Effects of Colonialism and the World System
French imperial expanders colonized the Bambara society for the purposes of dominating agricultural lands and commercial routes through the Middle Niger. These colonizing powers effected the Bambara populations culturally and politically. The French intended to rule the Bambara people rigidly, taking over their “chief” positions. Along with their centralized ideals, the French attempted to establish a colonial administration that was centered in Paris. However, this inflexible system proved to be inefficient and ineffective; as a result, the colonies could no longer be viewed as a homogeneous empire, but rather as separate entities ruled with somewhat unrelated administrations (Djata).

One of the most important aspects of French colonialism that permitted their occupation was the establishment of provincial chiefs and village leaders. The French colonizers manipulatively tried to choose Africans that were devoted to the French cause; African authorities were a necessary aspect of their administration. The French administration attempted to renew or alter the Bambara culture, but the local African Bambara were very set in their ways, incorporative in most instances, though hardly violent. Certain aspects of Bambara political economy survived under French administration, such as a tax system. However, once the French were in occupation, taxes rose and money was allocated towards colonial funds, and no longer domestic.

The French also attempted to colonize the Bambara region of Mali by implementing educational systems in order to develop French influence and to propagate the French language. However, oftentimes Bambara refused to attend French-established schools; the Bambara were not easily influenced by French impositions (Djata 154-155). Another way that the Bambara culture was infringed upon was the attempts by missionaries to convert the Bambara religious advocated away from their religion and towards Islam. However, this was a extensive and difficult process that the Bambara resisted heavily. Ultimately, the Bambara created a state where their religious beliefs remained independent from administration. Bambara social and religious conditions were an important aspect of community (Djata 156-157).

One of the more influential changes that French colonialism made on Bambara society was through military. Colonizers hired Bambara soldier for their skills, and the soldiers were ultimately highly regarded as worthy fighters. Although these soldiers had no allegiance to the French cause, they played a large and successful role in the colonial army. The prestige of the Bambara solider was significantly diminished after colonizers implemented a draft. The military pay was subpar to the invested value in keeping sons at home for the agricultural field. As a result, a trend towards “stabilization of the familiy” was established and continued to grow. Recruitment was effectively viewed as yet another tax (Djata 160-171).


Bambara responses to colonialism included “resignation, resistance, and collaboration,” (Djata), a combination of various degrees of unsettlement. Opposition was prevalent, most of which stemmed from the taxes and censuses that the French colonizers implemented on the Bambara, which the Bambara interpreted as acts of intrusion. Bambara also resisted by choosing leaders that French administrators opposed, as well as holding campaigns against the colonizing forces.

“The Bamana could be identified in pre-colonial times in terms of language, religion, customs, historic traditions, and space. Each of these elements helped to create a cohesion despite migrations and the introduction of other populations. Person argues that Bamana identity has survived despite colonialism, not because of it, since the French wanted to replace their culture and their identity with French civilization. Nevertheless, their community value continued to be vibrant” (Djata 183).