This article explores how physical movement and political mobility have been central to different forms of loyalty and critique that have historically underpinned political authority in the Sahara. After outlining several expressions of loyalty characteristic of political authority in the Sahara and their interrelationship with movement and mobility, the article focuses on the figure of the ‘a'id, or returnee, a subject position that has been produced by the conflict between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic state-in-exile. Defined as someone who leaves Sahrawi refugee camps and “returns” to Morocco, the ‘a'id has been associated with betrayal and opportunism since emerging as a subject position near the end of armed conflict in the late 1980s. As the significance of this subject position has changed, the article considers how the ‘a'id illustrates the politics of disidentification for those subjected to the binaries of prolonged nationalist conflict.

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