Working Paper 162

The Frontier in Sierra Leone: past experiences, present status, and future trajectories

David O’Kane, Anaïs Ménard

Abteilung ‚Integration und Konflikt’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 162

Igor Kopytoff revolutionised our thinking on the origins of African ethnic identities by arguing that such identities were formed by and through frontier processes. These were the political and economic processes that came into play when groups splintered from existing populations and migrated into new zones on the edges of, or between, existing population groups and political communities. In this paper, we argue that the frontier remains a vital concept for the understanding of identity in contemporary Africa, and we use ethnographic data from two locations in Sierra Leone – the peninsula around Freetown and the city of Makeni, the capital of the Northern Province. Through a discussion of these cases we argue for both the retention and revision of the frontier concept in contemporary Sierra Leone and in Africa as a whole.

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