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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Tribalism' and ethnicity in Africa: a review of four decades of anglophone research
Author:Lentz, CarolaISNI
Periodical:Cahiers des sciences humaines
Geographic term:Subsaharan Africa
Abstract:After some introductory remarks on the controversy between primordialist and constructionist concepts of ethnicity, the present article surveys three major currents in anglophone research on ethnicity and tribalism in sub-Saharan Africa: it reviews studies of tribalism in the context of labour migration and urbanization undertaken by British social anthropologists in the 1950s and 1960s, the discussions centred on politicized ethnicity and nation-State integration in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly among political scientists, and finally, the study of the colonial 'invention of tradition' and 'creation of tribalism', which has been carried out by historians of Africa since the late 1970s. Some general thoughts on precolonial African social organization and discourses round out the discussion. The author concludes that the changes in the functions of ethnicity and of its contents make it clear that one should not overestimate the rigidity with which the boundaries, history, language and cultural inventory of colonial tribes were defined. Behind the facade of unambiguous symbols, rituals and rules which are intended to demarcate the ethnic community, there lie ambiguities which become the object of differing interpretations among various actors. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English (p. 551) and French (p. 547).