Urban inequalities and the identity-to-politics link in the Netherlands and Nigeria

Main Article Content

Floris Vermeulen


This article examines urban inequalities and minority politics in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Jos (Nigeria). Though advanced democracies are considered to be generally more egalitarian than their emergent counterparts, there is very little, if any, scholarly attention dedicated to understanding the specific ways in which the dimensions and parameters of inequalities resemble or contrast between the two contexts. Moreover, while there is growing interest in the identity-to-politics link among urban groups, there is very little comparative sense of how the processes play out across different contexts. Based on a critical analysis of theoretical and empirical perspectives, we show that in Amsterdam, an anti-Muslim discourse, rather than group level inequalities, led to the politicization of immigrant groups. In Jos, however, minority politics is driven by a strong overlap between ascribed identities and inequalities. Though the identity-to-politics link is characterised by a complex set of processes in both cases, the outcomes vary. While minority groups in Amsterdam articulate and pursue their interests within the confines of a well-regulated political space, parties in Jos deploy violent strategies in pursuing their interests because of the prevalence of weak institutions and an unregulated political space that operates on a winner-takes-all logic. The conclusion reiterates a few key insights derived from this cross-fertilization.

Article Details

Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Floris Vermeulen, University of Amsterdam

Dr. Floris Vermeulen is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. He has been co-director of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES). His research focuses primarily on the civic and political participation of immigrants on the local level among other things. His work is published in several international volumes and journals such as Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Political Psychology, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Urban Studies, West European Politics, British Journal of Sociology and Terrorism and Political Violence.


Adamolekun, L., Erero, J., & Oshionebo, B. (1991). “Federal Character” and Management of the Federal Civil Service and the Military. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 21(4), 75-88.

Afigbo, A. E. (1991). Background to Nigerian federalism: Federal features in the colonial state. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 21(4), 13-29.

Beall, J., Crankshaw, O., & Parnell, S. (2000). Local government, poverty reduction and inequality in Johannesburg. Environment and Urbanization, 12(1), 107-122.

Bradley, D., Huber, E., Moller, S., Nielsen, F., & Stephens, J. D. (2003). Distribution and redistribution in postindustrial democracies. World Politics, 55(2), 193-228.

Breton, R. (1964). Institutional completeness of ethnic communities and the personal relations of immigrants. American journal of Sociology, 70(2), 193-205.

Brubaker, R. (2017). Between nationalism and civilizationism: the European populist moment in comparative perspective. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(8), 1191-1226.

Cassiers, T., & Kesteloot, C. (2012). Socio-spatial inequalities and social cohesion in European cities. Urban Studies, 49(9), 1909-1924.

Chaddha, A., & Wilson, W. J. (2011). “Way down in the hole”: systemic urban inequality and The Wire. Critical Inquiry, 38(1), 164-188.

Chossudovsky, M. (2003). The globalization of poverty and the new world order (Vol. 2). Montreal, CA: Global Research.

Davis, T. J., & Kalu-Nwiwu, A. (2001). Education, ethnicity and national integration in the history of Nigeria: Continuing problems of Africa's colonial legacy. The Journal of Negro History, 86(1), 1-11.

Author (2016).

De Koning, A. (2017). ‘Handled with care’: Diffuse policing and the production of inequality in Amsterdam. Ethnography, 18(4), 535-555.

Dill, B., & Crow, B. (2014). The colonial roots of inequality: Access to water in urban East Africa. Water International, 39(2), 187-200.

Dollar, D. (2001). Globalization, inequality, and poverty since 1980. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Fafunwa, A. B. (2018). History of education in Nigeria. Routledge.

Falola, T., & Heaton, M. M. (2008). A history of Nigeria. Cambridge University Press

Fennema, M., & Tillie, J. (1999). Political participation and political trust in Amsterdam: civic communities and ethnic networks. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 25(4), 703-726.

Fourchard, L. (2015). Bureaucrats and indigenes: Producing and bypassing certificates of origin in Nigeria. Africa, 85(1), 37-58.

Glaeser, E. L., Resseger, M., & Tobio, K. (2015). Urban inequality. In Justice for all: promoting social equity in public administration (pp. 98-121). Routledge.

Glaeser, E. L., Resseger, M., & Tobio, K. (2008). Urban inequality National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series, Cambridge MA (accessed at https://www.nber.org/papers/w14419.pdf on 23 September, 2019).

Higazi, A. (2007). The politics of urban violence in Jos (Plateau State, Nigeria), from colonial rule to the 2007 elections. Politique africaine, (2), 69-91.

Iversen, T., & Cusack, T. R. (2000). The causes of welfare state expansion: deindustrialization or globalization?. World politics, 52(3), 313-349.

Kendhammer, B. (2014). Citizenship, federalism and powersharing: Nigeria's federal character and the challenges of institutional design. Ethnopolitics, 13(4), 396-417.

Kennedy, C. (2011). The evolution of great world cities: Urban wealth and economic growth. University of Toronto Press.

Kijima, Y. (2006). Why did wage inequality increase? Evidence from urban India 1983–99. Journal of Development Economics, 81(1), 97-117.

