Afars, Issas . . . and Djiboutians: Toward a History of Denominations

Published: 1/Jun/2013
Source: Northeast African Studies

Simon Imbert-Vier, Northeast African Studies, Vol.13, No.2, 2013, pp. 123-149.

This article analyzes the ethnic denominations around the Gulf of Tadjoura. By using travel narratives from the nineteenth century and colonial archives from the twentieth, it provides a history of these denominations, their construction and evolution, and the representations they carry. In the nineteenth century, denominations proposed by African informers were used by European travelers to describe the political and social situation in the area as they understood it. Later, the colonial administration wanted to identify groups and individuals in order to manage the inhabitants and secure its domination over the country. We show how this practice was an impossible task because of the identity lability of individuals and groups and the impossibility of defining accurate limits between them, either physical or symbolic. Nonetheless, these constructions have been used until now to legitimate access to the State and country’s resources.

Available at:

Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious, Loss and Deprivation of Nationality
Regions: East Africa, Djibouti
Year: 2013