Adapted from the introductory article to the latest issue of Africa, a special issue themed around xenophobia, guest editors Laurent Fourchard and Aurelia Segatti expand on the theme of the special issue and articles.

Recent literature on the African continent has focused attention on the increasing number of forms of belonging including autochthony, nativism, indigeneity, ethnicity, and in some cases xenophobia. In African contexts, decolonization struggles have shaped the type of nation-building enterprises that have emerged in the postcolonial period. Discourses of indigeneity and autochthony are highly politicized.

Several African countries offer an ideal lens through which to take these analyses further. All the articles presented in this issue are based on ethnographic research developed in four countries that have all gone through specific types of exclusionary violence over the past two decades: the DRC, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

The articles focus on local and urban scales. The processes of exclusion or inclusion are closely intertwined. What binds the work and constitutes its originality is emphasis on the everyday manufacture of difference and commonality.

The studies reveal a vast array of resistance mechanisms, counter-mobilizations and subversion techniques, as well as emerging subjectivities (among youth, gangs, women) that have appeared in response to exclusionary dynamics.

In Ongata Rongai in Kenya, the bold use of ‘cosmo’ is a new form of local yet global identity that transcends fragmentation (see Landau’s paper). In Kinshasa’s markets, foreign traders use passive resistance, strategies of ‘invisibilization’ and micro-arrangements with their Congolese counterparts (see Segatti). While in Kolwezi and Likasi, reconciliation from below is based on silence and avoidance as interactional norms of peaceful coexistence between former enemies (see Vinckel). In a South African shack settlement, Monson illustrates how the polarization between insiders and outsiders, first-generation squatters and the newly settled, predates the national/non-national distinction and constitutes an often poorly understood blueprint on which post-apartheid immigration is superimposed.

In Nigeria, the political machinery appears to be inclusive in some states, and the centrality of patronage helps sideline discrimination in access to public goods (see Fourchard). In comparing Gombe and Bauchi states, Adam Higazi and Jimam Lar argue that, although there are complaints of marginalization among different non-indigene groups in both cases, Gombe state has developed a more inclusive system of government and local conflict management than Bauchi state. In all, the papers provide some indication that some African urban polities are active centres for the contestation of exclusive forms of citizenship.

The introductory article is free to access until 30 April 2015, and the full special issue can be found here.

Photograph by Adam Higazi showing a People’s Democratic Party election campaign poster, Nafada, Gombe State, Nigeria (27 February 2012).

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *