Social Mobility in Times of Crisis - Militant Youth and the Politics of Impersonation in Côte d'Ivoire 2002-2011

Published on


This paper explores critical aspects of the agency of youngsters in situations of crisis. Throughout the political-military conflict in Côte d‟Ivoire (2002-2011), the patriotic militias were the locus of extensive networking and, to the extent that this was informed by political or ideological choices, vast enterprises of civil society building. In this paper, I focus on the performative and social dimension of youth militia activity: (a) the sustained attempts by youngsters to insinuate themselves into the armed forces by "impersonation", and (b) the wider and often intricate processes of networking and hierarchism within which these persistent pursuits of social mobility took place. Rather than to capture the wider transformations triggered by these processes in narrow analytical concepts such as "brutalisation" and "militianisation", this paper considers them to be the contingent outcome of competencies, mobility, and creativity of youngsters whose performative, social, and physical trajectories transform public life. This paper thus seeks to make the point that the long post-war (post-2002), or rather pre-peace, multiplication of militias and their growing impact on social and political life, constituted a protracted, multifaceted and multi-sited process which we can productively begin to disentangle in terms of social mobility albeit of a juvenile and subaltern kind.


Karel Arnaut

Available languages