteness diferently. In a way, the politician, as do others falling back on simple rhetoric, reinforce the symbolic elite distinction of FrancoMauritians’ white skin colour: there is no smoke without fre, thus the whites ‘must’ be an elite. Manifested in a negative manner, then, Mauritians nevertheless ascribe elite status to the white skin colour of the Franco-Mauritians.

Attribution and Emulation Franco-Mauritians’ white skin colour is much more contested nowadays than during the colonial era, yet in a way it is a love–hate relationship because at the same time it is still associated with the prestige of an elite position. In Mauritius, ‘white’ is still equivalent to power. Tis certainty is visible despite the end of the colonial period, when the white sugar oligarchy’s complete hegemony – political, social, cultural and religious – evidently made the non-white Mauritian population feel inferior and powerless (Chan Low 2005: 280). Likewise, in South Africa, Brazil and the United States, white skin colour remains ambiguously associated with superiority, racism and colonial injustices (e.g., Garner 2006; Wildman 2006; Hunter 2007). In the case of South Africa, the white elite have lost their political power but maintained a strong foothold in the private sector. Albeit non-white wealth is on the rise, this afects the maintenance of old distinctions: ‘Te black elite feels patronized. Status-conscious achievers experience the subtleties of condescending white arrogance as a continuing sub-text of superiority and implicit exclusion’ (Moodley and Adam 2000: 58). A diference with Mauritius, though, is that white skin colour as a symbol of superiority applies to both elite and middle-class whites. While it is virtually never the case in Mauritius, many middle-class members of South African society, such as shop attendants, are whites. White skin colour is thus not always exclusively linked to elitism; it is associated more generally with whites’ better chances, relative wealth and so forth. In their everyday interactions, Mauritians often (subconsciously) attribute a position of superiority to Franco-Mauritians and whites more generally. Following up on Marcel Mauss’s analysis of traditional magic, Irene Skovgaard-Smith (2013) illustrates how the status and associated abilities of professional elites, consultants in her case, are also attributed to them by others. She argues that, in order to understand an elite position, we have 189

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to go beyond the current tendency to focus mainly on how elite status is achieved and maintained by elites themselves. Te consultants’ potential infuence also originates in the status and associated abilities attributed to them by their clients – though Skovgaard-Smith emphasizes that consultants are active agents in this process as well, and as such their status is accomplished through the dialectic of elites positioning themselves and being positioned by others simultaneously. Te Franco-Mauritian case shows that similar processes are at play in the shaping of an elite position. Other Mauritians attribute an elite position to Franco-Mauritians, this emerging out of complex coherence of (historical) elite symbolism, emulation and the psychological stance of many people vis-à-vis power. Tis is also refected in the emulation of Franco-Mauritian modes of life. In Chapter 1, I showed that gens de couleur in the colonial period already put the Franco-Mauritians on a pedestal as they valued their mode of life as desirable. Tis is comparable to, for example, black cultural capitalists in early twentieth-century Boston (Fleming and Roses 2007). Tey were infuenced by and admired the high-cultural model of white elites, reinforcing the symbolic superiority of these elites. At the same time, however, gens de couleur also challenged Franco-Mauritians and nowadays still resent them for the injustices of the past (and even present). Both can occur simultaneously, which complicates the analysis of how the symbolism of Franco-Mauritian white skin colour functions. Criticizing FrancoMauritians in the political sphere is clearly stressed by the symbolism of white skin colour, while treating a white with respect also originates in the embodied characteristics of skin colour. Tat Franco-Mauritians’ white-skin colour can be a threat to their position does not exempt it from a symbolic distinction that can equally work in their favour. Mauritians often reinforce the embodied sign of Franco-Mauritian white skin colour in more unconscious behaviour – this to a certain extent also spilling over to that of white and/or fair-skinned gens de couleur. According to a number of Mauritians and others alike, this is partly the result of the psychological legacy of the colonial period. A foreign white businessman with a long track record in the Mauritian private sector argued, ‘there is a psychological problem with many of the Mauritians because they have grown up in a society where the whites were favoured’. As a (non-white) historian told me: ‘In Mauritius you frst look at the colour of the skin. White is considered fne and black is considered dirty’. Te circulation of (scary) stories about Franco-Mauritians further reinforces this legacy. Legend says that one Franco-Mauritian landowner in the south of the island, close to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mountain Le Morne, was shooting humans trespassing on his property. In reality, he appears to have had a habit of shooting stray dogs and animals roaming his land. Equally, a police ofcer 190

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I gave a lift to said that criminals would not dare to enter the property of Franco-Mauritians because they have guns and dogs. Franco-Mauritians, however, are equally the victim of crime. But among many Mauritians a sense of class justice persists, not only expressed in the way of criminals treating whites, but also of the police. Te police, supposedly, do not dare to arrest whites or intervene in case of disputes and so on. Tis, I would say, is at the end of the day not unique to Franco-Mauritians or other former white colonial elites. A psychological stance of people vis-à-vis elites, more generally, appears to be favourable to the elite. Behaviour towards elites in everyday interaction is often one of respect and awe, but also of outright fear, this reinforcing the elite’s position and status. In a context of symbolic elite superiority, it is not a foregone conclusion that the promotion of non-whites is accepted by other non-white Mauritians as, in efect, someone from their midst suddenly becomes in charge of them. Alain Trottier said: ‘Tey started as a mason [in our company], but over time made promotion. But in their case it’s sometimes difcult to manage the situation, because they come from the same group and on Saturdays still socialize with their former equals who have now become their subordinates’. As a result of engrained class distinctions, labouring classes cannot always accept or imagine social mobility. Alexandra Ouroussof (1993: 294), for example, shows how manual workers in Britain, even if they have the qualities, believe themselves not to be the sort of people who become managers. Tis takes us back to Alain Trottier’s previous remark that Franco-Mauritians are more respected as managers and have more authority in management functions compared to other Mauritians. In a way, Franco-Mauritians are simply attributed the position of managers. ‘It might come from the past, although I don’t exactly know it’, Trottier told me. Hence, owing to Franco-Mauritians’ historical employment positions, it is assumed by many (but by no means all) Franco-Mauritians and Mauritians alike that FrancoMauritians are better bosses than other Mauritians. One theory is that many Mauritians come from a position in which they have been ‘historically on the defensive’ (Crehan 2002: 100), and that despite changes they do not easily accept it when Mauritians from ‘their midst’ act authoritatively. In Martinique, for example, a black boss badly treating a black worker was considered worse than a white boss doing the same (Kovats Beaudoux and Giraud 2002: 171). Likewise, a Sino-Mauritian, who attended one of the French private schools and who lives in a campement, told me: ‘Mauritians have a subconscious feeling of inferiority in relation to the whites. Tere is a diference between a white neighbour and me. When my white neighbour is rude to his gardener, the gardener accepts it as natural. When I am rude, the gardener will after some time say, “what are you up to?”’ Equally, a Creole told me: ‘My grandmothers worked as maids 191

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for Franco-Mauritian families. Tey had respect for the Franco-Mauritians, which I inherited. Today there is still a sort of respect [among Creoles]. If the boss is, for instance, a Hindu, the respect is diferent’. Among Creoles more generally there seems to be an ambiguous relationship with white skin colour. Partly this is the legacy of the position of Franco-Mauritians in the Catholic Church vis-à-vis the Creole population, the Church’s largest constituency. Te symbolic superiority of white skin has been facilitated by the fact that the two bishops in postcolonial Mauritius have been Franco-Mauritians. Te hierarchy in the Church is gradually changing, however, and it is argued that the next bishop will not be a Franco-Mauritian. Creole and other non-Franco-Mauritian priests are becoming more prominent, while the number of Franco-Mauritians opting for the priesthood appears to be in decline. Te ambiguity in this case is that, on the one hand, the symbolism of white skin will most likely prevent the ordination of another Franco-Mauritian bishop because ‘we have moved away from the colonial past’. On the other hand, white skin continues to live on as a sign of superiority. As I mentioned in the Introduction, there is a tendency among Creoles to emulate Franco-Mauritians, to have a preference for marrying whites and, in certain cases, to resent their own blackness (Boswell 2006). A factor in the persistence of Franco-Mauritian symbolism is that white is often associated with quality and, with regards to the Franco-Mauritians powerful economic position, also good business sense. As one Muslim businessman told me, ‘the investment and quality management of the Franco-Mauritians made the tourism industry a success’. Equally a gens de couleur woman said: ‘Franco-Mauritians have developed good moral standards … Mauritians often think that if it is sold by a white that it’s good. People are more disappointed when a white lets them down. Tis explains also the popularity of the MCB [Mauritius Commercial Bank] and white doctors’. A similar pattern can be seen with regards to the private French schools, which most Franco-Mauritians attend. Despite English being the country’s ofcial school language, other Mauritians also attend these schools because they are known for providing a quality education. Tis illustrates the impact of elite emulation. Or, as a Franco-Mauritian priest argued, nonFranco-Mauritian parents send their children to these schools because they think that if Franco-Mauritians send their children to French curriculum schools then they must be good. A gens de couleur woman shared with me her admiration of the quality and discipline at these schools: ‘Ecole du Centre is the most serious and best managed school’. She also continued her praise of Franco-Mauritians in the feld of management – interestingly enough, she wondered at one point whether she is not too positive about Franco-Mauritians. Elites, like the Franco-Mauritians, may notice how other 192

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Mauritians take their skin colour into account, notwithstanding the fact that they are not necessarily aware of the exact beliefs these Mauritians have of them.

