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Postcolonial Borderland Legacies of Anglo–French Partition in West Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2015

Abstract:

More than five decades after independence, Africa still struggles with the legacies of colonial partition. On the territorial frontiers between the postcolonial inheritors of the two major colonial powers, Great Britain and France, the continuing impact of European colonialism remains most acute. On the one hand, the splitting of erstwhile homogeneous ethnic groups into British and French camps gave rise to new national identities; on the other hand, it circumvented any possibility of sovereignty via ethnic solidarity. To date, however, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the ethnic groups that were divided between English- and French-speaking states in West Africa, let alone the African continent writ large. This article joins postcolonial ethnography to the emerging field of comparative borderland studies. It argues that, although norms of state-based identity have been internalized in the Anglophone–Francophone borderlands, indigenous bases of association and behavior continue to define life along the West African frontier in ways that undermine state sovereignty. Although social scientists tend to focus on national- and sub-national-level analyses, and increasingly on the effects of globalization on institutional change, study of the African borderlands highlights the continuing importance of colonial legacies and grassroots-derived research.

Résumé:

Plus de cinq décennies après l’indépendance, l’Afrique continue de lutter avec les héritages du partage colonial. Sur les frontières territoriales entre les héritiers postcoloniaux des deux grandes puissances coloniales, la Grande-Bretagne et la France, l’incidence du colonialisme européen se fait toujours sentir de façon aigue. Si d’une part, la séparation des groupes ethniques homogènes d’antan en camps britanniques et français a donné lieu à de nouvelles identités nationales il faut souligner que cela a contourné toute possibilité de souveraineté par le biais de solidarité ethnique. À ce jour, cependant, il n’y a pas eu d’évaluation globale des groupes ethniques qui ont été répartis entre états anglophones et états francophones en Afrique de l’Ouest, ceci sans parler du continent africain au sens large. Cet article rejoint l’ethnographie postcoloniale dans le domaine émergent des études comparatives de régions frontalières. Il fait valoir que, bien que les normes de l’identité basée sur l’état ont été intériorisées dans les régions limitrophes francophones-anglophones, des bases d’association et de comportement indigènes continuent à définir la vie le long de la frontière ouest-africaine de façons qui ébranlent la souveraineté d’etat. Bien que les chercheurs en sciences sociales ont tendance à se concentrer sur des analyses de niveau national ainsi que sous-national, et de plus en plus sur les effets de la mondialisation sur le changement institutionnel, l’étude des régions limitrophes en Afrique met en évidence l’importance continue de l’héritage colonial ainsi que des recherches générées au niveau local.

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Copyright © African Studies Association 2015 

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