Autochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion - Paradoxes in the Politics of Belonging in Africa and Europe

Geschiere, Peter
January 2011
Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies;Winter2011, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p321
Academic Journal
Our world seems to be globalizing, yet in practice, it is marked more than ever by what Tania Murray Li calls 'a conjuncture of belonging.' The notion of autochthony plays a special role in this obsession with belonging as some sort of primordial claim: How can one belong more than if one is born from the soil itself? Since the 1990s, the notion has played a key role in politics in several parts of Africa. Yet, its spread has now become truly global. Comparisons with other parts of the world show that this notion retains its apparently 'natural' self-evidence and, hence, its mobilizing force, in very different contexts. This article focuses on the notion of autochthony and its ambiguous implications for citizenship and exclusion. The classical example of Athens from the fifth century BC is of particular interest since it was the very cradle of autochthony thinking, yet it also highlights autochthony's inherent ambiguities that haunt the world today.


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