A Sense of Superiority Te maintenance of Franco-Mauritian ethnic endogamy, white leisure spaces and so forth indicates that the symbolism of white skin remains prevalent, even though, as I have shown, this requires certain ‘rules’ of rejecting nonwhite spouses. According to North-Coombes (2000: 38, 39), demographic realities and a long history of miscegenation make the concept of whiteness in any absolute sense a myth. But regardless of whether or not racial purity is a myth, it has undeniably been a real marker of distinction that has been maintained because of the ‘advantages’ it embodies. Te (perceived) innate aspect of physical appearance makes an elite group highly impenetrable for people without the specifc physical characteristics; one cannot overnight become white, in contrast to the overnight purchase of certain prestige goods. Franco-Mauritians play an active role in this. As the preceding chapters have clearly shown, they actively pursue the maintenance of the symbolic aspect of elite distinction characterized by their skin colour, this though being facilitated by the consensus about homogeneity. Tat said, white skin colour is not sufcient. Tere also needs to be ‘proof ’ of the absence of non-white genes, even though North-Coombes argues that this is largely a myth. In this respect, the gossip I have referred to helps maintain the symbolic superiority of white skin colour. Behind their backs, Franco-Mauritians denigrate other Franco-Mauritians for not being purely white. Tis discourse appears to be so engrained in the Franco-Mauritian psyche that even a number of liberal Franco-Mauritians who disassociate themselves from the white stereotype, perhaps unconsciously, uphold the discourse, despite their criticism of it. For example, one of them wondered whether Jean-Pierre Lenoir, who as I have shown has a reputation for strongly defending Franco-Mauritian symbols, could not cope with a métissage ‘problem’ in his family (like in the case of Bérenger, for the purpose of disqualifcation it is of little importance whether it is true or not). Te persistence of the symbolic distinction that is Franco-Mauritians’ white skin colour is expressed, as I have analysed, in many aspects of FrancoMauritian life. Much remains at stake in marriage, as being completely ‘white’ still implies many privileges. As I have argued, there is, comparatively speaking, little real poverty in the Franco-Mauritian community, and even ‘poorer’ Franco-Mauritians have a higher standard of living than most Mauritians. In cases where a Franco-Mauritian falls below a certain threshold, the family and 193

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community are often willing to help out fnancially. Tis shapes perceptions of white skin as a distinguishing symbol of elite distinction, both within the community and among other Mauritians. A Franco-Mauritian committee that fnancially supports needy Franco-Mauritians, for example, generally argued that Franco-Mauritians felt they could not apply for health care in public hospitals. To line up with other Mauritians is considered degrading and, consequently, support is provided to those who need it to apply for private health care. In a mutually reinforcing way, this unites poorer and rich Franco-Mauritians in an elite position. Franco-Mauritians tend to help other Franco-Mauritians, and thus they actively – though not necessarily with intent – pursue the symbolic distinction of their skin colour. Tis is comparable to Martinique, where relationships between whites of diferent social positions were easier and better tolerated than relationships between whites and non-whites of the same social position (Kovats Beaudoux and Giraud 2002: 168). Te symbolic elite distinction of white-skin colour, then, is the result of intra-group phenomena – ‘[b]oundaries exist only if they are repeatedly defended by members of the inner groups’ (Lamont 1992: 3). Yet, this is shaped in a dialectic relationship with other social groups. FrancoMauritian self-perceptions of their position in the socio-economic hierarchy are partly the result of the way others treat them. I have illustrated that Franco-Mauritians are aware of resentment expressed towards them in the political domain, this often reinforcing feelings of anxiety. However, to a large extent they also perceive them and their skin colour as positive. It is argued more generally that whites often assume that blacks conceptualize whiteness as benign and non-threatening. ‘[Whites] do not imagine the way whiteness makes its presence felt in black life, most often as terrorizing imposition, a power that wounds, hurts, tortures, is a reality that disrupts the fantasy of whiteness as representing goodness’ (Hooks 1992: 340–41). When I asked Dominique Dervillers how he thinks Mauritians perceive Franco-Mauritians, he said: ‘In everyday life you don’t notice a lot of resentment … I think that there is a lot of esteem for the moral standards of the Franco-Mauritians. We’re considered honest, with the right manners and courageous’. He acknowledged that this was a guess, and that I should actually do a little survey in the street to grasp what other Mauritians think of Franco-Mauritians. Franco-Mauritian self-perception, I would say, is certainly overly positive, though it does not come completely out of thin air. Franco-Mauritians, for example, seek confrmation of their position with their domestic staf. Numerous Franco-Mauritians argued that their domestic staf told them that they would rather work for them than for Indo-Mauritians or Sino-Mauritians; the Creole informant above equally said that respect would be diferent in these cases. 194

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Tat the colour of their skin is essential to their position is something numerous Franco-Mauritians are aware of. A Franco-Mauritian told me: It was clear that as a white you were privileged. Even now people will treat me respectfully. And Indian man would say monsieur to a white, even to a twelveyear-old boy. Tis is not specifcally the Indians, but also the Creoles … Having white friends is perceived as social climbing, because the whites have always been considered the elite.

Another Franco-Mauritian confrmed the relevance of skin colour by means of explaining Mauritians’ interest in white foreigners. He said, ‘Mauritians are proud if they can receive a white, and therefore they tend to be hospitable’. Franco-Mauritians may not express it always openly, but they appear to a large extent aware of the signifcance of their skin colour. From earliest childhood, Franco-Mauritians are raised and served by non-white nannies, and their families have non-white domestic staf and gardeners. Tey almost exclusively socialize among whites, marry whites and feel that they are often treated diferently because of their skin colour. Te role, then, of other Mauritians is relevant, as apart from the more abstract ‘white-bashing’ there are hardly any confrontations in daily life – in general, Mauritians of diferent ethnic backgrounds treat each other in a friendly manner. Te attribution of an elite position by other Mauritians is often refected in everyday interaction. A Franco-Mauritian explained how he sometimes felt a bit awkward when entering a shop and being attended frst when there were non-white Mauritians in line in front of him. Tat skin colour is signifcant in this respect was illustrated by a young woman with relatively white skin, who is from a well-established gens de couleur family. She said, ‘at weddings, et cetera, we [my family] are often treated with a lot of dignity, like whites are treated, as the guest of honour’. A Franco-Mauritian who was almost hit by a car and subsequently insulted by the car driver, who shouted ‘you bloody white, you have nothing to say here anymore’, appears an exception. All in all, the attribution of an elite position, combined with their persistence in holding real power and their exclusive socialization patterns, inculcates in Franco-Mauritians a sense of superiority. A Franco-Mauritian student explained to me that as a Franco-Mauritian you feel ‘very special’ (mari spéciale). Tis, I should note, also relates to their pleasant lifestyle on the island more generally. Tis is sometimes difcult for outsiders to understand, she argued.

