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date: 24 January 2020

Summary and Keywords

Migration has had a strong impact on the interplay between ethnicity and nationalism in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s ethnic map of Africa is the outcome of a lengthy history of comings and goings. Before the European conquests, Africa was not populated by clearly bounded, territorially grounded tribes or ethnic groups in the Western sense. Instead, the most prominent characteristics of precolonial African societies were mobility, overlapping networks, multiple group membership, and the context-dependent drawing of boundaries. Colonialism was later seen as having shaped, even created ethnic identities, contributing to the African shift away from Western notions of nationalism. Afterward, with the postcolonial state taking up its mantle, ethnic loyalty continued to overpower national identity. Local ethnic associations have since acted as a substitute for national citizenship, and ethnic belonging for national consciousness. Three countries in particular demonstrate this interplay of ethnicity, nationalism, and migration in sub-Saharan Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, together with the homeland of many of its migrants, Burkina Faso, in West Africa; South Africa, together with the homeland of many of its migrants, Lesotho; and Botswana in southern Africa. They show that, even across very disparate countries and regions, a common trend is visible toward official attempts to subsume internal ethnic differences under a form of nationalism defined partly by excluding those deemed sometimes rather arbitrarily to be external to the polity.

Keywords: migration, ethnicity, nationalism, Sub-Saharan Africa, colonialism, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana

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