Ethnicity and the Colonial State

Finding and Representing Group Identifications in a Coastal West African and Global Perspective (1850–1960)


Ethnicity and the Colonial State analyses, through a comparison of three West African communities (Wolof, Temne, and Ewe), the ways in which ethnic labels and arguments are used (or omitted) in dealings with colonial administrations. It follows these strategies and choices over more than a century, between the conquest periods and independence. Where state structures were weak as a factor of group cohesion, ethnic arguments were especially likely to come into play. The analysis discusses internal fissures and conflicting interests within the communities as other incentives for ethnic coalition-building. The observations made in this book are put into the context of a global historical perspective, for which “ethnicity” has so far remained a badly defined concept.
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Alexander Keese, Ph.D. (University of Freiburg, Germany, 2004), is SNSF Professor at the Université de Genève, Switzerland. He is the author of Living with Ambiguity: Integrating an African Elite in French and Portuguese Africa, 1930–61 (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2007).
Acknowledgements ... vii
Maps ... x

1 Introduction ... 1

2 Group Identifications: African and Global Categories ... 36

3 Wolof and Wolofisation: Statehood, Colonial Rule, and Identification in Senegal ... 84

4 Fragmentation and the Temne: From War Raids into Ethnic Civil Wars ... 158

5 ‘Ethnic Identity’ as an Anti-colonial Weapon? Ewe Mobilisation from the Late Nineteenth Century to the 1960s ... 220

6 Conclusion ... 293

Bibliography ... 313
Index ... 361
Readers interested in themes of African history in the context of global history; academic libraries; students (undergraduate and postgraduate) of global, transnational, African history; students of social anthropology; and everyone interested in a critical discussion of ethnicity as an element of identification.
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