This panel discusses new empirical research on the national societies and their creation in West Africa after independence and into the early 1970s. It focuses in particular on some of the key issues of local politics after independence, regarding national sentiment and xenophobic mobilisation.
Post-independence African national societies have been frequently characterized/seen as being utterly artificial. However, the mechanisms of construction which form the basis for the new nations, have yet to be analyzed in detail. Even more, the issue of xenophobic and violent episodes that occurred soon after independence has remained the domain of sociologists. The series of forced migration and xenophobic attacks, so famously described by Margaret Peil in the 1970s, deserves renewed attention. This is especially true if we consider at under-explored documentary series of Africa's national and regional/local archives that offer new possibilities for research and provide insights into the politics of citizenship and expulsion/exclusion in early post-colonial West Africa. This panel will address new horizons for research, including questions of methodology and the limits of the administrative archive - but also examine the processes of discussing citizenship and belonging within institutions and services - in a perspective of continuities and ruptures after the end of colonialism. It will also analyze practices of reporting 'foreigners' and 'strangers' to the state and the police, and seek to explore the complicated interrelation, so far little explored by historians, between possible ethnoregional sentiment and the new poles of identification that constituted the new states. Finally, it will propose a social history of expulsion and its management, putting such removals of "unwanted foreigners" in the complicated tension between experience and administrative ideology.