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This article examines the Spanish–Sahrawi colonial encounter from the perspective of 41 Spaniards who lived and/or worked in Spain's North African colony (formerly known as the Spanish Sahara and currently known as the Western Sahara) during the late-colonial era (1960s–1970s). An analysis of informants' experiences in the colony suggests the importance of a selection of social and spatial divisions that characterised life in the territory. With particular reference to ethnicity, gender and class, I argue that in addition to the limited nature of contact between the Spanish and Sahrawi populations during the colonial era, major tensions existed between different groups of Spaniards themselves. I also propose that, while the Spanish colonial era is often romanticised by many Sahrawis and Spaniards alike, the ways in which these former soldiers recollect the colonial encounter clearly reflect not only the colonialist discourses of the time, but also ‘paternalistic’ dynamics of the present.

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Journal article


Taylor & Francis

Publication Date



16 (1)


31 - 48