Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ian C. Fletcher - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Christine Skwiot - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Emanuela Guano - Committee Member

Fourth Advisor

Mohammed Hassen Ali - Committee Member


I argue that competing visions of development guided the interventions of the United States and France in the West African country of Ivory Coast during the late colonial and early independence periods from 1946 through the 1960s. Indeed, the postwar arrival of American modernity provided an opportunity for nationalist leaders to triangulate the relationship between metropolitan France and colonial Ivory Coast. The ensuing politics of triangulation forced French colonial officials, diplomats, and development experts to “dub” modernization in order to bolster (neo)colonial ties between France and the Ivory Coast. By dubbing I mean the effort to translate and adapt for French purposes development concepts and techniques first elaborated in the United States. I explore these issues in case histories of the port of Abidjan, Kossou dam, and San Pedro development projects. I highlight the discursive as well as institutional frameworks that shaped the development of Ivory Coast. In the early twentieth century, French colonialism’s mission civilisatrice and mise en valeur posited that the colonizers were rational and productive, while the colonized were backward and incompetent to exploit their natural resources. After the Second World War, the ascendant American modernization paradigm added a new level of valuation to colonialism’s moral economy. It proposed a dynamic and progressive teleology in which the colonized could become modernized and actually “work by themselves” to reproduce hegemonic U.S. technological, economic, and political norms. Modernization was a civilizing project as well, but in contrast French (neo)colonialism now appeared static and paternalistic. French attempts to recuperate their position in the Ivory Coast deployed the epistemic memories of decades of work in the colony but ironically involved promoting forms of regional planning pioneered by the Tennessee Valley Authority. To reach these insights, I have used an interdisciplinary historical methodology that is multiarchival and multisited. My dissertation is based on research in numerous French and American archives as well as oral histories with French and American actors who participated in the (post)colonial development drive in the Ivory Coast.