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Identity Politics, Social Movement and the State: ‘Pan-African’ Associations and the Making of an ‘African community’ in Belgium

In: African Diaspora
Author:
Nicole Grégoire Université Libre de Bruxelles, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains 44 avenue Jeanne - CP 124, 1050 Brussels Belgium

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Abstract

Drawing on a social movement theoretical framework, the paper explores the collective action desires and attempts expressed within the African associational milieu in Belgium to improve the social, economic and political being of the African-rooted people in Belgium. It thus focuses on the emergence of non-profit organisations aiming at mobilising people of sub-Saharan African descent under a common ‘Pan-African’ banner. It analyses the link between the context for the emergence of these associations ‐ in which the state played an important role ‐ their working modes and their members’ affiliation strategies, as a way to address a ‘lack of mobilisation’ frequently deplored by many African associational leaders. Secondly, it shows how a certain African elite tries to go beyond old rivalries and previous failures, by shaping a Pan-African community, symbolically located both in the African life ‘here’ (in Belgium and by extension Europe) and ‘there’ (in Africa).

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