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Marginality, Disempowerment and Contested Discourses on Indigenousness in Africa

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The present article discursively explores the contentiousness of indigenous identification and claims in Africa. In recent decades, a growing number of mainly hunter-gatherer and pastoralist communities have adopted a new form of identification as the indigenous peoples of Africa. Claimant communities have liaised with groups from other parts of the world – with an active support from indigenous rights advocates – in claiming special legal protection under the emerging (international) indigenous rights framework. Substantively, they seek redress for patterns of marginalization and dispossession. The present analysis discursively explores the sources and substance of indigenous identification and rights on the African continent. To avoid an oversimplification of complex socio-political and cultural realities, indigenous claims are examined against the backdrop of the multiple forms of expression of identity in the inherently plural African states. The analysis ultimately questions the suitability of the indigenous rights framework as the appropriate channel for efforts aimed at empowering claimant hunter-gatherer, pastoralist and other communities.

Affiliations: 1: International Victimology Institute Tilburg, Tilburg Law School, Tilburg University, The Netherlands


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