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‘Shades’ of White Not all Franco-Mauritians – and white foreigners – appreciate the symbolism of white skin colour equally, and the last few decades have seen a number of changes. It is argued that the younger generations are far more open towards other (non-white) communities – though, to a certain extent there has always been a level of diversity among Franco-Mauritians, as the cases of Adolphe de Plevitz and Paul Bérenger illustrate. Certain Franco-Mauritian circles, especially those of younger Franco-Mauritians, are defnitely more ethnically diverse as they include Mauritians from other communities. As a result, a number of critical Franco-Mauritian interviewees disapproved of the existing sense of superiority. Elodie de Montfaucon told me: ‘Te problem is that Franco-Mauritians don’t consider themselves to be on the same level as other Mauritians. Tey feel superior’. Her cousin confrmed this: ‘You’re so much brought up with an idea of superiority regarding the other Mauritians. It is you, and then come others, and then, and then, and then the Creoles’, she said. A Franco-Mauritian student in France, who disliked what he saw as the racist connotations of his community, told me: ‘Franco-Mauritians are very proud. Tey [think they] are the best’. Among Franco-Mauritian friends, you also get diferent attitudes. A Franco-Mauritian girl studying in Paris said: ‘Two good friends who stayed [behind] in Mauritius told me that they would never bring a métisse to their house. I thought they were open [minded]! I was shocked by their mentality’. Not everyone, however, adapts equally well to changes, such as in the job market. Some Franco-Mauritians have difculty accepting other Mauritians occupying positions previously reserved for them. Te white foreign businessman I referred to above critically remarked: ‘I had appointed a general manager of Indian descent above two white [Franco-Mauritian] guys. Tey could not cope with it. Te whites have a huge psychological problem with having a Mauritian as superior’. According to this businessman, the FrancoMauritian employees did not voice their disapproval of the new Hindu manager in so many words, but it was clear to him anyway. He suspected that the Franco-Mauritians were being laughed at by their friends because they were now the subordinates of a non-white. He told me: ‘One of them tried to infuence my decision by trying to convince me that appointing him would open doors. He was probably right that it would open doors, because compared to the Indian guy he has more friends and acquaintances at other companies. But being the general manager involves more than opening doors’. Some Franco-Mauritians and others alike would argue that ‘poorer’ whites in particular are inclined to prove themselves as good whites. Tey want to uphold being identifed with the same group as richer Franco-Mauritians, which shapes their aim of having a ‘good’ (that is, white) marriage and good 196

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education to prepare them for the competitive job market. Te white foreign businessman told me: ‘Many of the petits blancs (poorer Franco-Mauritians) have a chip on their shoulder. Tey have to prove that they’re more white’. However, I also encountered members of the wealthiest Franco-Mauritian families symbolizing a sense of superiority by means of their white skin colour.

Foreign White With the arrival of white expatriates and tourists, Franco-Mauritians are faced with another reality afecting the perceived symbolic superiority of their skin colour. Like Franco-Mauritians, most expatriates work in whitecollar and management positions – mainly for international companies, and hardly ever for Mauritian businesses. Tey live in the same upmarket residential areas as many Franco-Mauritians, and their children often attend the same private schools. White tourists predominantly stay in the luxury hotel resorts and have much more to spend than the average Mauritian. To a large extent, the infux of foreigners continues to mean people equate whiteness with wealth.5 In this sense it perpetuates the status of whites. Some of the white foreigners, however, come from European societies where the symbolic aspect of white skin is less apparent in stressing elite status. In these societies, the majority of the population is often white, and as a counterreaction to Europe’s colonial history, many disapprove of white superiority in former colonies. Te expatriates, especially the French, consider FrancoMauritians to be an anachronism. Consequently, many Franco-Mauritians feel a bit ‘looked down upon’ by them, and as a counter-reaction automatically exclude many of these expatriates from their group, seeing them as belonging to a lower class. Equally in Martinique, Vogt writes, ‘[white French] are generally disdained in cultural terms and for their class status’ (Vogt 2005: 205). Tis is refected in Franco-Mauritian choices regarding foreign marriage partners, as they predominantly meet their foreign partners when studying overseas. Falling in love with white tourists and expatriates in Mauritius hardly ever occurs and, as a Franco-Mauritian woman told me, was even discouraged by parents. In the case of marriage with an overseas white, however, Franco-Mauritians barely refer to cultural and class diferences regarding foreign spouses, something which they do talk about in the case of other Mauritian partners. An interesting relationship is that between Franco-Mauritians and white South Africans, themselves coming from a society in which the symbolic distinction of white skin colour is still prevalent. In 2005, a Franco-Mauritian elderly woman said, ‘French who have been living in Africa understand 197

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us better than the French from France’. Tey know about the relationship between whites and blacks, while white Europeans do not have a clue, she suggested. Nevertheless, the relatively large infux of white South Africans during the early twenty-frst century caused some friction. Integrated Resort Scheme projects and a favourable tax agreement between South Africa and other members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including Mauritius, increased the attraction of Mauritius among (white and wealthy) South Africans. When I visited Mauritius in 2014, FrancoMauritians complained about white South Africans; they said that they were not really liked because they had created exclusive enclaves, did not speak French, are arrogant and very racist. Tere was even mention of a number of fghts between Franco-Mauritians and South Africans. Also, other Mauritians disapproved of the South Africans. According to a university scholar, ‘South Africans brought some of the racism particular to their country to the island … Tey couldn’t see it was diferent in Mauritius’. As a result, the escalating frictions received some media coverage, especially in the period between 2009 and 2011. In response, the Board of Investment, the state institution in charge of foreign investment in Mauritius, felt the need to say that ‘South African-bashing’ should stop.6 In a rebuttal to allegations that South Africans had created exclusively white enclaves, an owner of a bar frequented by South Africans said that white Mauritians also stick together, as do Hindus and Creoles, and when South Africans socialized among themselves it is suddenly seen as a problem.7 It may have been a matter of adaptation and fnding ways to interact with a group of white newcomers from a country with a history of white superiority, but by 2014 the friction seemed to be past its peak. It was said that numerous South Africans had left the island because the Mauritian government had become stricter after pressure from Franco-Mauritians. Tis appears not to be true, although the government had become stricter with regards to renewing residence more generally. What appears to be a more defning factor was that the South African government had closed the favourable tax agreement with SADC countries. As a result, fewer South Africans had settled on the island, while others had also moved (with their money) to, for example, Australia – with South Africa having very strict foreign exchange controls, transferring money via the Mauritian ‘loophole’ to Australia could save substantial amounts of money. Te friction created, nevertheless, is interesting in the context of the FrancoMauritian elite position. With the South Africans the balance was distorted. In the long run, what the efects of all this will be on the elite distinction of Franco-Mauritian white skin colour is difcult to say. Attracting more foreign investors may represent a potential challenge to the Franco-Mauritian elite position; Mauritius’ aim to become an ofshore fnancial centre may require attention in particular, though it seems that many of the companies 198

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(tax) domiciled in Mauritius are mere shell companies with their physical activities by and large remaining in, for example, South Africa. To provide a relevant example, the situation on the equally small island of Martinique shows that socio-economic structures and changes of legislation can have a signifcant impact: In short, new economic practices, brought about because of French rules, profoundly changed the nature of social relations between Békés families, which in the past had ensured that Békés would remain economically dominant on the island. In other words, the nature of business practices has been overhauled, and this threatens to break up the stronghold they have had on the economy, as well as the tight group dynamics which have held them together socially. (Vogt 2005: 240)

Nowadays in Martinique, out of a total population of approximately 360,000, Békés number about 3,000 people compared to 20,000 whites from metropolitan France (Vogt 2005: 59). Te proportion of foreign whites in Mauritius is still lower at present, but an increase may alter the situation. Although South Africans upheld the superiority of white skin colour, other expatriates and tourists may alter the symbolic aspect of white skin through, for example, a more open attitude towards non-white Mauritians. At the same time, whites coming from predominantly white societies may not be aware of the privileges their white skin brings them. After all, they have not experienced this from their early childhood. It is argued, for example, that Indian tourists are treated worse than white tourists. Nevertheless, a more open attitude among foreign whites vis-à-vis non-white Mauritians may afect how the latter perceive whiteness. Te long-term consequences of this, however, are not yet apparent. Hence, what consequences an increasing infux of white foreigners will have on the symbolic superiority of FrancoMauritians’ white skin colour – and what is ascribed to this – is a question that warrants further examination. Tis, I would argue, also relates to potential geopolitical changes. Until now, it appears that global Western (white) dominance still contributes to associating whiteness with privileges – among whites and non-whites. Shifting geopolitical dynamics caused by the emerging economic power and infuence of India and China, something observed in Mauritius, may nevertheless have lasting consequences. However, following up on my analysis of defensive power, and analogous to the Franco-Mauritian position, I assume that the decline of the West (and the white skin colour it is associated with) will be a lengthy process.

