The ASA team’s latest article, ‘Speaking proper French’: citizen bids for state recognition in Chad and Côte d’Ivoire, is out now and available free online.
It was written by Moudwe Daga and Julia Gallagher and is published in Global Discourse.
The article explores how two Francophone countries in West Africa - Chad and Côte d’Ivoire - struggle for international recognition by constructing narratives to appeal to the wider world - one through military interventions and one through grand state architecture. It draws on Franz Fanon’s account of misrecognition to explain how such appeals are rooted in the misrecognition of colonial experience.
‘Speaking proper French’: citizen bids for state recognition in Chad and Côte d’Ivoire
Theories of international recognition posit that states’ identities are formed through dialogical relations with other states. However, they often overlook the ways in which weaker states’ struggles, constrained within the languages of the powerful, produce misrecognition and inhibit identity formation. This is the experience of many post-colonial francophone African states whose search for international recognition has been inhibited by their special relationship with France, their former coloniser. This article shows how such struggles for recognition can fail. It draws on two examples of francophone African countries, showing how their search for recognition sprung from the misrecognition of colonial experiences. Each has made explicit attempts to attract richer forms of state recognition through purposive acts but has continued to do so within post-colonial conditions. Using citizens’ understandings of these struggles, the article explores what drove them, how they manifested and how they unravelled. It draws on Frantz Fanon’s account of misrecognition, making a novel interpretation based on his concept of ‘speaking proper French’, or how experiences of ‘identity alienation’ can only produce further misrecognition.