Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
As an exceptional event in the French Empire, upon the colonial annexation in 1880 of the former “kingdom” of Chief Pomare – a territory part of the Établissements français d’Océanie (EFO), renamed French Polynesia in 1957 –, its inhabitants obtained French citizenship. In civil matters, they were formally subject to the Civil Code, while anywhere else, “natives” were granted “personal status” and were subject to “special” codes of law. As for the inhabitants of “secondary establishments” of the EFO, they became citizens and subjects to the Civil Code in 1945. Today, in French Polynesia, no legal device distinct from the Civil Code is officially provided for. However, certain specificities remain in practice, in a postcolonial France in the making. After four years of a collective research project on colonial legacies in the contemporary justice system in Overseas France, this paper looks at how magistrates have managed to take into account customary adoption (fa’a’amura’a), a practice that was never formally recognized. The use of ethnography made it possible to examine the multiple challenges, tensions, and principles arising around fa’a’amura’a in actual judicial situations (hearings, informal discussions among the staff, etc.), in as close as possible terms to practice. Semi-structured interviews allowed to investigate further the modalities of the changes now taking place and to better understand the motivations and roles of particular actors (magistrates, justice personnel, lawyers, experts) involved in the judicial arena regarding fa’a’amura’a.