Accepted paper:

A town divided: ownership and belonging in Mocimboa da Praia, Mozambique


Ana Margarida Sousa Santos (ICS-ULisboa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will address concepts of ownership and belonging in Mocimboa da Praia, Mozambique, by examining the way space and history underscore local political competition.

Paper long abstract:

The recent history of the northernmost districts of Mozambique has been one of movement and conflict leading people to move far from their areas of origin and into places where they seek to rebuild networks and establish relationships. The Makonde moved from their original area in the Mueda Plateau to neighbouring districts and have to negotiate access to space, as well as questions of legitimacy and belonging with the autochthonous population, the Mwani, seen as the 'owners of the land'. The Mwani traditionally have rights to the land, its resources and history. However the recent political landscape of Mozambique counters some of the long held notions about rights and ownership leading to conflict. The tension between newcomers and indigenous residents is expressed through everyday languages of ownership and comes to the forefront in the political, socio-economic and religious realms. It is also mapped out onto the space of the town as spatial understandings of belonging and competing versions of history are at the heart of these tensions.

Drawing on extensive interviews and participant observation as well as recent literature on autochthony, I will examine the spatial underpinnings of local notions of ownership. I will question how space and history are appropriated by Mwani and Makonde and used to define belonging and as a source of legitimacy in political competition at the local level. These questions have become especially relevant in the wake of democratization processes, increased political competition and struggle for resources.

panel P31
"Indigenous" space and local politics