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Minorities and the State in Africa By Michael U. Mbanaso and Chima J. Korieh ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Minorities and the State in Africa

The motivation for this collection lies in the growing need to understand the often tenuous relationship between minorities, broadly conceived to include persons or groups of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities and other state actors. The word minority is used in this volume in a more restricted sense. It focuses on ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups in relation to the formal instruments of governance, resource allocation, and control in modern nation-states in Africa. As such, it does not include other forms of minorities, broadly conceived to include such other accepted forms of minorities as those defined by sexual orientation.2 Our use of minorities also emphasizes those historically regarded as the “Other” and victims of the modern nation-states created as a result of Africa's colonial experience. Certainly conception of the term minority has significance beyond linguistic and cultural difference. Accordingly, as Ibrahima Kane notes, the concept of minority is recognition “that different groups can exist in a particular territory, with their differences based on culture, language, and religion.”3 It can also be applied in a racialized sense when used in reference to whites and the admixture of Arabs and non-Arab peoples in some parts of Africa. As Ibrahima Kane explains:

These groups exist because of the subjective criteria of self-definition or identification. However, it is vital to note that people can belong to several different groups at the same time and so there should also be objective criteria that could be used to make the determination—for example, the length of time during which a group has inhabited the same place.4

Through this volume, we aim to explore the various facets of the relationship between minorities and the state across Africa and to articulate thoughtful ways for understanding forms of hegemony imposed by dominant groups in relational, national, and regional experiences. We offer alternative conceptual and theoretical approaches and alternative research strategies for dealing with minority/majority issues and resource control in historical and contemporary perspectives.