Ethnicity and the Colonial State
Alexander Keese, University of Geneva
Ethnicity and the Colonial State analyses, through a comparison of three West African communities (Wolof, Temne, and Ewe), the ways in which ethnic labels and arguments are used (or omitted) in dealings with colonial administrations. It follows these strategies and choices over more than a century, between the conquest periods and independence. Where state structures were weak as a factor of group cohesion, ethnic arguments were especially likely to come into play. The analysis discusses internal fissures and conflicting interests within the communities as other incentives for ethnic coalition-building. The observations made in this book are put into the context of a global historical perspective, for which “ethnicity” has so far remained a badly defined concept.