Working Paper 135

National, Ethnic, and Creole Identities in Contemporary Upper Guinea Coast Societies

Christian Højbjerg, Jacqueline Knörr, Christoph Kohl, Markus Rudolf, Anita Schroven, Wilson Trajano Filho

Department ‘Integration and Conflict’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 135

This working paper analyses the social dynamics and meanings of national, ethnic, and creole identities in contemporary Upper Guinea Coast societies where national identities are constructed within an overall context of ethnic heterogeneity and within nation-states that cut across ethnic boundaries. The relationship between ethnic and national identifications is crucial for the conceptualisation of nationhood at the different levels of society. In much of the Upper Guinea Coast region there seems to be a pronounced discrepancy between national identities, on the one hand, and the identification of the nation with the state (its representatives, institutions, and borders), on the other. Social and cultural interaction has been extensive in this part of West Africa for hundreds of years and engendered identities characterised by fluidity and ambiguous means of self-ascription and assigning identity to others. Particular interests of different groups and sections of the society are often explained and justified by historical narratives which at the same time serve as models for the future and inhabit ideological discourses produced by state and non-state actors. Interaction and mixture has also led to new social formations which include creole and settler groups. Depending on their position and function in society at large and on their interaction with indigenous populations and the given colonial power, they played different roles in the construction of transethnic identities and (postcolonial) nationhood.

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