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Centre of African Studies: Research


Boundaries and state-making in the Trans-Volta and Senegambia

Professor Paul Nugent has submitted his next monograph entitled Boundaries, Communities and State-Making in West Africa: The Centrality of the Margins (Cambridge University Press). The book, which will be published simultaneously in paperback and hardback, will come out in July 2019. It is a comparative history of the Senegambian and trans-Volta sub-regions of West Africa from c.1750 to the present. It deals simultaneously with colonial state creation and the construction of ideas of community. It examines, firstly, how borderlands dynamics have underpinned larger social contracts from the colonial period to the present. Secondly, it explores how the borders in question have reshaped conceptions of community and readings of history in the borderlands themselves.

book  cover

How and where does the project take place?

The study is based on archival and field research in GhanaTogo, Senegal and the Gambia. It compares two Franco-British border zones deals with taxation and population control as factors that invested borders with varying levels of importance for colonial states and their post-colonial successors. It also demonstrates how these impinged on structures of local administration, contraband, the shaping of land use practices and definitions of belonging, which varied significantly between the two regions.

Paul completed the bulk of the manuscript during his membership of the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, 2015-2016, when he was also working on a comparison of borderlands and state-making in Uganda and Kenya.

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