Recent literature on the continent has focused attention on the increasing number of forms of belonging using different labels: autochthony, nativism, indigeneity, ethnicity, and in some cases xenophobia. The latter term generally refers to discourses and practices that are discriminatory towards foreign nationals, but Wimmer (1997) also sheds light on the existence of deeper political struggles for the collective goods of the state and the building of structures of legitimacy in accessing those goods. In many instances, those structures are based on collective identities and real or fantasized notions of national community (Wimmer 1997: 32). In the African contexts, decolonization struggles have specifically shaped the type of nation-building enterprises that have emerged in the postcolonial period (Chipkin 2007). Taking into consideration both this broader theoretical dimension and the specific historical trajectories of nationalist discourses in the African contexts, our understanding of xenophobia as discussed in this issue consists of the systematic situated (in one institution) or cross-cutting construction that sees strangers as a threat to society, justifying their exclusion and, at times, their suppression.
Authors: Laurent Fourchard, Aurelia Segatti