Kloosterman, R. C. (1996). Double Dutch: polarization trends in Amsterdam and Rotterdam after 1980. Regional Studies, 30(5), 467-476.

Author (2018)
Kraxberger, B. (2005). Strangers, indigenes and settlers: contested geographies of citizenship in Nigeria. Space and polity, 9(1), 9-27.

Lawhon, M., Ernstson, H., & Silver, J. (2014). Provincializing urban political ecology: Towards a situated UPE through African urbanism. Antipode, 46(2), 497-516.

Lee, T. (2007). From shared demographic categories to common political destinies: immigration and the link from racial identity to group politics. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 4(2), 433-456.

Lee, T. (2008). Race, immigration, and the identity-to-politics link. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci., 11, 457-478.

Li, Q., & Reuveny, R. (2003). Economic globalization and democracy: An empirical analysis. British Journal of Political Science, 33(1), 29-54.

Lloyd, P. C. (1974). Power and Independence: urban Africans' perception of social inequality (p. 248). London: Routledge & K. Paul.

Lovejoy, P. E. (1979). The characteristics of plantations in the nineteenth-century Sokoto Caliphate (Islamic West Africa). The American Historical Review, 84(5), 1267-1292.

Author, (2019)

Author (2018)

Author & Author (2018)

Author (2013).

Miraftab, F. (2012). Colonial present: legacies of the past in contemporary urban practices in Cape Town, South Africa. Journal of Planning History, 11(4), 283-307.

Mustapha, A. R. (1986). The national question and radical politics in Nigeria. Review of African Political Economy, 13(37), 81-96.

Mustapha, A. R. (1986). The national question and radical politics in Nigeria. Review of African Political Economy, 13(37), 81-96.

Musterd, S., Marcińczak, S., Van Ham, M., & Tammaru, T. (2017). Socioeconomic segregation in European capital cities. Increasing separation between poor and rich. Urban Geography, 38(7), 1062-1083.

Myers, G. A. (2010). Seven themes in African urban dynamics. Nordiska Afrikainstitutet.

O'connor, A., Tilly, C., & Bobo, L. (Eds.). (2001). Urban inequality: Evidence from four cities. Russell Sage Foundation.

Penvenne, J. M. (1995). African workers and colonial racism: Mozambican strategies and struggles in Lourenço Marques, 1877-1962 (p. 467). Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Prempeh, E. O. K. (2017). Against global capitalism: African social movements confront neoliberal globalization. Routledge.

Rugman, A. M. (1980). Internalization theory and corporate international finance. California Management Review, 23(2), 73-79.

Sayne, A. (2012) ”Rethinking Nigeria’s Indigene-Settler Conflicts” United States Institute for Peace (USIP) Special Report https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/resources/SR311.pdf

Sassen, S. (1991). The global city. New York.

Sassen, S. (1994). Global city. New York, London, Tokyo: Princeton University Press.
Sassen, S. (2002). Locating cities on global circuits. Environment and urbanization, 14(1), 13-30.
Swinnen, J. F. (Ed.). (2007). Global supply chains, standards and the poor: how the globalization of food systems and standards affects rural development and poverty. Cabi.

Tillie, J. (2004). Social capital of organisations and their members: explaining the political integration of immigrants in Amsterdam. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 30(3), 529-541.

Ukiwo, U. (2005). The study of ethnicity in Nigeria. Oxford Development Studies, 33(1), 7-23.

Umar, M. S. (2006). Islam and Colonialism: intellectual responses of Muslims of Northern Nigeria to British colonial rule (Vol. 5). Brill.

Van der Leun, J. P., & van der Woude, M. A. (2011). Ethnic profiling in the Netherlands? A reflection on expanding preventive powers, ethnic profiling and a changing social and political context. Policing and society, 21(4), 444-455.

Van der Waal, J., & Burgers, J. (2009). Unravelling the global city debate on social inequality: A firm-level analysis of wage inequality in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Urban Studies, 46(13), 2715-2729.

Van Kempen, R., & Murie, A. (2009). The new divided city: Changing patterns in European cities. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 100(4), 377-398.

Verick, S. (2006). The impact of globalization on the informal sector in Africa. Economic and Social Policy Division, United Nations Economic Cat Commission for Africa, 88.

Author (2014)

Author (2014).

Author (2019).

Author (2012)

Weatherspoon, D., Cacho, J., & Christy, R. (2001). Linking globalization, economic growth and poverty: impacts of agribusiness strategies on sub-Saharan Africa. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 83(3), 722-729.

Wilson, W. J., & Aponte, R. (1985). Urban poverty. Annual Review of Sociology, 11(1), 231-258.

Wilson, W. J. (2003). Race, class and urban poverty: A rejoinder. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 26(6), 1096-1114.

Wilson, W. J. (1999). When work disappears: New implications for race and urban poverty in the global economy. Ethnic and racial studies, 22(3), 479-499.

Wilson, W. J. (2012). The truly disadvantaged: The inner city, the underclass, and public policy. University of Chicago Press.

Wilson, W. J. (2003). Race, class and urban poverty: A rejoinder. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 26(6), 1096-1114.