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Rodet, Marie and County, Brandon (2018) 'Old homes and new homelands: imagining the nation and remembering expulsion in the wake of the Mali Federation’s collapse.' Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute, 88 (3). pp. 469-491.

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Abstract

This paper examines concepts of ‘home’ and ‘abroad’ for migrants and citizens in the twilight of empire. It focuses on the ‘cheminots refoulés’, railroad workers with origins in the former Soudan (today’s Republic of Mali) who were expelled from Senegal shortly after both territories declared independence, and other ‘Soudanese’ settled in Senegal sometimes for several generations. Using newly available archives in France, Mali, and Senegal, and interviews with former cheminots and ‘Soudanese migrants’ on both sides of the border, this study seeks to historicize memories of autochthony and allochthony that have been constructed and contested in postcolonial nation-building projects. The Mali Federation carried the lingering memory of federalist political projects, but it proved untenable only months after the Federation’s June 1960 independence from France. When member states declared independence from each other, the internal boundary between Senegal and the Soudanese Republic became an international border between Senegal and the Republic of Mali. In the wake of the collapse, politicians in Bamako and Dakar clamoured to redefine the ‘nation’ and its ‘nationals’ through selective remembering. Thousands of cheminots and ‘Soudanese migrants’ who had moved to Senegal from Soudan years (and decades) earlier were suddenly labelled as ‘foreigners’ and ‘expatriates’ and faced two governments eager to see them ‘return’ to a hastily-proclaimed nation-state. This ‘repatriation’ allowed Republic of Mali officials to ‘perform the nation’ by (re)integrating and (re)membering the migrants in a nascent ‘homeland’. But, having circulated between Senegal and Soudan/Mali for decades, ‘Soudanese migrants’ in both states retained and invoked memories of older political communities, upsetting new national priorities. The loss of the Mali Federation raises questions about local, national, and international citizenship and movement in mid-century West Africa. Examining the histories invoked to imagine postcolonial political communities, this paper offers insight into the role that memory has played in constructing and contesting the nation’s central place in migrations histories within Africa and beyond.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
ISSN: 00019720
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.1017/S0001972018000189
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2018 08:28
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/26408

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