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Subnationalism in Africa: Ethnicity, Alliances, and Politics

Joshua B. Forrest
Subnationalism in Africa: Ethnicity, Alliances, and Politics
ISBN: 978-1-58826-227-1
ISBN: 978-1-62637-121-7
2003/279 pages/LC: 2003047048

"Provides a rich crop of case studies.... A welcome contribution to an ongoing and important debate.... [a] comprehensive survey of the politics of state fragmentation."—Daniel Bach, International Studies Review

"A refreshing reexamination of the politics of ethnicity and nation building in contemporary Africa.... This book is must reading for students of African political dynamics."—Edmond J. Keller, University of California, Los Angeles

"This book answers the urgent need for a broad, current overview of the impact of subnationalism on African polities and politics."—Donald Rothchild, University of California, Davis


The trend toward subnationalist autonomy—and away from the development of singular, state-centric political systems based on the Western model—is one of the most striking phenomena in Africa today. Joshua Forrest analyzes the expansion of ethnic subnationalist movements in the postcolonial period, the reasons behind their growth, and their implications for African politics.

Forrest ranges across the continent to explore a variety of subnational movements. Without minimizing the crucial role played by manipulative ethnic elites in fomenting subnationalist movements, he points to the intercommunity and interethnic alliances that underpin the most successful movements. This trend, he suggests, may presage a gradual reconfiguration of the political map of Africa in a way that is more reflective of indigenously rooted political culture, a culture that embodies a distinctive respect for local and territorial autonomy.


Joshua B. Forrest teaches in the history department at La Roche College. His recent publications include Lineages of State Fragility: Rural Civil Society in Guinea-Bissau and Namibia's Post-Apartheid Regional Institutions: The Founding Year.


  • The Rise of Subnationalism in Africa.
  • The Historical Context.
  • The Contemporary Context.
  • Cultural Mosaics.
  • Persistent Regionalism.
  • Secession Achieved.
  • Rebelling Alone.
  • Leaders and Rebels.
  • Reclaiming the Kingdom.
  • Back Toward the Future.
  • Reconstructing African Polities.