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Conclusion Non-whites ascribing certain (negative and positive) characteristics to white skin gives, more or less, the whole Franco-Mauritian community an elite status. Whites are often treated diferently, and there is a history of emulating their mode of life. Hence, white skin colour appears to linger on in structuring an elite life. Insular white elites in Martinique and Jamaica have equally been rather successful. However, for obvious reasons the situation difers from that in the USA, South Africa and Brazil, where ‘racial’ population distributions are diferent, and the ability to form a united elite minority, based on embodied signs of skin colour, are less realistic. In Mauritius, even ‘poorer’ Franco-Mauritians are prevented from sinking into the working classes, and thus white skin colour remains associated with wealth. It must be iterated that, despite the focus of this chapter on the symbolic superiority of white skin, many Franco-Mauritians are on equal terms with nonwhite Mauritians and display no (open) sense of superiority towards them. Nevertheless, this has little efect on the impact of a persistent focus on skin colour; ostentatious behaviour and luxury goods to symbolize the distinction between Franco-Mauritians and newly emerged elites are less relevant than in many other (elite) cases. I argue, moreover, that also ascribing elite distinction based on skin colour in a negative manner reinforces Franco-Mauritian elite status. Tis rhetoric enhances the impression that white signifes wealth, exclusion and a distinction associated with the colonial past; as long as white skin can be associated with economic power, it will remain easy to also associate it with colonial injustice. Owing to the Franco-Mauritian maintenance of their (ethnic) elite position, the embodied signs of elite distinction are persistent and ambiguous, representing elite superiority and ‘simple’ cultural distinctions at the same time. Notes   1 Due to the fact that they are culturally relatively close, one theory (though not one I have researched in detail) is that the existence of gens de couleur, as a group, has actually facilitated the maintenance of the superiority of white skin colour. Historically, FrancoMauritians who breached the community’s codes would often ‘descend’ into the gens de couleur community – as remarks about not studying hard enough indicate. Skin colour and/or non-white ancestors essentially marked the distinction, which made it relatively easy for ‘purged’ Franco-Mauritian individuals to integrate into the gens de couleur community, as they shared many cultural characteristics such as French and the Catholic faith. Integration into the Hindu, Muslim of Sino-Mauritian community would certainly have been less evident due to more pronounced cultural diferences. As a result, there was an ‘easy’ way out for Franco-Mauritians who would not ‘respect’ white skin and its

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symbolism. If it had been more difcult to integrate into another community, there may have been a more pronounced group of ‘excluded’ whites, potentially jeopardizing the symbolism of white skin colour.   2 It has been suggested that the ‘bleaching syndrome’, the internalization of a white aesthetic ideal, is the result of the historic legacy of slavery and colonialism around the world (Hunter 2007: 3). But since a dark skin colour tends to be associated with outdoor manual labour, this suggestion raises an interesting question. Elites have always been exempted from manual labour, and thus the symbolic superiority of a lighter skin colour may have already existed before white Europeans forced their colonial projects upon many parts of the world.  3 Le Mauricien, 11 May 2007.  4 Mauritius Times, 1 June 2007.  5 In 2014, I observed many more elderly whites walking along the roads and taking public transport than during my previous visits. Tey seemed to constitute a new trend of, especially, French retirees who spend a number of months on the island. Generally speaking, they have a small budget and some Mauritians complained that they do not eat out or spend their money on other activities (white) tourists are associated with. How this will afect the symbolism of the white skin colour on the island in the long run remains to be seen.  6 L’Express, 5 August 2009.  7 L’Express, 11 March 2010.

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n Te Franco-Mauritians can still be considered an elite. Tey continue to occupy important ‘commanding positions’ in parts of the private sector and ‘share a variety of interests arising from similarities of training, experience, public duties, and [especially] way of life’ (Cohen 1981: xvi). As a social group, they have privileged access to the labour market, and a number of the community’s most powerful families control important economic resources such as land, which can be mobilized in the exercise of power. In contrast to the situation in the colonial era, however, Franco-Mauritians are no longer a hegemonic power. In this respect the Mauritian setting has fundamentally changed in the sense that prolonging their position at the top has not been an inevitable outcome for the Franco-Mauritians. With respect to white elites in postcolonial settings, the Franco-Mauritian case ofers interesting insights into how an elite has fared in the midst of the transition from the colonial period to the postcolonial present. Initially it was their political power that was undermined, while in the economic domain Franco-Mauritians faced less challenges. Tis is a pattern you see more often in the case of new powers emerging in the face of change as these powers frst and foremost aim at obtaining political control. What happens next is another question, though. In postcolonial or post-apartheid situations, new political regimes may gradually come to realize that the ‘old’ elite has remained an elite due to the control over economic resources. In Zimbabwe this has ended badly for many white farmers, because the postcolonial regime decided to apply force to undermine white landownership. In Mauritius, notwithstanding a level of animosity which evokes (latent) anxiety among them (as with whites in South Africa), Franco-Mauritians have fared relatively well during the period of the island’s economic prosperity, thereby contributing their share to the Mauritian ‘success story’. Franco-Mauritian contribution to the island’s economic development is partly a result of mutual understanding and cooperation between them and 202

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the island’s new political powers. Both share an interest in the economic prosperity of the island. Te absence of an indigenous population, especially compared to cases in mainland Africa, certainly contributes to suppressing tensions. South Africa and Zimbabwe, in that sense, are of a diferent order, notwithstanding that in South Africa the diferent sides are also often drawn to each other in the economic development of the country. Te FrancoMauritian case is insightful, as it departs from analyses, such as Mbeki’s (2009), that argue most power is in the hands of the (white) private sector. Whites often have to attune themselves to the moods of the government. Tey appear, moreover, perfect scapegoats, reinforcing a sense of anxiety among them. Governments and politicians can criticize them without much political risk and public outcry, while at the same time they continue to collaborate with the whites. With the legacies of unfair (colonial) systems in mind, white elites tend to keep a low profle and ignore much of the criticism. Tey prefer to silence the bleak parts of the(ir) past, while there seems little risk of creating large public unrest since white elites receive relatively little public sympathy from others regardless of whether they contribute positively or negatively to postcolonial society. It may also bear a political risk to openly defend whites, even though there may be people who feel that the whites are unfairly criticized. Even in the case of non-white politicians, this makes it sometimes difcult to collaborate with the government, according to a Franco-Mauritian businessman. State ofcials are afraid for their reputation, as (what may be perceived as) too close collaboration might be used against them. Tis is not to say that whites in postcolonial settings completely abstain from reacting openly against allegations, yet even this seems to be guided by a precarious balancing between what can and what cannot be said – especially about the past. Governments, however, can portray themselves as fghting for greater equality and carrying out policies that ofset the legacies of the past, while, at the same time, the government runs little risk of completely alienating the much needed (white) private sector. Te whites are perfectly aware that they need the government and cannot unilaterally decide to stop collaborating. Certainly, relationships fuctuate, but even after disputes and a deterioration in the relationship, the diferent sides are ‘forced’ to collaborate again. For better and for worse, it seems that white elites have learned to manoeuvre in postcolonial settings. In the case of Mauritius, Bräutigam argues that trust between the private sector and the government ‘was built slowly through several decades of trial and error’ (Bräutigam 2005: 76). Te relatively successful maintenance of an elite position, however, perpetuates a pattern of envy and resentment. Tis tends to be reinforced, moreover, because white elites often continue to diferentiate themselves from others and exhibit a sense of superiority, especially by attributing certain qualities to 203

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their skin colour. Tis should certainly not be ignored. Yet, contrary to what numerous analysts argue, this does not mean that they are all powerful. Te anthropological perspective applied in this study indicates that the position of (white) elites is more complex than is sometimes assumed. Te FrancoMauritian case may be characterized by a number of specifc aspects, and as such a comparison with, for example, globally operating fnancial elites (e.g., Ortiz 2013) may not be evident. However, by addressing the parts and the sum of the maintenance of an elite position, the Franco-Mauritian case is relevant to an understanding of elites other than white former colonial elites alone.

Te Sum of the Parts In this book I have analysed a variety of aspects relevant to understanding the Franco-Mauritian elite position. Tese aspects are of theoretical relevance to the general understanding of elites, although certain aspects may be more relevant to the understanding of a particular elite than others. Equally, not every aspect I have analysed is bound to ofer signifcant new theoretical insights. A variety of scholars have already covered a lot of ground regarding, for example, the infuence of elite culture (e.g., Cohen 1981; Bourdieu 1984), distinction (e.g., Bourdieu 1994; Daloz 2010, 2013) and elite networks (e.g., Wright Mills 2000). Tese aspects nevertheless help us grasp the intricacies of the Franco-Mauritian elite position. An ethnographic study of an elite, in my opinion, is especially suitable for highlighting the point that only with a focus on the sum of the parts can the position of an elite be fully understood. A holistic approach helps to highlight the interdependency of aspects involved in an elite’s pursuit of prolonging their privileges in the face of challenges to their position. Te sum of the parts ofers an insightful contribution to explaining the interaction between the multi-dimensionality of control over resources, elite power, socio-cultural patterns and the impact of ethnicity and the elite’s historical and contemporary relationships with other social and ethnic groups. Te current position of Franco-Mauritians, for example, can only be explained by closely examining the past. Control over land has been historically determinant, and, with wealth originating from the sugar industry, Franco-Mauritians have successfully invested in other areas of the economy. But not only does the past explain the historical basis of their domains of power, Franco-Mauritians perceive themselves as being of a (historically) diferent social class, which facilitates their sense of belonging and elite cohesion. Challenges to the Franco-Mauritian elite position, such as the 204

