Race, Identity and Citizenship in Black Africa: The Case of the Lebanese in Ghana (1)

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

As we approach the post-colonial half century, transnationalism has become a major reality in Africa and the wider world with the proliferation of immigrants, refugees and displaced persons. But transnationalism is not a new development, and diaspora and globalization--both historical processes--have long served as contexts for the remaking of identity, citizenship and polity. Today, concepts such as 'cosmopolitanism' and 'flexible citizenship' are in vogue in a globalized world, as transnationalism challenges statist concepts of political citizenship. In this article, using the case of Ghana, I revisit the historic presence of a Lebanese diaspora in west Africa from the 1860s, and the intellectual and political obstacles that have worked against their full incorporation as active political citizens. I seek to understand why the prospect of non-black citizenship was considered problematic in black Africa during the era of decolonization, interrogating the institutional legacies of colonial rule and pan-Africanist thought. The intellectual rigidity of pan-Africanism on race is contrasted with current notions of the constructedness of identity. I probe the ways in which the Lebanese in Ghana constructed their identities, and how these facilitated or obstructed assimilation. As African governments seek to tap into the resources of the new African communities in Europe and North America, the article suggests the timeliness of exploring alternative criteria to indigeneity when defining citizenship in black Africa.

RESUME

Alors que nous approchons du demi-siecle post-colonial, le transnationalisme est devenu une realite majeure en Afrique comme ailleurs avec la proliferation des immigrants, des refugies et des deplaces. Of, le transnationalisme n'est pas un element nouveau et les processus historiques que sont la diaspora et la mondialisation servent depuis longtemps de contexte de remodelage de l'identite, de la citoyennete et de l'organisation etatique. Aujourd'hui, des concepts comme le <> et la <> sont en vogue dans un monde globalise, alors que le transnationalisme remet en cause les concepts etatiques de citoyennete politique. Dans cet article, l'auteur revisite, a travers le cas du Ghana, la presence historique d'une diaspora libanaise en Afrique de l'Ouest depuis les annees 1860, et les obstacles intellectuels et politiques a leur pleine incorporation en tant que citoyens politiques actifs. Il cherche a comprendre pourquoi la perspective d'une citoyennete non-noire etait jugee problematique en Afrique noire pendant la periode de la decolonisation, en interrogeant l'heritage institutionnel du regime colonial et de la pensee panafricaniste. L'article met en contraste la rigidite intellectuelle du panafricanisme sur les questions de race avec les notions courantes d'interpretation de l'identite. Il explore la maniere dont les Libanais ont construit leurs identites au Ghana et comment celles-ci ont facilite ou gene leur assimilation. A l'heure au les gouvernements africains cherchent A exploiter les ressources des nouvelles communautes africaines en Europe et en Amerique du Nord, l'article suggere qu'il est opportun d'explorer d'autres criteres d'indigeneite pour definir la citoyennete en Afrique noire.

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The growth in studies of diaspora, globalization and transnationalism in the past decade has equipped us with unique tools and insights that can be deployed in approaching what are in reality historic phenomena. Frederick Cooper has remarked on how discussions of globalization today lack historical depth in the interconnections they draw, and how in the excitement we overlook globalization's flows and blockages, that it empowers some and disempowers others (Cooper 2001). (2) Anthony Appiah (2005: 216) comments on the longue duree of globalization, describing the entire history of the human species as the history of globalization. …