The politics of xenophobic exclusion in Africa: mobilisations, local orders and violence
This research programme is looking at the politics of xenophobic mobilisation across the continent. This comparative project runs across four countries: South Africa, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
As the African population continues to grow and move, the continent’s societies have seen increasing social, cultural, linguistic and economic heterogeneity. Cities and metropolitan areas have now reached a crossroads where local authorities have little effective control over the socio-economic processes which they have been charged to manage. Long-term and more recent voluntary and forced movements and forms of inclusion and exclusion going along with them contribute to a rapidly evolving redistribution of power and space that is at once highly visible but yet poorly understood. What makes this particularly visible today in several countries across the continent is the fact that exclusion has taken the form of violent attacks targeting more specifically foreigners or groups identified as ethnic, political, or religious outsiders. This project aims to document these phenomena in two specific areas: that of the changing social dynamics at work in the continent between hosts and strangers, nationals and foreigners and that of the role of the State in managing cultural diversity and socio-economic differentiation.
This research project will distinguish itself from several different trends in the study of African societies which have produced a rich and diverse literature in the recent years. It will do so specifically in tackling xenophobic forms of exclusion (from their inception down to violent occurrences or demobilisation). Drawing from the rich literature on autochthony but without confining to it only, the project intends moving away from the study of violent groups seeking to overtake power either nationally or regionally, and approaches in terms of economies of war, armed conflicts and the (re)emergence of militia groups in the democratisation contexts.
Three research questions will guide researchers’ work:
1. The historicity of politics and place in the production of xenophobic exclusion and violence;
2. Forms of mobilisation, counter-mobilisation and demobilization;
3. The question of State retreat or embededness;
Building on a small group of experienced researchers familiar with African terrains and the management of this kind of projects, the partnership relies on a team of 16 senior and junior researchers, based in both Europe and Africa. The comparison focuses on Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Capitalising on data collected previously and particularly the production of original data in a comparative perspective, the project will be divided between phases of collaborative design and phases of fieldwork over a period of 36 months. It is based on a partnership between internationally renowned research and higher education institutions experienced in the logistical management of such programmes.