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Political Identity and Conflict in Central Angola, 1975–2002

$28.99 (C)

Part of African Studies

  • Date Published: February 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107438934

$ 28.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This book examines the internal politics of the war that divided Angola for more than a quarter-century after independence. In contrast to earlier studies, its emphasis is on Angolan people's relationship to the rival political forces that prevented the development of a united nation. Pearce's argument is based on original interviews with farmers and town dwellers, soldiers and politicians in Central Angola. He uses these to examine the ideologies about nation and state that elites deployed in pursuit of hegemony, and traces how people responded to these efforts at politicisation. The material presented here demonstrates the power of the ideas of state and nation in shaping perceptions of self-interest and determining political loyalty. Yet the book also shows how political allegiances could and did change in response to the experience of military force. In so doing, it brings the Angolan case to the centre of debates on conflict in post-colonial Africa.

    • Analyses the internal politics of the Angolan war, in contrast to existing studies which concentrate on the international dimensions of the conflict
    • Traces the continuities in the politics of the conflict, from before independence until the end of the war in 2002
    • Contributes both to Angolan historiography and to theorisation of civil conflict
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "This book, based on difficult and path-breaking fieldwork and acute analytical skills, gives a jolt to much of the literature on violent conflicts and on politics in, especially, Africa: it brings questions of political identity, how it is formed and sustained, how it evolves, how it relates to violent conflict, back into the foreground and it refreshes ideas of national identity at the same time."
    Christopher Cramer, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

    "This book is exceptional because of the hundreds of interviews Justin Pearce conducted with peasants loyal to both warring parties. Moreover, he is unique because he does not show a scintilla of preference between the MPLA and UNITA. Furthermore, he covers an interesting interregnum between the end of the war in 2002 and today."
    Gerald Bender, Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

    "An essential reading for scholars and anyone interested in modern Angola. In this timely contribution, Justin Pearce’s penetrating analysis of nationalism and identity among the Ovimbundu from 1975 to 2002 shifts the focus from the conflict between MPLA and UNITA to how the population in the urban and rural areas of the central regions perceived their own interests and acted on them."
    Linda Heywood, Boston University

    "Justin Pearce’s book sheds new light on the complexity of the stakes of the Angolan postcolonial civil war. It shows, convincingly, how the intertwining of political and ideological identities, communitarian and individual stakes, as well as Cold War proxy interests, fuelled, in a very complex way, this long conflict."
    Jean-Michel Mabeko-Tali, Howard University, Washington DC

    "This is an exceptional book. Not only is this the finest study available on the politics of allegiance during the Angolan civil war, one of Africa’s deadliest and longest, and also least understood; it is also a pivotal contribution to the study of conflict, nation building, and identity formation in the post-Cold War period."
    Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, University of Oxford

    "Studies on identity are not rare in Angola. Urban identity, or Angolanidade, has been the source of a number of scholarly undertakings. What is highly commendable in Pearce’s book is his treatment of another form of identity that has received less attention: rural identity. This book is particularly concerned with the motivations of those who joined and fought for UNITA. The outcome is, then, a discussion on political identity that avoids the traps of ethnic essentialism and embraces a concept of identity that is contingent and strategic. In this regard, this book is about the agency of those who fought for UNITA."
    António Tomás, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

    "Justin Pearce’s work on political identity adds to the group of recent books on Angola that have broken new ground and shed new light on conflict, politics, identity and the dynamics of rule in Angola."
    Africa - News and Analysis (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107438934
    • length: 204 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 10 mm
    • weight: 0.28kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Anti-colonial mobilisation and the Portuguese exodus
    2. UNITA, 1975–6: from the cities to the 'Long March'
    3. The MPLA and urban state making
    4. Migration, relocation and identity
    5. UNITA in the Central Highlands, 1976–91
    6. UNITA at Jamba
    7. The war of the cities
    8. UNITA's last redoubts
    9. The Luena agreement and politics today.

  • Author

    Justin Pearce, University of Cambridge
    Justin Pearce is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and an associate of St John's College. He has published in journals including African Affairs and the Journal of Southern African Studies.

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