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abolition of slavery, actually appear remarkable with regard to understanding elite maintenance. Rather than jeopardizing their position, the challenges actually reinforced elite cohesion. Refusing to compete in too ruthlessly cut-throat a manner with one another, following what Dominique Dervillers called ‘a game with sport-like rules’, appears a continuation of this pattern, and equally helps to explain the consolidation of economic power. Tere is even a certain elite tendency for ‘monumentalising the past’ in order to attain authority in the present (Herzfeld 2000: 234), as Franco-Mauritians name hotels and schools after historical fgures (from the French period). At the same time, relationships between the wider population and FrancoMauritians are infuenced by the past in complex ways. Paradoxical and historically informed relationships of rivalry and cooperation between Franco-Mauritians and Hindu politicians, but also between groups not involved with Franco-Mauritians, explain a great deal of the present Franco-Mauritian position. Tis shows that for a good understanding of the challenges elites face, and via which practices they address these in order to achieve continuity in their position, it is necessary to look at the interdependency existing between elites, counter-elites and the wider population. Elites are dependent on, and connected to, other social groups in their own society, but also to social groups and events elsewhere. In the study of elites, the relationships and mutual dependency between elites, counter-elites and the public, nationally and transnationally, should thus always be taken into consideration. Tis can also be seen from the fact that Mauritians both resent and emulate Franco-Mauritians. With the transition to independence, the meaning of white skin colour became more contested. Te innate and historically entrenched features of white skin colour made it difcult to shed overnight in the way that one could discard luxury goods. Marrying non-whites could have ‘changed’ the ofspring’s skin colour, both physically and ideologically, but this did not happen. More than forty years after the end of the colonial period, white skin colour can still be considered the Franco-Mauritian elite’s most important (embodied) sign of elite distinction, though in a much more paradoxical manner than before. In a variety of everyday interactions, Mauritians still emulate FrancoMauritians, and ascribe symbolic elite superiority to their white skin colour. Te ascription of an elite position by means of the everyday (unconscious) behaviour of others vis-à-vis the elite, however, is in my opinion not widely covered. For a better understanding of elites this should feature more prominently on the research agenda. In the Franco-Mauritian case, the symbolic distinction of physical appearance plays a principal role. Mauritians often attribute status to white skin colour, treating whites diferently. Te global hegemony of the West appears to the advantage of Franco-Mauritians as they have historically been associated with this part of the world. Tis is often 205

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noticed by Franco-Mauritians, which reinforces their sense of importance. Ascribing certain qualities to white skin lifts, more or less, the whole community into an elite status for the outside world. Hence, white skin appears to linger on in structuring an elite life. Apart from Franco-Mauritian skin colour, this ascription of an elite position can occur in many diferent guises, as it seems people with power are often treated with a mixture of envy, respect and awe. Sensitivity for how this grants them more power than if it were based on the resources they control alone – or how it reinforces a perception of self-importance – is needed. Since they are a tiny minority in a non-white society, these relationships continuously reafrm a sense of distinction, with Franco-Mauritians as superiors – in their (daily) interactions with businessmen from other communities with similar standing this reafrmation plays a lesser role, though. Te attribution of an elite position to them by other Mauritians is thus also of importance. Te Franco-Mauritian case shows that the practices by means of which Franco-Mauritians have, both with and without success, faced challenges to their position are diverse but inextricably linked. Tese challenges and practices have to be understood holistically, as they represent a complex convergence of historical, social, cultural, economic and political developments and patterns. On the one hand, this is a combination of various constraints, patterns and developments unique to the Franco-Mauritian case, and to cases of white elites in postcolonial settings. On the other hand, unravelling this complexity contributes to a better understanding of elites, elite decline and elite consolidation elsewhere. In their pursuit of maintaining an elite position, it is relevant to understand how elites deal with challenges to that position. As with the Franco-Mauritian case, the position and power of elites anywhere in the world can only be fully grasped by analysing the sum of different aspects involved. In conclusion, I shall now address the signifcance of a few ‘parts’ more specifcally.

Power In many cases, elites use their power in a diferent manner than most theories assume. One of the explanations of why Franco-Mauritians have been relatively successful in prolonging their elite position into the twenty-frst century is in my opinion applicable to all kind of elites. Tis follows up on Scott’s remark: ‘One of the errors made in much elite analysis … has been to assume, or at the very least to imply, that elites are all-powerful and that organizationally dominant groups will hold all the other power resources of a society’ (Scott 2008: 38). In the case of the Franco-Mauritians, ‘weaker’ opponents often initiated power struggles. Refecting upon theories about 206

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(elite) power, I therefore advance the claim that the exercise of power needs to be addressed in a slightly diferent analytical manner, one which will help contribute to our understanding of how elites face the challenges associated with the decline of their positions. To this end, then, I have proposed applying the analytical concept of ‘defensive’ power instead of assuming that elites always use their power proactively. Troughout the colonial period, Franco-Mauritians built up a substantial power base and assumed a hegemonic role. When they were seriously challenged for the frst time, they used this power to resist decline. Elites like the Franco-Mauritians thus appear to be able to ‘protect’ themselves from the tendency to decline, at least to a certain extent. In terms of Weber’s actor-oriented analysis of power, elites respond to the exercise of power by others and act in a way they would otherwise not have done. In this respect, they apply their power primarily to defend themselves. Te gradual decline in political power of the Franco-Mauritians perfectly illustrates this. From the 1930s onwards, Hindus in particular challenged Franco-Mauritian dominance, indicating that the mobilization of the Indo-Mauritian community was a major contributing factor in Franco-Mauritian decline. Franco-Mauritians could not prevent this from happening in the long run because they were easily outnumbered by Mauritians from other backgrounds, who seized upon the opportunities that change ofered them. Tis was a process brought about in part by actions of subordinates, in particular the Hindus, and facilitated by the intervention of British colonial power. Te latter considered it no longer opportune to maintain a system of unequal political representation, and as a consequence challenged the Franco-Mauritian elite position. Franco-Mauritians resisted challenges to their dominance with all the means at their disposal, but eventually they had to accept defeat and lost their political power. Briefy put, Franco-Mauritians survived by efectively giving part of their (one hegemonic) power away, thus going from having multi-dimensional power (political, economic and socio-cultural power) to only having one-dimensional power (mainly economic). Tey were able to remain in control of a number of resources, preventing them from losing all their power and privileges. One could argue then that the elite resists, as if they were subalterns, yet I argue that from an analytical perspective a distinction ought to be made between an elite applying power defensively and identifying an action as (subaltern) resistance. As an analytical concept, the resistance of subalterns should be considered the means to try to undo an unbalanced situation – the two principal forms of subaltern resistance, pressure and protest, are active forms, used in order to challenge the established power structure (Scott 2001: 27). Te elite, however, applies power defensively in order to achieve maintenance of the status quo instead of

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trying to alter the situation. Tus, this kind of elite is more passive, instead of proactively using its power. With regards to the Mauritian case, my analysis also departs from that of scholars such as Simmons (1982), Sandbrook et al. (2007) and the politician Paul Bérenger in the 1970s, all of whom suggested that the loss of political power was the result of a deal. I have shown, using among other things the example of the newspaper Le Cernéen, how Franco-Mauritians tried to maintain the status quo, and only gradually came to realize that they stood little chance in power struggles with the government, who could mobilize the electorate, a resource very useful in the exercise of power. FrancoMauritians appear to have been so accustomed to their role as the hegemonic power that they tried everything to maintain this position. For generations, Franco-Mauritians had transferred their elite position down through the family, so coming to terms with counter-elites who successfully challenged their power was not something that could be easily incorporated into their cultural framework. Tus it can be seen that cultural understandings that are transmitted to future generations and via which a pattern of cultural reproduction appears (Strauss and Quinn 1994: 284, 289, 291) are resilient. Only gradually did Franco-Mauritians realize that their (in)direct political role was fnished in postcolonial Mauritius, a change symbolically marked by the closing down of Le Cernéen. In a way, Franco-Mauritians settled for merely consolidating their elite position so as to prevent further decline. Te success rate of defensive power, as the example of land distribution shows, lies in striking a balance between opposing change and giving in to challengers’ demands. Opposing change puts the elite in a position to negotiate with their competitors, while redistributing resources – be they political, economic or of another nature – at the right moment eases tensions. Tis gives the elite the means of ‘buying time’ to slow the complete redistribution of those resources. I would argue then, that Franco-Mauritians have a long tradition of applying power defensively. I do not think there is much strategic intent to applying power defensively in any successful way. Most elites will use all means available to defend their interests and privileges, and only gradually realize that relinquishing hold of some of their resources may ease tension and favourably contribute to the maintenance of their elite position – albeit with slightly less power than before. Neither do I think that this approach is exclusive to former colonial elites, although a number of them have been rather successful at it. If you look more closely, many elites face challenges, be they from counter-elites or popular resentment, and subsequently apply their power defensively in order to protect their interests and privileges. In the period since Mauritius gained its independence in 1968, using power defensively has come to be an oft-repeated strategy, as shown by 208

