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The (Re)Construction of Ethnicity in Africa: Extending the Chronology, Conceptualisation and Discourse

  • Ronald R. Atkinson

Abstract

As the end of the twentieth century nears, ethnicity seems entrenched as a commanding presence in the world — as a powerful political idiom and mobilising ideology, as a significant component of popular consciousness, and as a major focus of academic discourse. This was not apparent just a few decades ago. Crawford Young notes that the years from the end of World War II through the 1980s ‘witnessed the apotheosis of the nation-state… when this form of polity appeared astonishingly ascendant’, or even ‘a natural culmination of human progress and fulfillment of historic destiny’.1 These, however, were transient impressions, fostered by a specific set of historical conjunctures in the post-War period and shattered by the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the particular ferocity of ‘ethnic cleansing’, or ‘ethnocide’, marking civil wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Keywords

Ethnic Identity Collective Identity African Study Colonial Period Academic Discourse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Crawford Young, ‘The Dialectics of Cultural Pluralism: Concept and Reality’, in Crawford Young (ed.), The Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism: The Nation-State at Bay? (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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    Even most scholars who see theoretical or conceptual problems in the existing literature on ethnicity also see the need (if often somewhat reluctantly) to continue to deal with the topic; that is, to try, in John Comaroff’s words, ‘to chart the dangers and possibilities inherent in the discourses and deeds of identity politics’, and then move to the next and ‘much more difficult [steps] of framing defensible alternatives’ and taking ‘those alternatives into the world of realpolitik’. John Comaroff, ‘Ethnicity, Nationalism, and the Politics of Difference in an Age of Revolution’, in Wilmsen and McAllister (eds.), op. cit., in note 3, pp. 180-1. See also Marcus Banks, Ethnicity: Anthropological Constructions (London and New York, NY: Routledge, 1996), pp. 187–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald R. Atkinson

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