Youth, Islam and changing identities in Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire
This Ph.D. thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out amongst Muslims of Malian origin in Bouaké, Côte d'lvoire, between February 1993 and June 1995. The dissertation is concerned with the description of processes of identification in the context of urban life and international migration within West Africa. The investigation focused on these processes as they unfold in Islamic youth associations, female place-of-origin associations, madrasas (Islamic schools), and compound life. Marriage practices, the sociohistorical construction of age groups and gender, and the negotiation of differing worldviews are central to the analysis. In the thesis I argue that in the contemporary sociopolitical scene in Côte d'lvoire, Muslims of Malian origin identify with two ensembles of ethnic labels: the Dioula label and several identity labels tied to places of origin in Mali. However, for a number of young men and women, Islam, rather than ethnicity, plays a central role in their self-identity and their sense of belonging. This argument requires an examination of the respective influences of the life course and of patterns of social change in these processes of identification. In order to support this argument, I describe the politics of identity in Côte d'lvoire in the post-Houphouët-Boigny period, elements of social change over the past thirty years affecting Islamic institutions and the educational trajectories of young men and women, and the logic of marriage practices in an urban setting marked by ethnic heterogeneity. The empirical chapters of the thesis analyse versions of Islam produced within Islamic youth associations and the negotiation of conflicting worldviews in the life trajectories of Muslim women.