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Diasporic Politics, Transnational Media Circulation, and the Multifocality of Côte d'Ivoire



This article proposes a framework of “multifocality” to think about the role of place within the national political cultures of postcolonies with active migrant and diasporic communities abroad. I build my argument on an ethnographic exploration of political activism among networks of Ivorians living in North America, Europe, and Africa during the last twelve years of civil strife in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. Tracing media circulation and political party organizing within and across several continents, I show how the political culture of the Ivorian nation arises, exists, and is negotiated within a number of non-connected places (multiple foci) both within and beyond the official territory of the nation-state. Activists and government officials travel to, live in, and shape sites within a number of nation-state territories in order to be in the middle of Ivorian politics. My analysis underscores the need for more theoretical attention to the specific and often uneven ways in which the political structures of many postcolonies are being re-territorialized through transnational forms of public culture. The recent conflict in Côte d'Ivoire—a conflict centered around questions of national belonging based on people's relationships with the national territory—offers a particularly interesting case study through which to think about relationships between national political communities and nation-state territories. As participants mobilize resources in certain locations while dodging place-based limitations of others, the multifocality of Ivorian political discourse emerges as key to its negotiation.