Political Identity and Conflict in Central Angola, 1975–2002 by Justin Pearce

Justin Pearce, (DPhil in Politics, 2007) has had a book on political identity in Angola published by Cambridge University Press.


Political Identity and Conflict in Central Angola, 1975–2002 examines the internal politics of the war that divided Angola for more than a quarter-century after independence. While most studies of the war have focused on the external linkages of the conflict, the book’s emphasis is on Angolan people’s relationship to the rival political forces whose enmity prevented the development of a united nation. Justin Pearce’s argument is based on original interviews with farmers and town dwellers, soldiers and politicians in Central Angola. He uses these to examine the ideologies about nation and state that elites deployed in pursuit of hegemony, and traces how people responded to these efforts at politicisation. The material presented here demonstrates the power of the ideas of state and nation in shaping perceptions of self-interest and determining political loyalty. Yet the book also shows how political allegiances could and did change in response to the experience of military force. In so doing, it brings the Angolan case to the centre of debates on conflict in post-colonial Africa and poses questions about the relationship between nation, state and political formations.

Justin Pearce, a graduate of the University of Cape Town, worked as a journalist for more than a decade before enrolling for the MSc in African Studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford in 2006, and then studying for a DPhil in Politics from 2007 to 2011. His new book is based largely on research conducted for his DPhil. The idea for the book, and his interest in Lusophone Africa, can be traced back to the two years he lived in Angola as a reporter for the BBC at the end of the civil war. The interviews that he conducted during that time, with people who had a strong sense of themselves as Angolan despite having had no contact with the Angolan state, raised the questions about political and national identity that he explores his book. Justin is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Cambridge.

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