Africa’s Borders Speak about World: A Critical History of the Border on the African Continent.
Fellowship : October 2022 to june 2023
Discipline(s) : History
Pays : Cameroon
Erick Sourna Loumtouang’s residency seminar will take place on Monday, January 23, 2023:
Africa’s borders speak to the world: tentative notes on a global history of the border in Africa
This seminar focuses on two commonplaces in the historiography of borders on the continent: the dominant literature retains the "colonial moment" as the temporality of border creation in Africa. The discourse that refutes the above proposition opposes the existence of an African conception of the frontier that would pre-exist colonization and maintains that the frontiers imposed by European nations would have destroyed ethnic solidarities and would be one of the main causes of the crises that mark the history of the continent. The need to go beyond these two radical perspectives has guided the desire to "occupy the space that separates them by trying to show their continuity.
The aim of this seminar is to approach the concept of border in Africa as a complex category, whose historicity is situated beyond the colonial moment and in the time of the world. The study demonstrates that instead of considering colonization as the moment of genesis of African borders as suggested by the dominant historiography, it is necessary to apprehend this sequence of African history as the last known stage of a longer process of border creation in this part of the world. We thus argue that a cumulative approach that apprehends the history of borders in Africa as the result of the combination of multiple and layered temporalities, would allow us to account for the complexity of borders by firstly, removing their historicity from the colonial moment that has been erected up to now as the place of genesis of these tracings, and secondly, to show that borders on the continent are the result of a long history made of both vernacular and exogenous realities. In this project, the border is understood not as a simple fruit of foreignness but as an unfinished historical category that has been built on the continent in successive and heterogeneous layers, following the phases of opening of Africa to the rest of the world and following the internal dynamics of the continent. While contributing to the renewal of historiography on borders, the reflection lays the foundations for writing a critical history of borders in Africa.
Suggestions of the week:
Film: Robi Layio, When a River Becomes a Border (2022)
"The film deals with the artificiality and fragility of the border between Cameroon and Chad determined by the Chari River, on and around which populations have lived for ages. These people circulate freely and take advantage of the socio-ethnic corridors to slip between the two nationalities in order to seize the opportunities offered to them. The film is about Waldiga, a young student in Chad who like many others in this region has two lives on both sides of the border.
Book: Lefebvre, C. (2019). Borders of sand, borders of paper: A history of territories and borders, from the Sokoto jihad to the French colonization of Niger, nineteenth-XXth centuries. Sorbonne Publishing.
"This book tells the paradoxical story of a handful of colonial military officers who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, instituted a precarious government that relied heavily on local political and territorial organizations, thus contributing to the emptying of their meaning and the undermining of their importance. This colonial appropriation of borders was so strong that it ended up making the colonizers forget, as well as the societies concerned themselves, that their origin was most often local and had been negotiated with the populations and the political authorities. These borders were marked by the internal historical dynamics of central Sudan in the nineteenth century, and in particular by the repercussions of the jihad of Usman dan Fodio. However, the history of their delineation has contributed to the construction of the grand narrative of Europeans as masters of the game, imposing the division of the world without consideration. https://books.openedition.org/psorbonne/36501?lang=en
Image: Image taken in Blangoua (Cameroon), a town located in the Logone et Chari department on November 21, 2020. Scene of daily life along the Chari River, which serves as the border between Cameroon and Chad.
This study focuses mainly on two common places of the historiography of borders on the continent: The dominant literature retains the «colonial moment» as the temporality of the creation of borders in Africa. The discourse that refutes the proposal set out above opposes the existence of an African conception of the border that would pre-exist colonization and argues that the borders imposed by the European nations would have destroyed ethnic solidarities and would be one of the main causes of the crises that mark the history of the continent. The need to overcome these two radical perspectives has guided the desire to «occupy the space that separates them by trying to show their continuity.» Through this project, it is a question of approaching the concept of border in Africa as a complex category, whose historicity is located beyond the colonial moment and in the time of the world. The study shows that instead of considering colonization as the moment of genesis of African borders as suggested by the dominant historiography, we must apprehend this sequence of African history as the last known stage of a longer process of creating borders in this part of the world. We thus support a cumulative approach which, apprehending the history of borders in Africa as the result of the combination of multiple and tiered temporalities, would make it possible to account for the complexity of borders by first of all divesting their historicity from the colonial moment until then erected as the place of genesis of these lines and secondly, to show that borders on the continent are the result of a long history made up of both realities. vernacular and exogenous. In this project, the border is understood not as a simple fruit of foreignness but as an unfinished historical category that was built on the continent in successive and heterogeneous strata, following the phases of opening of Africa to the rest of the world and following the internal dynamics of the continent. While contributing to the renewal of historiography on borders, reflection lays the foundations for writing a critical history of borders in Africa.
