About us

Elia Vitturini

Elia VitturiniI started to study Somali politics as an undergraduate student. For my master dissertation, I carried out field research in Hargeysa, Somaliland between December 2011 and May 2012. My aim was to investigate youth political participation through an analysis of the inner life of political parties. I explored contexts such as NGOs, universities, cafés and meeting points where youths build up their trajectories of political participation. In January 2014, I started a now research poject on Somaliland marginal groups as part of the PhD program in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Milan-Bicocca.





Research Project: “Saab in Somaliland: Socio-Political Marginality and Inclusion after the 1990s Collapse of the Somali State.”

Looking at Somalia from the standpoint of the legacy of slavery – as Catherine Besteman has shown – unravels patterns of inequality and exclusion that the classic representations of Somali society in terms of egalitarism overlooked. My aim is to extend Besteman’s theoretical insights to specific forms of social marginalization historically rooted in the northwestern area of the late Republic of Somalia: the self-declared and so-far unrecognized state of Somaliland, born out of the 1990s civil war that caused the collapse of the Somali state. The target groups are the ‘Saab’, whom the Somalilanders explicitly define as "marginalised". These groups are genealogically organised following the Somali system but segregated to specific stigmatized professions and excluded from marriage exchange with members of other clans.

I will trace the historical trajectory of Saab groups through ethnographic literature and oral history. Then, the investigation of political subjectivity (in the context of a multi-party system and of an under-construction statehood) and economic positions filled by "marginalised groups" will help me understand the actualization of a structured hierarchy and of devalued configurations of humanity in today’s Somalilander community, and its possible connections with past and present forms of labour exploitation and social discrimination.