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recent objections to changing the campement policy, the restructuring of the sugar industry and the democratization of the economy. As a result, FrancoMauritians often consider themselves to be victims, and not really so powerful as they are generally thought to be. Many may feel this Franco-Mauritian sense of victimization is unmerited, since they are still better of than most other Mauritians. Yet it is important to take these feelings seriously, as this afects the elite’s behaviour. Franco-Mauritians sincerely feel that they are being attacked, even though they may come to realize after some time that the pressure they faced was temporary. In the heat of the moment, however, the perception of being oppressed as victims of Hindu politicians, for example with regard to the campement issue, has restricted the room available for expressing dissident opinions among Franco-Mauritians.1 Te perception that the Franco-Mauritian community is being oppressed and that it is the victim of Hindu politicians appears to ‘suppress’ recalcitrant opinions within the Franco-Mauritian community. Tis shows to what extent an elite acts according to its perceptions. Te people who perceive themselves to be relatively powerless (saying such things as, ‘the government wants to get rid of us’) do, in this case, objectively have more power than they claim. One example of this is provided by their fnancial ability to pay for the new leases on their campements, even though they said they were not prepared to do this when the government announced its new policy. In the face of challenges to an elite position, these kinds of practices thus have a function. Tey increase elite cohesion, ‘suppress’ dissident opinion within the elite community and provide an excuse for inaction. By discrediting, with or without good reason, the government’s intentions, Franco-Mauritians create a situation in which they do not feel obliged to assist in the furthering of policies; instead they aim at maintaining the status quo. Challenges to the Franco-Mauritian elite position do not imply that they are challenged all the time, though the potential of challenges to their resources and privileges is always latently present. Neither does it imply that they do not also beneft from collaboration with the government and/or apply their power more proactively (and expansively) once they are under pressure. Diferent expressions of power can occur almost simultaneously. Franco-Mauritians have clearly benefted from collaborating with the government in the economic development of the island. At the same time as postcolonial governments resent white elites, they may feel obliged to collaborate with them, and thus (unintentionally) contribute to the maintenance of these white elites. Te Franco-Mauritian proactive expansion of their economic power is also illustrated by investing in the hotel industry. Moreover, more traditional analyses of power equally contribute to explaining the maintenance of the Franco-Mauritian elite position. 209

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Networks, as clearly illustrated by Wright Mills (2000), Dahl (1961) and Domhof (1978), are very signifcant in the construction and continuity of elite power. Te interaction between Franco-Mauritian business networks and social networks – for example, through a shared passion for hunting, many know each other, that is if there is not a family relationship in the frst place – is an explanatory factor in their exercise of power in postcolonial Mauritius. Tis confrms Shore’s argument that close attention to the elite kinship structures and networks of these groups is required in order to study how they ensure their survival (Shore 2002: 13). As the interlocking directorates show, converging of Franco-Mauritian business interests as a result of the tightness of their networks is stronger than in the case of competing elites, who generally speaking have less tight networks. Tey outdo their competitors in consolidating an ‘exclusive’ environment because they seem to have a stronger sense of belonging and elite cohesion than the counter-elites. Teir notable distinctiveness compared to other Mauritians also appears to contribute to cooperation among Franco-Mauritians in the private sector. Tis pattern perfectly fts with the picture that Cohen has sketched: ‘Closure is most efectively attained through the operation of a network of amity which knits the members of the elite together. Such networks are developed to coordinate corporate action informally through mutual trust and cooperation’ (Cohen 1981: 222).

Eliteness Despite serious challenges to their position, Franco-Mauritians have maintained their historically rooted ability to take up well-remunerated positions. So far this has helped them to weather growing competition and the increasing participation of other Mauritians in the labour market. According to my analysis, this cannot be adequately understood by only looking at their direct use of power and formal business practices. Looking at their exclusive socio-cultural patterns, in combination with the maintenance of a good level of education, a business sense and the logic of employers for hiring other Franco-Mauritians because they trust them and because they know their family quickly becomes evident. From earliest childhood, Franco-Mauritians are raised with a sense of (historical) exclusivity achieved by means of sport clubs, campements, other leisure activities and the division of labour in the household. All these invoke a strong sense of belonging and a culture that distinguishes them from other Mauritians – and reinforce a sense of superiority. FrancoMauritians, for example, have handed down an interest in the sea and in hunting from generation to generation, while a focus on business has also 210

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become part of the community’s culture. Coupled with a strong focus on quality education, this has facilitated the continuity of economic privileges within the Franco-Mauritian community. Teir sense of belonging afects their business practices, showing how socio-cultural patterns indirectly infuence power. Franco-Mauritian position, privileges, status and power can only be understood by also looking at the long-term impact of elite culture. As with the Creoles in Sierra Leone (Cohen 1981), this explains cohesion, solidarity and subsequent continuity. Moreover, it explains the perpetuation of social inequality, as Franco-Mauritians perceive themselves to have a diferent culture, something which helps them to consolidate a privileged position. Nowadays, Franco-Mauritians argue that their marriage patterns depend on class and cultural and educational diferences and not on skin colour per se. Tese do, indeed, overlap, but there is a stronger focus on white skin colour as a signifer than Franco-Mauritians would like to admit (they are perfectly aware of the racist connotations that come with the fact of preferring a ‘white’ partner). Te discourse about métissage and the acceptance of foreign white spouses into the community illustrates the persisting infuence of the meaning of white skin colour. Physical appearance symbolizes their elite distinction, and also represents an addition to the socio-cultural diferences that are set up over time. Te community’s historical patrimony, then, distinguishes Franco-Mauritians from other Mauritians. As Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot have noted, this constitutes a common practice among elites: ‘old’ French elite families also place a strong emphasis on the family’s patrimony, with family members transferring this to future generations (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 1998: 327–79). Tat this also helps to counter threats to their position is shown by the case of the twentieth-century Russian nomenklatura. Teir long history created a strong drive and efcient ‘tradition’ for reproducing itself across generations, even after communism had collapsed (Szelényi and Szelényi 1995: 631). Indeed, as in the case of the Franco-Mauritians, patrimony tends to reinforce elite cohesion: the image of having a long track record in the island’s afairs is cherished. In this setting, ‘marrying white’ comes almost automatically. Two cases of white insular elites, the Békés of Martinique (Kovats Beaudoux and Giraud 2002; Vogt 2005) and the white elite in Jamaica (Douglass 1992), are intriguingly comparable with the FrancoMauritians in this respect. One view is that the distinctive feature of white skin colour and a patrimony stressing (historical) class diference facilitates strong elite cohesion. Te Franco-Mauritian self-perceptions and their sense of their own eliteness, as I have highlighted above, explain the room for manoeuvre they have within the confnes of the community’s socio-cultural logic – and thus how 211

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they apply their power. Despite a certain variety of opinions, such as those shown in the case of Paul Bérenger, most Franco-Mauritians adhere to the socio-cultural framework of their community. A level of unanimity thus characterizes the community. Businessmen could challenge their own elite group and/or characteristics of their group, such as group endogamy (some actually do), as they have the fnancial means to be independent. Nevertheless, the fact that behaving in such a way involves running the risk of being excluded from family and kin makes most adhere to the community’s socio-cultural logic. Tis confrms the view that, as an elite, Franco-Mauritians are not simply made up of those in command. ‘Average’ Franco-Mauritians are not merely bystanders, passively belonging to a privileged group; by sharing practices and acting in a common cause with those in commanding positions they actually infuence how challenges are faced. Tey are, therefore, an integral part of the elite and cannot be excluded as Scott (2003) suggests. Besides, the business practices of the ones in command are not only about economic principles, as numerous Franco-Mauritian businessmen are also in charge of safeguarding the (economic) patrimony and cohesion of the family for future generations. Tat they look beyond their own direct interests is, I suggest, another argument in favour of the theory that the elite extends beyond those individuals in powerful positions. Tese interests, however, are relatively unifed as Franco-Mauritian room for manoeuvre also implies that too critical Franco-Mauritians – or too poor – often drift to the margins of the community. Tis, then, reinforces the (self-)perception that being a Franco-Mauritian equals a certain set of ideas and wealth. Te paradox, however, is that the maintenance of social and cultural exclusivity is simultaneously a source of strength and the root of anxiety. As the campement issue highlights, there may be anxieties over longevity of jurisdiction, while at the same time control over the campements (but also schools) provides a foundation from which to defend and/or reshape exclusivity. Tis leads to a cycle in which desire to maintain social and cultural homogeneity empower exclusivity, and this subsequently reinforces the perpetuation of homogeneous environments (Salverda and Hay 2014). In short, Franco-Mauritian lifestyle is challenged because their elite culture is associated with economic privilege, yet the maintenance of economic privilege is facilitated by successfully organizing themselves particularistically.