Erick Sourna Loumtouang is from Cameroon. He is a Senior Research Officer in History at the National Center for Education, a social science research organization under the supervision of the Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation (Cameroon). He defended a history thesis at the University of Ngaoundéré on defense and security issues on the Cameroon- Nigeria border between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries. Specialist in the contemporary history of Africa, he has devoted his work to African historiography, the political history of Cameroon and the problems of borders and security on the African continent since the early nineteenth century. Between 2015 and 2016, he was the recipient of the Swiss Confederation Excellence Scholarship for Foreign Researchers and Artists and was welcomed into the Department of International Studies at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. In 2020 he received an individual research fellowship from the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) for a project entitled «Governing Bodies in the Lake Chad Basin: Control, Repression and Restrictions of Mobility in the Age of Counter-Terrorism. In the same year he was also a laureate of the Institute for Democratic Governance of Codesria.
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, 2022, « Régimes d’historicité et perception de l’altérité non peule au Nord-Cameroun entre le XIXe et le XXe siècle », In François-Xavier FAUVELLE et Clémentine GUTRON, Passés antérieurs : à travers les strates de l’histoire en l’Afrique, Paris, Éditions PETRA.
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, 2022 « Frontières et artificialité : retour sur un mythe et ses implications sur le développement au Cameroun,1960–2010, Canadian Journal of History / Annales canadiennes d’histoire, 57.2, doi: 10.3138/cjh-57-2-2021-0088 (Forthcoming)
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, 2022, «Imaginaires, fabrique des frontières et construction de l’État-nation au Cameroun de la période allemande à nos jours (1884-2018) », Canadian Journal of Political Sciences, (Accepted).
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG, Erick, 2022. Présentation. ADILAAKU. Droit, politique et société en Afrique, 2(2), en ligne. DOI : 10.46711/adilaaku.2022.2.2.1
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG, Erick, 2021, « Frontières, sécurité et souveraineté en Afrique postcoloniale », In Parfait AKANA, Réflexivités africaines, The Muntu Institute Press / Jimsaan.
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, 2019, « La guerre vue du ciel : l’usage des drones en terrain africain », A contrario, (n° 29), p. 99-118. DOI : 10.3917/aco.192.0099. URL : https://www.cairn.info/revue-a-contrario-2019-2-page-99.htm
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, 2017, « d’une crise nationale a une crise régionale : l’effet domino de la menace Boko Haram sur le Cameroun », In GWODA ADDER Abel et François WASSOUNI, Regards croisés sur Boko Haram au Cameroun, Yaoundé, Les Éditions du Schabel
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, « Une éthique de la frontière ? », Esprit, 2016/12 (Décembre), p. 11-14. DOI : 10.3917/espri.1612.0011. URL : https://www.cairn.info/revue-esprit-2016-12-page-11.htm
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, 2015, « Frontières de l’État et état des frontières au Cameroun: esquisse d’analyse de la gouvernance des périphéries de l’État réunifié (1961-2011) », Revue Internationale des Sciences Humaines et sociales, volume 6, no6 Mai 2015.
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick et ABDOURAMAN HALIROU, 2013, « Darak et la problématique de la sécurisation des frontières internationales du Cameroun (1985-2010 », volume XIV des Annales de la FALSH (Faculté des Arts, lettres et Sciences Humaines) de l’Université de Ngaoundéré, Éditions Clé.
SOURNA LOUMTOUANG Erick, 2012, « Les frontières dans le Lac Tchad une notion ignorée ou contestée », vol 4, no 2, Revue d’histoire de l’université de Sherbrooke, https://rhus.historiamati.ca/volume4/les-frontieres-dans-le-lac-tchad/