- Regional Integration, Identity, and Citizenship in the Greater Horn of Africa ed. by Kidane Mengisteab and Redie Bereketeab
Kidane Mengisteab and Redie Bereketeab’s edited collection, Regional Integration, Identity, and Citizenship in the Greater Horn of Africa, appears at an important moment in which scholars, governments, and, most importantly, citizens of the Horn of Africa are facing extreme economic, political, and humanitarian challenges. To help mitigate many of the ongoing military, economic, and resource-based conflicts that plague the region, Mengisteab and Bereketeab develop a broad conceptualization for how this part of the continent, which the authors term the Greater Horn [End Page 210] Region (GHR), can be reconstructed to promote more “formal integration” (4) of both its citizens and its governments.
Consisting of three sections and featuring ten varied and highly accessible chapters, the collection explores the relevance and possibilities of regional integration from several theoretical approaches, grounded largely in localized political and cultural studies. Ironically, by streamlining the GHR’s often complicated and multifaceted conflicts, this approach unifies the collection, making it fairly cohesive. For example, Redie Bereketeab’s own chapter, “Re-Conceptualizing Identity, Citizenship, and Regional Integration in the Greater Horn Region,” provides a fairly comprehensive yet concise overview of how various theories of citizenship, ranging from the primordialist to the modernist and the postmodernist, may offer important new insights for establishing meaningful political and economic integration across the Horn. In particular, Bereketeab’s discussion of the various possible “economic complementaries” (40), such as the circulation of agricultural products and livestock, provides a useful indication of how states could be encouraged toward a new form of regional integration. Such observations, combined with interpretations of the possible policy implications for both national institutions and the broader public, demonstrate some of the ways in which scholars have begun to reconsider such complex interstate relations in both academic and more practical day-to-day contexts.
In general, the collection’s most intriguing contributions build on the argument that any real attempt to promote regional integration across the GHR must consider the legacies of the postcolonial state in framing issues of “ethnic” conflict, competition over resources, and the very nature of authority. Fowsia Abdulkadir explores some of these ongoing postcolonial dynamics within the chapter “A Diversity Perspective on Identity, Citizenship, and Regional Integration in the Greater Horn Region.” Arguing for the need to critique colonial-era discourses that were essentially replicated in the postcolonial state as “inherited social and cultural hierarchies” (57), Abdulkadir demonstrates how the historical “mismanagement” of ethnic and cultural diversity within Horn societies needs to be dramatically reassessed before any meaningful integrated regional system is established. Abdulkadir’s argument exemplifies part of a major underlying thread of the collection, according to which regional political incorporation and basic social stability have been hindered due to long-standing historical forces. [End Page 211]
Bereketeab himself acknowledges this fact when discussing the “burden of history” in regard to both framing and understanding the problems of regional integration. Likewise, many of the other contributions discuss both the relevance of historical inquiry and the implications of understanding historical context as a means of building and coordinating greater regional integration in the GHR. That being said, it is striking that—despite all of the authors’ references to both history and the varying historical narratives within particular states and ethnic communities—a revised, historically minded approach to regional integration was not included as a stand-alone chapter. A contribution detailing the challenges of framing “history” across the GHR would have helped to better situate the historical contexts of the ethnic and political struggles that are discussed throughout the collection.
Nevertheless, some of the most fascinating contributions are those that pointedly analyze integration challenges while expanding on the significance of historical context and the power of competing national narratives. In particular, Assefaw Bariagaber’s chapter, entitled “Nationalist, Sub-Nationalist, and Region-Wide Narratives and the Quest for Integration-Promoting Narratives in the Greater Horn Region,” demonstrates the high degree to which various conflicts...