Informations and abstract
Although the 1998-2000 ethio-eritrean border war seemed to be surprisingly sudden and puzzling to the international community, this article argues that it was neither unexpected nor astonishing. Rather, as the roots of the boundary dispute lie in the colonial past - between 1897 and 1980, when the boundary line was defined - the article survey the tension between formal, western-declined, Italian policies of territoriality and local everyday social and cultural practices all along the frontier. The attitudes of the Italian district officers as well as those of the local chiefs and of the borderlands communities are analysed, providing a picture from below of the impact of territoriality over identity processes. Therefore, the article pulls out an answer, however tentative and provisional, that links the evolving political and symbolical influence of the ethio-eritrean border to the building up of the modern Eritrean national identity.