The Social life of IDs in Côte d’Ivoire: A visual political ethnography | Banégas | Visual Ethnography
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The Social life of IDs in Côte d’Ivoire: A visual political ethnography

Richard Banégas, Armando Cutolo


The photos proposed in our essay come from an ethnographic archive on identification practices in Côte d’Ivoire that we have set up in a long-term research. Côte d’Ivoire has offered us a particularly sensitive context for observing the relationships that connect identification and citizenship. Until the 1990s, the country was famous for its openness to the immigration of foreign laborers. Most of them took part in the cocoa plantation economy, their number raising up to the 28% of the total population in the Nineties. Between 2002 and 2011, however, the country was torn apart by the emergence of nationalism. In the ensuing political and social crisis, claims to the right to documents giving access to citizenship were countered by a fierce ethno-nationalist discourse, that saw identification as a way to ‘unmask’ the ‘foreigners’ surreptitiously seizing Ivorian nationality. Carrying fieldwork in the post-conflict period, we have witnessed the deployment of policies aimed at depoliticizing identification. Biometrics have been used as technological panacea aimed at overcoming the political connotations of identification. Ivorian society, however, seems to implicitly resist this process. Electronic technology of biometrics is countered with the a new popular material culture of paper and writing, namely by producing a multitude of self-made, unofficial, ‘cards’ enunciating the position of individual identities in the social space.


Identification; Registration; Biometry; Citizenship; Côte d’Ivoire

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ISSN Print 2499-9288
ISSN Online 2281-1605
Publisher Edizioni Museo Pasqualino
Patronage University of Basilicata, Italy
Web Salvo Leo

Periodico registrato presso il Tribunale di Palermo con numero di registrazione 1/2023