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Making Citizens in Africa Ethnicity, Gender, and National Identity in Ethiopia by Lahra Smith

Making Citizens in Africa Ethnicity, Gender, and National Identity in Ethiopia

Part of the African Studies Series


Making Citizens in Africa Ethnicity, Gender, and National Identity in Ethiopia by Lahra Smith

Smith argues that citizenship creation and expansion is a pivotal part of political contestation in Africa today. Citizenship is a powerful analytical tool to approach political life in contemporary Africa because the institutional and structural reforms of the past two decades have been inextricably linked with the battle over the 'right to have rights'. Professor Lahra Smith's work advances the notion of meaningful citizenship, referring to the ways in which rights are exercised, or the effective practice of citizenship. Using data from Ethiopia and developing a historically informed study of language policy, ethnicity and gender identities, Smith analyzes the contestation over citizenship that engages the state, social movements and individuals in substantive ways. By combining original data on language policy in contemporary Ethiopia with detailed historical study and a focus on ethnicity, citizenship and gender, this work brings a fresh approach to Ethiopian political development and contemporary citizenship concerns across Africa.


'Smith examines the substantial expansion of what she calls 'meaningful citizenship'
in the country since the 1970s, by which she means the actual exercise of rights inscribed in formal institutions but too often ignored

... One particularly worthwhile chapter narrates the evolution of the role of ethnicity in Ethiopian politics and includes a nuanced analysis of the interaction between cultural norms and formal institutions in shaping the role of women in the country.
Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs

'Ethiopia's policies of ethnic federalism have generated a great deal of analysis and debate among scholars. Lahra Smith develops the concept of 'meaningful citizenship'
to make a valuable intervention in these debates

... Smith's conception of 'meaningful citizenship
and attention to gender are valuable contributions to scholarship of Ethiopia and African politics, and her balanced accounts of Ethiopia

's history and politics provide a very useful introduction for students who are new to the Ethiopian case.'
Daniel Mains, African Studies Review

About the Author

Lahra Smith is Assistant Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She has written extensively on ethnic identity, elections and political reform, and gender and politics in Africa. Her research has been published in The Journal of Modern African Studies, Democratization and policy briefs for organizations such as the United States Institute of Peace. She has received grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Fulbright-Hays program. In 2010 she was the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Ethnicity and Multicultural Citizenship at Queen's University, Canada. She has also worked for USAID in Kenya and Ethiopia.

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Book Info

Publication date

20th May 2013


Lahra Smith

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Cambridge University Press


276 pages


Constitution: government & the state



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