(Re-)Making Somali State(s): Dimensions of Territorial Ordering and

12th Somali Studies International Association (SSIA) Congress
Revisiting Somali Identities – Addressing Gender, Generation and Belonging
(Re-)Making Somali State(s):
Dimensions of Territorial Ordering and Political Identification
Dr Markus Hoehne (University of Leipzig)
E-mail: [email protected]
Faduma Abukar Mursal (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
E-mail: [email protected]
Prof. Lee Cassanelli (University of Pennsylvania)
E-mail: [email protected]
The question of nation-state formation has been widely debated in the Somali case, from the early
post-colonial period onward. Initially, Somalis were considered a ‘nation in search of state’ (Laitin
and Samatar (1987). More recently, the Somali situation was complicated by state failure, flight and
the ‘radical localization’ of politics inside collapsed Somalia (Menkhaus 1998); simultaneously the
Somali nation became profoundly globalized (Gundel 2002). This poses the question which identity
and territorial constructions would underpin the future Somali state(s).
Political identities in the Somali setting have usually been envisioned as one-dimensional. Patrilineal
descent (‘clan’) and more recently Islam, were considered the main bases of collective identity
formation and the foundation on which a state should be (re-)build (as reflected in the 4.5-formula
underlying the TNG and the TFG, or the ideology of the Islamic Courts). However, careful analyses
show that clan and Islam are aspects of a bigger reservoir of possible identifications that can be
mobilized in particular situations. Categories such as gender, age, local/diasporic and class-belonging
or elite membership play a role in this regard. Moreover, the global dispersal and the resulting
transnational political dynamics facilitated new identifications and the introduction of new political
ideas. Therefore, discussing the issue of contemporary Somali state (re-)making requires a broad and
flexible approach.
The panel addresses these issues by paying special attention to dynamics of political identities and
questions of territorial political ordering. For this, we consider ‘state formation’ as ‘the multitude of
discrete operations, procedures and representations in which [state] appears in the everyday life of
ordinary people’ (Hansen and Stepputat 2001). We argue that although the central state has long
been weak, manifold imaginations of state pervade identity discourses of Somalis worldwide and
also found their expression in new territorial arrangements in the Somali peninsula.
More specifically, this panel aims at analyzing the ways in which Somali actors appropriate meanings
of the state, and to what extent this plays out in structuring their political identities and territorial
political orders. We argue that for many Somalis around the globe, the Somali state including more
recent political entities, such as Somaliland and Puntland, is a central factor in their identity-related
discourse. The papers in this panel illustrate how particular social agents define what Somali state(s)
refer(s) to and how this reflects their current interests and needs. They discuss local, regional or
(trans-)national state formation by negotiating political orders and experimenting with territorial
constructions of state(s); this of course also involves engagement with external policies toward the
Somali setting by neighboring states or the international community.