This panel will discuss contemporary disputes in Africa over territorial boundaries in historical perspective, in particular focusing on contested narratives of the creation and management of colonial boundaries that feed into present-day competition over resources and rights.
African territorial boundaries, both between and within states, are famously the creation of imperial powers drawing apparently fixed lines between and among societies of which they had very little knowledge. The persistence of these boundaries to the present day (with some notable exceptions) is therefore quite remarkable, especially in the context of rapidly changing political and economic dynamics across the continent. But borders are not uncontested: rival states across international boundaries and particular interest groups living within states, often seek to amend either external or internal boundaries, in order to gain access to resources valuable either to the state, local populations or both. The ambiguous history of boundary-making can of course be manipulated and often remains highly contentious. At present, this is perhaps most striking along the Sudan - South Sudan border where rival claims to know the real, historical boundary continue to underpin violent state and local competition for resources, but similar dynamics are present in many other African borderlands. This panel therefore invites papers that reflect on debates about colonially created inter-state or internal administrative boundaries in contemporary Africa, particularly those that consider how contested versions of local history feed into contemporary claims. It also invites papers that compare contemporary claims about the history of the making and management of colonial boundaries to historical evidence gathered in field or archival research. 1st session: Contesting colonial narratives: the weight of history in contemporary border disputes. Chair: Dr Vincent Hiribarren. Participants: Valsecchi, Whittaker, Stonehouse, Vaughan. 2nd session: Borderlands and Sovereignty. Chair: Dr Aidan Stonehouse. Participants: Mathys, MacArthur, Campos. 3rd session: Historicising boundaries in West Africa: the case of Nigeria. Chair: Dr Christopher Vaughan. Participants: Hiribarren, Faleye, Ebele Udeoji.