“New” Nationalism and Autochthony – Tales of Origin as Political Cleavage

Morten Bøås


The conflicts in Liberia, Eastern DRC and Côte d’Ivoire can be “read” as “wars of modernity” as they are concerned with the composition of their respective polities: who is a citizen and who is not. However, these contemporary conflicts are deeply embedded in a long history of violence: integral to this history is the issue of land. Citizenship in itself does not secure access to land, but at the very least it allows those with this status a legitimate entry to the competition for land. There is therefore a direct link between contested citizenship and land rights issues. Drawing on fieldwork material from the above-mentioned countries, this article will show how localised identity narratives under certain circumstances destroy as well as reformulate national identities, and that insight from ethnographic work on autochthonic issues can help us understand conflicts in a broad range of African countries.

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