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Autochthony: Local Or Global?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the recent upsurge of the notion of 'autochthony' as a virulent political slogan in different parts of Africa. Its forms may differ but it always calls for excluding strangers ('allogènes' or 'allochthons'), whoever they may be. Like endogenès, the term autochtonos had quite positive implications in classical Greek. The Athenians justified their claim to superiority over all other Greeks by emphasizing that only they were truly 'autochthons' of their area. In many parts of francophone Africa the autochthony notion, introduced by the French, was appropriated by the local populations, becoming an important principle for categorizing people. The upsurge of autochthony as a virulent issue in Cameroon during the 1990s must be understood in relation to the determined, sometimes even desperate, struggle of President Paul Biya, the leader of the former single political party, to remain in power.

Keywords: Africa; Athenians; autochthony; Cameroon; classical Greek; French



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