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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.135

Kinship in Sudanic Africa: Fiction of"tribe", "clan" and "tribal\clanic" solidarity


  • Dr. Nikolay DOBRONRAVIN

Primary authors


The concepts of ""tribe"" and ""clan"" have been widely used throughout Sudanic Africa or in reference to this region. Both “tribes” and “clans” have been seen as kinship-centered entities cemented by “tribal” or “clanic” solidarity among their members. Such perception of kinship does not, however, hold up at a closer look. Fiction of ""tribe"", ""clan"" and ""tribal\clanic"" solidarity is discussed in the paper within the context of Islamic and European legal and political terminology. Islamic terminology explicitly includes the term “tribe” (qabīla). The concept of “tribal” solidarity has been present in Sudanic Africa for several centuries. In the colonial period, the European authorities divided the local population in “tribes”, “clans” and even “sub-clans”. Most post-colonial African states then retained this terminology, supported by various foreign sources and scholars. The entities referred to as “tribes” or “clans” do exist, but in a rather vague, imprecise way. They may be defined as communities based on some real (“by blood”) or fictitious (“Yemenite”, etc.) kinship. Participation in such entities is connected to a kind of “tribal” or “clanic” solidarity between their members. This solidarity may become an element of unity, but not necessarily, mostly in the time of conflicts with neighbours or the authorities.