In This Review

Ethnicity and Nationalism in Africa: Constructivist Reflections and Contemporary Politics
Ethnicity and Nationalism in Africa: Constructivist Reflections and Contemporary Politics
Edited by Paris Yeros
St. Martin's, 1999, 155 pp.

This instructive collection of seven essays explores the range of theories that maintain that ethnic identities are socially and politically constructed, not primordial. Debates about the nature of ethnic identity began in earnest about 20 years ago among social scientists studying Africa. Over the last decade, research and writing on the subject has mushroomed so much that this volume can now distinguish among constructivists who are transactionalists, inventionists, instrumentalists, and proponents of moral ethnicity -- an analog of the concept of moral economy. Although most contributors treat ethnic politics as an object of empirical investigation, two authors focus on its normative aspects -- which, over the long run, they believe, could engender less exclusionary and more hybrid concepts of identity among citizens of African states.