Historical trajectories of borders, borderlands and frontiers (1830-1950) [CRG ABORNE]
Nicola Melis (University of Cagliari, Sardinia)
Paul Nugent (University of Edinburgh)
David Hume, LG.08
Wednesday 12 June, 10:45-12:15, 14:15-15:45

Short abstract:

In late 1800s territoriality became a key factor in Africa. But most borderlands represented older frontier zones, so colonial borders had to deal with those earlier political practices. The panel aims at analysing the history of political continuity and discontinuity of borderlands.

Long abstract:

The idea that African boundaries are a European creation has been often proved, at least partially. As territoriality became a defining factor in the late nineteenth century, the lack of well defined borders in most African regions did not mean a vacuum of political control over them. Some regions were part of the Ottoman Empire, or the various African kingdoms and polities, meaning that borders created by colonial time treaties had to deal with those previous arrangements and political practices. Moreover, pre-colonial frontier regions, in the interstices between polities, often became the places where colonial borders were drawn. Depending on the case, overlapping or conflicting ideas of borderlands created over the decades a number of controversial issues. Between 1880 and 1910, following the methods of European imperialism in Africa, several former empires and kingdoms tried to reinvent themselves as new imperial(ist) power in the attempt to resist or survive the new territorial and political setting of the continent. In this regard, the Ottoman Empire constitute an exemplary case study, with the creation of a colonial hinterland in Fezzan, and Buganda, with its conquests in the Eastern region. Since then, those frontiers became zones of interaction where power was often contested. They constituted borderlands where local politics played a central role in shaping imperial interests and the policies of the "centres", positioning the so called peripheries at the centre of state and regional politics. The panel aims at analysing the history of those political continuities and discontinuities in borderlands areas.