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‘Native’ Conversion to Islam in Southern Côte d’Ivoire: The Perils of Double Identity

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Abstract This article presents a synthetic, historical-cum-anthropological overview of the collective trajectory of Ivoirian converts to Islam from southern autochthonous lineages who can be referred to—albeit unsatisfyingly—as ‘native’ Muslims. It focuses on what is effectively an invisible and silent minority within southern native groups and the majority Dioula Muslim society alike: a community that has barely received any attention from social scientists despite the transformative impact of its slow but steady Islamization process. The study aims first at shedding light on salient socio-religious and political aspects of this group’s development, from colonial to postcolonial times. Given that this plural group is situated at the crossroads of various ethnic, national, and religious controversies, having enflamed Côte d’Ivoire in olden days as much as in recent years, the article eventually makes use of this group’s distinct prism to question the contested Ivoirian interface between Islam, ethnic geography, and nationalism at large, and attempt some nuanced answers.

Affiliations: 1: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Centre d’études africaines 96 Boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris – France


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