Performing the nation and subnational differences in African national days

Subproject of the DFG 1939 Research group 'Un/doing Differences. Practices of human differentiation' at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

The project examines the staging and performing of the nation and subnational differences in African national-day celebrations. The nation is generally presented as a community superordinate to all other senses of social belonging (such as regional, ethnic and religious ties) and to differences like age and sex. In everyday life, nationality is a ‘forgotten’ allegiance; through national days it can be revived and made visible to members of the national community as well as to an international public. But nationality is an abstract allegiance mostly marked by only a few conventional symbols, like the national flag, the national colours, and the national anthem. Making national belonging more visible requires representing how it relates to other social affiliations and differences. The project studies how such subnational differences and their relationship to the nation are performed during national days. In this project, the researchers conduct comparative case studies to collect empirical data from Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, countries with different extents of ethnical heterogeneity and different political histories. The project was initially the outcome of work done between 2009-2013 by the doctoral research group ‘The poetics and politics of national commemoration in Africa’, and continues the research conducted in the first funding phase of the DFG research group’s subproject ‘Ethnic and national differentiation in African national days’ (2013-2016).

Foto: Burkina Faso 2010 © Carola Lentz