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Ethnicity and the long-term perspective

The African experience


Alexander Keese

The debate about ethnicity in sub-Saharan Africa has come to an uneasy consensus in the 1990s, but it has to be asked if we are really close to a solution. How can comparative and historical views help to inform the debate? In this work, seven scholars bring in a long-term perspective to ethno-cultural solidarities, which they explore within a multi-disciplinary framework. This return to the ‘heart of the ethnic group’, twenty-five years after Elikia M’Bokolo’s and Jean-Loup Amselle’s path-breaking reinterpretation of ethnicity in Africa, argues for a reappraisal of approaches to ethnicity that have been adopted in recent decades. Focusing on two major geographical regions of the African continent – Senegambia including Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, and the area of Southern Tanzania and the northern half of Mozambique –, the chapters in this volume provide a new historical interpretation of the processes of identity-building in sub-Saharan Africa.
Contents: Alexander Keese: Introduction – Eduardo Medeiros/José Capela: Processes of Identity-Building in the Zambesi Valley: Ethnic Solidarity and the Zambesian Ethos – Malyn Newitt: Kinship, Religion, Language and Political Control: Ethnic Identity among the Peoples of the Zambesi Valley – Felicitas Becker: Vernacular Ethnic Stereotypes: Their Persistence and Change in Southeast Tanzania, ca. 1890-2003 – Paul Nugent: The Historicity of Ethnicity: Mandinka/Jola and Ewe/Agotime Identities in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries – Philip J. Havik: Tchon I Renansa: Colonial Governance, Appointed Chiefs and Political Change in ‘Portuguese Guinea’ – Alexander Keese: Who’s King Tom? Being a ‘Temne’, ‘Mandinka’ or ‘Susu’ between Identity, Solidarity and Ethnic Shifts in Early Nineteenth-Century Sierra Leone.