Ethnic Elites Te evidence strongly suggests that Franco-Mauritians have been extremely successful in organizing themselves ‘particularistically’ (Cohen 1981: xiii). A strong sense of belonging appears to be a great asset when facing challenges, 212

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and has helped prevent the Franco-Mauritian community from becoming ‘diluted’. In the transition from the colonial period to the present, they have been less successful, however, in organizing their universalistic tendencies, ‘their service to the public’ (Cohen 1981: xiii). An assumption is that this would entail the collapse of Franco-Mauritian power, as to be successful an elite needs to reconcile the tensions that often exists between its universalistic tendencies and organizing itself particularistically (Shore 2002: 2). However, the evaluation of ethnicity in Mauritian society shows that ethnicity can play a paradoxical role in the maintenance of an elite position, and requires a theoretical reconsideration of Cohen’s universalistic tendencies, though Cohen’s analysis nonetheless remains relevant in the wider understanding of elites. Due to the transition from the colonial period to independence, the colonial structure that had favoured the Franco-Mauritians collapsed. Tis partly changed their identifcation, because until then Franco-Mauritians were a racial elite marked by their white skin colour, but since then they have been gradually portrayed as an ethnic community as well. As Amy Chua (2003) has shown, ethnic elites all over the world fnd themselves in a difcult position when it comes to obtaining support, especially vis-à-vis much larger ethnic groups. Mauritian independence and the institutionalization of ethnicity, which was facilitated by the British wish for a peaceful transition, have reinforced ethnic boundaries on the island. Paradoxically, the Franco-Mauritians who lost their power partly as a result of their strong distinction have benefted from this. It seems that the evolution of the working of ethnicity in Mauritius has partly absolved Franco-Mauritians from the necessity of seeking support for their position, while it contributes favourably to organizing themselves particularistically. Many ethnically exclusive characteristics of Mauritian private life, which exist in virtually all the island’s ethnic communities, are generally not challenged. Tese characteristics are considered to belong to the domain of symbolic ethnicity (Eriksen 1998: 185), and disqualifying them in terms of acceptability would be seen as jeopardizing Mauritian ethnic pluralism, the foundation of independent Mauritius. Hence, Franco-Mauritian ethnic endogamy is not criticized. But this ‘symbolic’ ethnicity cannot be disentangled from ‘instrumental’ ethnicity, such as Franco-Mauritian business practices – something many politicians, who tend not to be inclined to give up the advantages of pursuing ethnic diferences, actually seem aware of. Due to the persistence of these exclusive social networks, Franco-Mauritian businessmen are evidently more easily drawn to each other, meaning that other Mauritians get left out. Similar patterns are to be found among Hindus in the public sector and other Mauritians in the private sector.

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Tus, even though Mauritian society ‘does not approve’ of instrumental ethnicity, many Mauritians would argue that they are favouring their own kin because ‘others are doing it as well’. Te structure of Mauritian postcolonial society, in this respect, explains to a great extent the consolidation of the Franco-Mauritian socio-economic elite position. Mauritius is an ethnically structured society which facilitates the maintenance of a distinctive FrancoMauritian identity. Day-to-day contacts between Mauritians of diferent ethnic backgrounds tend to be friendly, if only because politicians and government ofcials have to cooperate with Franco-Mauritian businessmen and cannot simply always behave in a hostile manner towards them. Te small size of the island is certainly relevant in maintaining this situation as it is not conducive to widespread ethnic violence – the riots that occurred around independence and in 1999, for example, did not last long, and ethnic reconciliation was quickly achieved immediately afterwards. Te exacerbation of ethnic diferences by politicians makes the Hindu community in particular – the main force in the government and the public sector – suspect among many other Mauritians. Even when some of their suggestions can be ‘objectively’ justifed, politicians still seem to have an undeniable self-interest in portraying Franco-Mauritians as an elite unwilling to share its privileges because this way of presenting things gains them votes. Suspicion of politicians, in my opinion, plays in favour of the FrancoMauritians, though, since they can consolidate their position due to the fact that there are sufcient counter-forces preventing their main competitors, the Hindu politicians, from seizing too much power. Preserving a precarious ethnic balance thus prevents Franco-Mauritians from being pushed aside. Furthermore, in Mauritius, power struggles between ethnic groups other than the Franco-Mauritians also divert attention away from them. One Mauritian informant thought that ‘struggles’ between or within other ‘communities’, such as between Hindus originating from the north and the south of India, are actually more prominent than between Franco-Mauritians and others groups. Elite continuity is, in a sense, partly beyond the direct infuence of elites themselves. Sometimes, it seems, elites actually almost get away with having only a few ‘universalistic functions’. Tey manage to prolong their stay in the privileged position because others are too preoccupied with their own power struggles to bother with them. In a way, Franco-Mauritians, with their small numbers, appear to be an abstraction. Tey are easy to single out and label in order to mobilize support during electoral campaigns, but hardly a daily preoccupation since they are absent from or invisible in many parts of Mauritian society. Change, which has often deprived elites of their power, thus does not always herald the complete collapse of (ethnic) elites but can in its own paradoxical way also contribute to the elite’s prolongation. For a better theoretical understanding of the position of ethnic elites in 214

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particular in multi-ethnic societies, it should be realized that the emphasis on ethnicity may jeopardize elite power while, at the same time, consensus about ‘unity in diversity’ also facilitates the maintenance of exclusivity – and all the advantages that may come with it. Notes  1 A Franco-Mauritian born and bred in South Africa argued that the campement issue demonstrates how Franco-Mauritians have to a great extent lost their position of political power. Te uncertainty about what would happen made it clear that they were no longer close to the wielders of political power, because otherwise they would have known what the government would propose.

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226

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n anthropology, 4, 11 and ethnography, 5, 8 and its qualities in the study of elites, 9 See also methodology Benedict, Burton, 132, 152, 169 Bérenger, Paul, 2, 69, 97, 159–67, 177n2, 187, 196, 208, 212 Franco-Mauritian dislike of, 124, 160, 162, 166, 193 as prime minister, 2, 92, 163 and his white skin colour, 154, 162, 164–67, 188 See also Mouvement Militant Mauricien; politics Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Jacques-Henri, 29 Best Loser System (BLS), 65, 157–59, 177n1 See also independence Boswell, Rosabelle, 16, 153 Boudet, Catherine, 24, 44, 66, 83, 153 Bourdieu, Pierre, 8, 13, 108, 109, 181 See also habitus British period, 20n5, 23, 25, 35–39, 42, 43, 45, 49, 50n11, 65, 66, 84–85, 90, 125, 132, 150n18, 185 and the Chagos archipelago, 20n3 challenges to Franco-Mauritian position during the, 31, 34, 39–40, 44, 54, 56–60, 207

collaboration with Franco-Mauritians during the, 36, 42, 44, 45, 55, 60, 73nn2–3, 83 the start of, 11, 35–36, 50n6, 183 See also independence; slavery campement, 67, 129, 136–42, 151n24, 151n30, 186, 191, 210, 215n1 challenges to the, 92, 110, 139–42, 167, 187, 209, 212 See also leisure Caribbean, 7, 34, 50n11, 58, 83 See also Jamaica; Martinique Catholic faith, 24, 29, 45, 110, 164, 183, 186, 192 alliance between people with, 29, 60–61, 157 Catholic missionary schools, 132–33 (see also education) See also general population class, 10, 51n13, 62, 111, 113, 116, 120, 131, 145, 148nn3–4, 156, 161, 172, 183, 185, 189, 191, 197, 204, 211 labouring/working/lower classes, 24, 56–61, 131, 145, 154, 155–56, 191 Cohen, Abner, 4, 8, 13, 14, 153, 210, 213 Creoles, 3, 42, 50n10, 56, 60, 63–64, 105n17, 131, 150n17, 150n21, 152, 156, 161, 164, 174

