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Community-based citizenship: autochthony and land claim politics under forest decentralization in Burkina Faso


Côte, Muriel (2020). Community-based citizenship: autochthony and land claim politics under forest decentralization in Burkina Faso. Geoforum, 109:171-179.

Abstract

The paper examines how the “politics of belonging” that is expressed through claims of autochthony, relates to citizenship. Claims of autochthony, or claims to have settled a given place first, have become increasingly common in Africa, but they clash with efforts to introduce notions of national citizenship under the democratization and decentralization reforms that have been adopted across the continent in the last three decades. This paper analyses this tension through the empirical case of autochthony claims that emerged in the context of the creation of a “municipal forest” under the forest decentralization reform in Burkina Faso, which draws on community-based governance. It argues that in this case, autochthony is a claim for the rights to have rights, for citizenship, that takes shape within a wider politics of framing what “the community” is, and what it is good for on the ground. It draws on the work of Tania Li’s work on indigeneity to illuminate the role of some of the contradictions underlying this framing – namely the lack of actual devolution and the reification of “the customary” – that help understand why autochthony becomes a powerful positioning to claim the right to have rights. So, while autochthony first appears as a breakdown of (national) community, because it clashes with the juridico-legal ideal of citizenship, if we look at the politics of decentralizing forest management in practice, it rather seems to be an integral part of claiming the rights to have rights within a globalised “community-based” form of rule.

Abstract

The paper examines how the “politics of belonging” that is expressed through claims of autochthony, relates to citizenship. Claims of autochthony, or claims to have settled a given place first, have become increasingly common in Africa, but they clash with efforts to introduce notions of national citizenship under the democratization and decentralization reforms that have been adopted across the continent in the last three decades. This paper analyses this tension through the empirical case of autochthony claims that emerged in the context of the creation of a “municipal forest” under the forest decentralization reform in Burkina Faso, which draws on community-based governance. It argues that in this case, autochthony is a claim for the rights to have rights, for citizenship, that takes shape within a wider politics of framing what “the community” is, and what it is good for on the ground. It draws on the work of Tania Li’s work on indigeneity to illuminate the role of some of the contradictions underlying this framing – namely the lack of actual devolution and the reification of “the customary” – that help understand why autochthony becomes a powerful positioning to claim the right to have rights. So, while autochthony first appears as a breakdown of (national) community, because it clashes with the juridico-legal ideal of citizenship, if we look at the politics of decentralizing forest management in practice, it rather seems to be an integral part of claiming the rights to have rights within a globalised “community-based” form of rule.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Sociology and Political Science
Language:English
Date:1 February 2020
Deposited On:18 Dec 2019 16:31
Last Modified:08 Feb 2020 02:03
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0016-7185
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.07.012

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