This article explores the ways in which the Ivoirian Land Code of 1998 has played into political debates around national citizenship that have divided Ivoirian society since the 1990s. The attempts to reinterpret public policies on land and immigration have played a crucial role in exacerbating the political crisis of nationalism. When land was linked to nationality and indigeneity, the land question became significant in determining the boundaries of nationality, since to gain security in property rights Ivoirian nationality had to be proved. The article traces how land policy has been transformed from an inclusive framework that encouraged the rapid expansion of the cocoa and coffee frontiers in the 1970s to an exclusionary policy rooted in concepts of nationalism and autochthony, as land became increasingly scarce in the south-west. The Land Code of 1998 endorsed this nationalism, preventing foreigners and their descendants from owning land. Through an example of a conflict in Tabou in which Burkinabé migrants were ejected from the land, the article shows how customary land values have been recreated to take on nationalistic, xenophobic values, according to which ethnic identities become conflated with distinctions between ‘indigenous’ and ‘foreign’, and land relations are defined as between ethnic groups rather than being contractual relations between individuals belonging to different groups: thus social identities become more exclusive.