TagCôte d’Ivoire

The Modernity Bluff: book review by Joschka Philipps

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Sasha Newell. 2012. The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d’Ivoire. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. 305 pp. [original source: African Studies Quarterly | Volume 14, Issue 3 | March 2014; pp. 143-145]

 

Sasha Newell’s The Modernity Bluff starts out by pulling the reader into one of Abidjan’s typical outdoor bars where, around tables fully covered with bottles, groups of young men lavishly outspend each other. They flash rolls of money, prominently display their cell phones, and exhibit their prestigious US brand name clothing in the most refined ways. We witness a bluff: many of those indulging in seemingly unlimited consumption that night “would struggle to find enough money to feed themselves the next day” (p. 2). What follows is an extraordinary account of how such bluffing makes sense in the Ivoirian context. Newell delineates in its most intricate details how the fakery of being wealthy and the performance of being “modern“ (i.e. “Westernized“) are of constitutive importance to such diverse phenomena as street language (chapter 1), the illicit urban economy (chapter 2), masculinity and social cohesion (chapter 3), consumption (chapter 4), migration (chapter 5), and the Ivoirian political crisis (chapter 6).

 
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Once a combatant, always a combatant? by Ilmari Käihkö

In the recent report of the United Nations (UN) Security Council Panel of Experts on Liberia the authors express a stern warning concerning the dangers posed by former combatants for the cross-border security in the Mano River belt. According to the Panel of Experts, these former combatants in Liberia “present in remote border regions… live in semi-organized autonomous groups outside of any State authority, often under the direct influence of former ‘generals’ who commanded rebel factions during the Liberian civil conflict”.[i]

I acquired the report less than a week after returning from Liberia, where I’ve spent more than ten months during the past two years investigating networks of former combatants as a part of my PhD research. The bulk of my fieldwork has been conducted in the Southeastern Grand Gedeh County, which is also the area the Panel of Experts focus on due to the recent cross-border attacks from Grand Gedeh to Ivory Coast. Because I am most familiar with this setting, and because the report obviously focuses on Grand Gedeh, I will also concentrate on the county.

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Bleak prospects in Ivory Coast: the Third Ivorian War (Guest post by Ilmari Käihkö)

As this researcher packed his things and returned to Monrovia the prospects in Ivory Coast require one more look. While I still regard Ble Goude’s victorious prophecy that I discussed in my previous post false in the sense that toppling Ouattara’s government will prove impossible, there is yet still a possibility that the same prophecy will be fulfilled: if victory is sought in an impossible situation the trick to succeed is to redefine victory. After all, is this not what everybody does? (For one fine contemporary example witness the downgrading of ambition of the US-led ISAF-coalition in Afghanistan) Continue reading

Bleak prospects in Ivory Coast: the Third Ivorian War (Guest post by Ilmari Käihkö)

As this researcher packed his things and returned to Monrovia the prospects in Ivory Coast require one more look. While I still regard Ble Goude’s victorious prophecy that I discussed in my previous post false in the sense that toppling Ouattara’s government will prove impossible, there is yet still a possibility that the same prophecy will be fulfilled: if victory is sought in an impossible situation the trick to succeed is to redefine victory. After all, is this not what everybody does? (For one fine contemporary example witness the downgrading of ambition of the US-led ISAF-coalition in Afghanistan) Continue reading

“We will be victorious” guest post by Ilmari Käihkö

“We will be victorious” is a famous statement made by the former Ivorian Youth Minister Charles Ble Goude before the elections in Ivory Coast in 2011. This statement soon became iconic when the group Les Galliets adopted it as an intro to its militaristic and anti-imperialistic pro-Gbagbo electoral song called C’est Mais.

As we now know with hindsight, Gbagbo was not victorious in the elections, and equally failed to cling to power in their aftermath. While Gbagbo is awaiting the beginning of his trial at Hague, Ble Goude himself is sought after following cross-border raids to Ivory Coast. Nevertheless, the song remains as popular as ever among the supporters of the former president, many of whom currently reside in the refugee camps and their environs in the Grand Gedeh county of the neighboring Liberia. Continue reading

Something’s stirring in the east; something’s stirring in the west (Guest post by Ilmari Käihkö)

The Ivorian refugees in Grand Gedeh are a common sight both in the county capital as well as the many surrounding villages. Even more importantly, the border between Ivory Coast and Liberia is porous and poorly patrolled by the Liberian authorities. Both Ivorians and Liberians cross at will, just as they have for a long time. This is especially the case with the Krahn, the most predominant ethnic group in Grand Gedeh, who are spread evenly across the border (in the Ivory Coast they are called Guere).

There are about 69,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, most of them in Grand Gedeh. Additionally an uncounted number of Liberians returned to Liberia following the Ivorian crisis and the influx of “northerners”, often erroneously nicknamed “Burkinabe”, supporters of President Alassane Ouattara to the western parts of Ivory Coast. These refugees and exiles are now sitting around in camps, villages and the county capital Zwedru, many of them spending their days loitering or sleeping. Their mood is one of depression and frustration – not many have high expectations of returning back home anytime soon, if ever. Continue reading

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