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Phronimon

On-line version ISSN 2413-3086

Abstract

MAROVAH, Tendayi. Using the capability approach to conceptualise African identity(ies). Phronimon [online]. 2015, vol.16, n.2, pp. 42-57. ISSN 2413-3086.

In a context where "African identity" is a category that is often homogenised across a vast and diverse continent and beyond, there is a need to interrogate and better understand the concept. The prevalence of migration and cultural exchange in our interconnected world makes it imperative to look beyond race and space as a way of understanding identity, speaking both to sameness and difference. Acknowledging the complexities and the contested nature of identities and in particular, African identity/identities, this paper argues against an essentialised approach to identities in a global context. It explores and builds on arguments for plural identities, mobilising concepts of heterogeneity and plurality, agency and public deliberation from the Capability Approach in order to advance a way of understanding and negotiating identities that allows for a reasoned, flexible and inclusive approach. The Capability Approach is proposed as a generative normative framework which provides an important way to explain and negotiate identities in Africa based on human development grounded in social justice. In doing so, the paper acknowledges an understanding of identity as multifaceted and fluid, and when informed by human development and capabilities, is able to strengthen values like tolerance and accommodation of the "other" on the basis of recognition, respect and equality. I focus on the freedoms, opportunities and choices available for individuals to deliberate on the type of identities or African identities that they value on the assumption that identity is an object of reasoned choice, even though subject to constraints, and that more than one identity choice is possible.

Keywords : African identity; agency; capabilities; citizenship; heterogeneity; public deliberation.

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