P096 – On the Margins of Society. Ethnographies of Social Mobilization and Marginalized Groups in Africa and Beyond
8 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Menin Laura / University of Milano Bicocca
Gardini Marco / University of Milano Bicocca


Discutant / Discussant
Bellagamba Alice, University of Milano-Bicocca

The abolition of slavery has left a bitter legacy of racism, stigmatization and socioeconomic discrimination that deeply affect people’s lives worldwide. This legacy surrounds not only slave descendants, but also categories of people and groups who occupy marginalized social positions and whom the combined effects of global financial crisis and aggressive neoliberal economy, revolutions and political unrest, have increasingly pushed at the margins of citizenship. Meanwhile, these dynamics have opened up new avenues for social emancipation and political struggle. In Tunisia, black populations speak out against racism and claim political inclusion. In Morocco, African migrants demonstrated against their conditions of exploitation and racial harassment, while in Southern Italy they revolted against the abuses they suffered in the agricultural sector. How does the bitter legacy of slavery overlap with contemporary forms of exploitation and commoditization of human beings? And under which historical conditions are some forms of marginality struggled against and appropriated to raise public awareness and attain political goals? We are interested in how collective trajectories of emancipation and political struggle intersect with and potentially contribute to changes in the structures of power and ideologies of socioeconomic and political marginalization.

Aux marges de la société. Ethnographies de la mobilisation sociale et des groupes marginalisés en Afrique et au-delà
L’abolition de l’esclavage a laissé un héritage de racisme, de stigmatisation et de discrimination qui affecte la vie des gens dans le monde entier. Cet héritage concerne les descendants d’esclaves, mais aussi des catégories de personnes qui ont occupé des positions sociales marginalisées suite aux effets combinés de la crise financière et de l’économie néolibérale, des révolutions et des troubles politiques. Ces dynamiques ont ouvert de nouvelles opportunités pour l’émancipation sociale et la lutte politique. En Tunisie, les populations noires dénoncent le racisme et réclament l’inclusion politique. Au Maroc, les migrants africains ont manifesté contre leurs conditions d’exploitation, alors que dans le sud de l’Italie, ils se sont révoltés contre les abus du secteur agricole. Comment l’héritage de l’esclavage et les formes contemporaines d’exploitation et de marchandisation des êtres humains se recoupent-ils? Dans quelles conditions historiques ces formes de marginalité sont-elles contestées et appropriées pour sensibiliser le public et atteindre des objectifs politiques? Un intérêt particulier sera porté, dans cette étude, aux trajectoires collectives d’émancipation et de lutte politique qui ont contribué à des changements dans les structures de pouvoir et les idéologies de la marginalisation socio-économique et politique.

Paper 1

Chiekou Baldé El hadji / CARTE, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar

De la mobilisation autour de l’identité servile à la politisation de la marginalisation sociale: Peeral Fajjiri au fuuta Toro et autres exemples Sénégalais

L’objectif de cette présentation est d’examiner et d’analyser les enjeux sociopolitiques de l’héritage de l’esclavage dans la société haalpular du Fuuta Toro (Nord-Sénégal) et celle du fuuladu (Sud-Sénégal), également habité en majorité par des peuls. En effet, longtemps victimes de marginalisation sociale, les descendants d’esclaves mobilisés autour de leur identité commencent à mettre en place des stratégies de lutte contre la discrimination. Ainsi depuis 2003 est crée au Fuuta Toro la Fédération Peeral Fajjiri mobilisant les descendants d’esclaves (maccube) autour de l’identité servile ou maccukagu. A travers cette mobilisation, les maccube du Fuuta Toro revendiquent une identité qui malgré son assignation sociale péjorative est valorisée. Une association similaire n’existe pas au fuuladu mais les jiiyabe profitent souvent des campagnes électorales pour valoriser et utiliser le discours identitaire. Cette réutilisation des statuts sociaux est induite par les enjeux de la décentralisation et de l’ouverture démocratique. La marginalisation sociale devient ainsi un instrument identitaire de mobilisation politique. Cette manifestation de l’héritage de l’esclavage dans ces deux régions nous permettra de saisir les stratégies mises en place par les descendants d’esclaves (maccube et jiiyabe) pour lutter contre les différentes formes de discriminations sociopolitiques.