227

Index

and their emulation of, and role towards, Franco-Mauritians, 16, 25, 165, 191–93, 194, 195 migration of, 65–66 See also Catholic faith; gens de couleur; slavery D’Epinay, Adrien, 84 and controversy, 40–43, 71, 101, 150n19 See also Le Cernéen; slavery De Plevitz, Adolphe, 44, 55, 196 Dodo Club, the, 26, 73n2, 114, 115, 124, 126–31, 170 See also leisure Duval, Gaetan, 63, 90, 157 economy big business, 4, 20n8, 76, 80, 98, 165, 175 business networks, 89–90, 108, 118, 144, 149n5, 162, 177, 210 economic success story, 1, 4, 69, 70, 76, 86, 202 family business, 108–9, 118-22, 149n11 information technology (Cyber City), 99, 163 ofshore fnance, 99, 198 See also Economic Processing Zone (EPZ); Franco-Mauritians; land; sugar-cane; tourism education, 54, 74n14, 99, 109–10, 124, 131–36, 148, 171, 172, 185, 192, 197, 210, 211 and the Charles Telfair Institute, 135 tertiary and overseas, 134–36 See also Catholic faith Eisenlohr, Patrick, 153, 154–55 elite and counter-elite, 46, 55, 59, 111, 117, 186, 205, 208 culture of, 7, 13–15 (see also habitus) defnition of, 8–9 and diferent forms of capital, 123, 124, 181 and functional elites, 10, 14, 72

self-perception of, 9, 10, 53, 116 and its universal and particularistic tendencies, 13–14, 107, 147, 153–55, 170, 213–15 See also class; power Eriksen, Tomas Hylland, 152, 168 ethnicity, 7, 9, 16, 19, 61–62, 64, 93–94, 152, 179, 212–15 abolished as census category, 158 absence of indigenous population, 2, 6, 11, 26 categories of ethnic groups, 2–3, 157–58 and communalism, 62, 101, 155, 168 ethnic homogeneity, 153, 154, 167, 169, 170, 172, 212 multi-ethnic and/or plural society, 1, 16, 114, 154, 155, 168–69, 213, 215 See also politics; race Export Processing Zone (EPZ), 88–90, 100, 104n14, 119 creating opportunities for others, 89 Foucault, Michel, 11 Franco-Mauritians and Anglo-Mauritians, 20n5, 45 establishment as a white elite, 32–43 and their internal diferences, 9, 37, 111 migration to South Africa of, 66–67, 153 and their noble origins, 27, 33 number/percentage of the population, 2 and their origins, 28, 32–33 See also economy; politics; French period French period, 26–32 Franco-Mauritians naming hotels and schools after, 27, 40, 44, 150n19, 205 and the French revolution, 34 Ile de France, 26, 35 Mahé de Labourdonnais, 27–28, 30–31, 49n3 See also Réunion

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general population, 158 See also Creoles; Franco-Mauritians; gens de couleur gens de couleur, 3, 30–32, 39, 42, 54, 56, 57, 64, 72n, 152, 155, 170, 192 and the colour bar, 31, 35, 38, 132 coloureds, 30, 38, 63, 170, 174 migration of, 65–66 relationship with Franco-Mauritian community, 31, 32, 60, 73n3, 123, 126, 130, 156, 183, 190 See also Mouvement Rétrocessioniste; skin colour grand morcellement, 46–48 and the small planters, 47, 55, 58, 81, 82, 84, 98–99, 174 See also Hindus Guimbeau, Eric, 2, 20n2, 54, 141, 161, 187 See also politics

See also grand morcellement; Hindus; Muslims independence, 1, 12, 59–56, 155 1968, 1, 64 Franco-Mauritian fear for, 3, 61, 66 See also Best Loser System (BLS); riots India, 2, 31, 44, 50n11, 51n13, 61, 91–92, 99, 199 See also Hindus; indentured labour; Muslims Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS), 97, 165, 198 See also land Jamaica, 3, 109, 112, 115, 121, 147, 149n8, 149n14, 151n22, 170–71, 178n15, 186, 200, 211 Koenig, Jules, 60–61, 63, 157

habitus, 13, 108, 147 See also Pierre Bourdieu Hindus, 3, 20n6, 25, 44, 48, 126, 152, 153, 174, 177n1 as the Franco-Mauritian community’s main competitors, 56, 59, 61–65, 86, 93, 117, 135, 146, 149n5, 155–59, 176, 196, 205, 207, 209 and their political power, 67–68, 72, 76, 147, 160, 161, 164, 169, 214 See also indentured labour history, 2 colonial period, 2, 10, 23–65 discovery of Mauritius by the Arabs, 23 Dutch period, 23 memories and resentment of the past, 2, 24–26, 37, 40, 94, 167, 184, 203 See also British period; French period; indentured labour; slavery increasing ties with Africa and Asia, 86–87 See also India indentured labour, 2, 16, 24, 25, 31, 43–48, 50n10, 51n13, 105n17

Labour Party, the, 57, 63, 65, 67, 69, 92, 160, 165, 167 Hindu domination of, 62, 156 land, 11, 26–27, 42, 46 as means to pay of, 95–97, 187, 208 ownership of the, 4, 10, 31, 33, 38, 42, 76, 80–84, 93, 94, 108–9, 119, 145, 180, 190, 202, 204 See also grand morcellement; Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS); power; sugarcane; tourism language, 60, 187–88 English, 18, 192 French, 18, 31, 36, 83, 112, 125–26, 133, 181 Kreol, 29, 60, 163, 181 Le Cernéen, 20, 40–41, 59–64, 68–70, 160 closing doors, 70–72, 208 Le Clézio, Jean-Marie, 20, 32–33 leisure, 110, 124–31 See also campement See also Dodo Club Le Mauricien, 20, 142 L’Express, 20, 41, 81

229

Index

marriage patterns, 31, 38, 120, 171, 211 endogamy, 109, 111, 118, 129, 148n4, 170, 178n15, 193 examples of ‘mixed’ marriages, 114–15, 116–17 foreign partner, 110–13, 197 worries about ‘mixed’ ofspring, 114 wrong partner choice, 113–18 Martinique, 7, 21n10, 40, 77, 83, 112, 114, 124, 145, 150n15, 151n35, 170–71, 184, 191, 194, 197, 199, 200, 211 Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), 84, 146, 192 methodology, 17–20 network analysis, 19, 78–80 questionnaire, 19, 105n16, 138, 145, 148n4 sympathy for research subject, 18 Mosca, Gaetano, 8 Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), 69, 71, 92, 119, 159–62 See also Paul Bérenger mouvement rétrocessioniste, 55–56 Muslims, 3, 20n6, 25, 61, 64, 67, 85, 86, 116–17, 152–53, 156–57, 158, 164, 174, 177n1 See also indentured labour Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD), 63–65, 67, 69 See also Gaetan Duval; Jules Koenig politics elections of 2005, 79, 92, 102, 165–67, 186–88 elections of 2014, 167 Franco-Mauritian fears of extension sufrage, 54–56, 59–60, 154 universal sufrage, 60, 157 See also Hindus; independence power defensive, 7, 12, 33, 39, 52–54, 69, 71, 72, 95–97, 102–3, 185, 199 economic, 76–91 elite power, 4–5, 10–13, 206–10 elites considered all-powerful, 2, 3

structural, 11, 32 three views of, 12 race, 15–17, 18, 45, 63, 117, 126–27, 167, 171–72, 185–86, 198, 211 racist ideologies, 6, 31, 34–35, 183 See also skin colour; slavery Ramgoolam, Sir Seewoosagur, 52, 61–68, 72n1, 159 Navin Ramgoolam, 92–94, 96, 162, 167 Réunion, 26, 90, 112 See also French period riots, 56 of 1937, 58–59 of 1999, 214 around independence, 64 Sino-Mauritians, 3, 25, 89, 90, 105n17, 143, 152, 158, 162, 174 skin colour, 6, 9, 15–16, 101, 112, 115, 148n3, 172, 180-201, 205–6, 211 of the author, 17–18 during the colonial period, 32–39, 182–84 white bashing, 93, 102, 162–63, 165, 186–88 See also gens de couleur; Paul Bérenger; race slavery, 2, 16, 24–25, 27–32, 50n5, 50n7, 94, 163, 183 opposition abolition, 34–35, 39–43, 205 See also Adrien d’Epinay; Creoles; sugar-cane South Africa, 1, 6–7, 18–19, 63, 66–68, 90, 102, 103n10, 107, 112, 124, 128, 136, 154–56, 189, 198–99, 203 See also Franco-Mauritians sugar-cane, 1, 26, 36, 39, 43, 58, 77, 81–82, 95 Illovo deal, 99, 162–63 problems in sugar industry, 91–97 See also Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS); land; slavery

230

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tourism, 80, 90–91, 104n15, 106n31, 119, 140, 182, 197–99, 201n5 See also economy Truth and Justice Commission, 42, 50n10, 164–65, 169

Weber, Max, 8, 53, 72, 207 Wright Mills, C., 8, 53, 78, 210 Zimbabwe (including Rhodesia), 1, 6, 54, 68, 90, 93, 141, 188, 202, 203

Veblen, Torstein, 15

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