African higher education has been the site of repeated contestations over identity. Higher education institutions, as spaces made up of individuals claiming a diversity of identities, are susceptible to conflict when identities are influenced by politicians and paramilitary groups seeking to advance their political agendas on campus through the use of ethnic, religious, and nationalist rhetoric. This qualitative case study of a university in Côte d’Ivoire explored how students engaged in violent political student union activities on campus constructed and enacted their identities through the lens of self-authorship. Findings suggest that student identities are context-dependent and change according to the observer; that self-authorship is difficult due to highly politicized external formulas and social structures; and that, without student support services, vulnerable students may succumb to violent identity enactment and discourse mechanisms.
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