Paper 2

Meckelburg Alexander / Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies, University of Hamburg

Preliminary notes on regional citizenship and marginalization in western Ethiopia

The territorial incorporation of western Ethiopia, since the late 19th century, has left a legacy of marginalization influencing the way people perceive their place in society and their status as citizens of Ethiopia. Structural imbalances between highland and lowland regions have led to various forms of national conflict between centre and periphery. Historical perceptions and the memory of exploitation and slavery can become tools for regional group mobilization and political opposition. Meanwhile, recent political amendments have opened new ways for political decentralization and integration of previously marginalized groups. These amendments, referred to as “ethnic federalism”, have opened new ways of cooperation for minorities. Despite this, they also challenge regional majority-minority relations as well as the established equilibrium of power between formerly marginalized groups. These changes have led to new conflicts on the regional level. This presentation will look at the changes and continuities of state encroachment in the western Ethiopian regions, across several ethnic groups, and compare the different perceptions of local people, actors, and stakeholders, and look at various forms of resistance and mobilization, from open violence to ‘mimicry’. The paper concludes that instead of challenging national citizenship there are dilemmas of regional integration which need to be taken into consideration in order to understand current feelings of marginalization.

Paper 3

Schnitzler Marie / LAM, University of Liege

The fight for people with disabilities’ rights in South Africa, from apartheid to nowadays

The issue of disability, which appeared in Britain in the 1970’s, took a particular shape in South Africa due to the particular segregationist legislation of the country. Through an empirical fieldwork in a township of Cape Town, this presentation explores the evolution of the struggle for the rights of the people with disabilities in the city. It is believed that the study of the people with disabilities as a marginalized group helps to understand the current challenges of the South African state dealing with its apartheid legacy. In the first part, a historical analysis will underline how this fight has firstly been interwoven with the bigger struggle against the white male able-bodied supremacy. It will be shown how this context of resistance and mobilization against the apartheid government as well as a growing international concern around disability provided opportunities to put the disability issue at the South African agenda. The second part of the lecture will discuss the evolution of the disability sector after 1994. The rise of democracy has allowed various progresses, as the recognition of the disability issue by the Constitution. However, these victories are bitter as the majority of the people with disabilities living in the townships are still struggling with high level of violence, social isolation, and unemployment in their daily lives. The loss of faith of these people in the associations supposed to represent their interests will finally be discussed.

Paper 4

Scaglioni Marta / Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Universität Bayreuth

Between exclusion and inclusion: the Ghbonton renegotiation of traditional roles in contemporary Tunisia

In post-revolutionary Tunisia some across-North-Africa myths have collapsed and made way for a renewed sentiment of aversion and discrimination against minorities. Former dictator Ben Ali, like other Arab leaders promoting the modernization, secularization and westernization of their countries, propagated an embellished image of Tunisia based on stability and peace. Yet, discrimination based on skin color targeted Black Tunisians, unmasking the bitter reality of dark-skinned citizens still bearing the legacy of slavery. Tunisians still use the Arabic terms wassif or abid, semantically connected to slavery, to refer to Blacks. This paper analyzes racial stigmatization in terms of geographical marginalization and social segregation at the lowest ladders of society, and the quest for recognition of the Black communities through a renewed political discourse. The Ghbonton, an ethnic group living in the Southern Governorate of Medenine, embody this exclusion. Their region, at the border with Libya, has always been a transit and exchange area, but this community has started only recently to negotiate its social position. Traditionally involved in the preparation of weddings, including a musical performance with devotional and mystic tones called Tayfa, their recent political activism interacted with the renegotiation of these traditional roles, since the execution of this accompaniment to the ceremonies perpetrates, in their eyes, a form of servile attitude towards the Whites.

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