Accepted Paper:

Twilight territories: political authority and land formalisation in urban Jigjiga, Ethiopia  


Rony Emmenegger (University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines how territories and political authority are produced and therefore analyzes land formalization in the city's expansion area. The investigation of how power operates through space aims at contributing to a geographical understanding of state formation processes in African frontiers

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates processes of territorialization and state formation in urban Jijgiga. Located in the Ethio-Somali frontier, Jigjiga has been a site for the negotiation of political authority since the early expansion of the Ethiopian state into the Somali-inhabited lowlands in the late 19th century. Since then, government institutions have attempted to institutionalize political authority and to render the lowland population legible through the demarcation of rural and urban space in order to exercise power. These attempts have recently been furthered by the re-formulation of urban planning schemes in order to cope with the rapid ongoing expansion of the city at its margins. However, where rural land is incorporated into an urban perimeter, property relations are re-negotiated and various territories produced. Based on ethnographic field research, this paper analyses the demarcation of property in social and geographical spaces by examining the formalization of land in the city's expansion area. As it illustrates, government institutions have been key sites for claim making and the recognition of urban land as property, where political authority is formed and institutionalized. In addition, the negotiation of property relations also operates through existing and new forms of spatial and material demarcations - on the ground and on paper - through which territories and political authority are produced. In this vein, various actors within, at the interface, and outside the bureaucratic apparatus enact territories and contribute to the formation of political authority. As such, this paper contributes to a better understanding of how power operates through space.

Panel P027
Territory and community: the scalar dimensions of political authority, identity and conflict in contemporary Africa