African states have long been characterized as weak, failed, and corrupt—both in academic writing and by ordinary Africans themselves. Yet, these hallmarks of African governance have also been accompanied by conspicuous resurrection of state activity around certain issues and populations: among them, law and security, entrepreneurial cultivation, and bodies deemed both threatened and threatening. These emergent models of state authority lie somewhere beyond the universalism of the developmentalist welfare state, the radical privatization of neoliberalism, and the utter state failure evoked by Africanist theories of prebendalism and the post-colony.
This panel seeks to reconcile the marked absence of state power and authority in ordinary Africans’ lives, with states’ selective and occasionally spectacular intervention in particular contexts, especially where the very idea of the state evokes more suspicion than confidence. In the uneven landscape of state legitimacy in Africa, how do state agents assert sovereignty in practice, how do people counter these claims, and what logics of governmentality and citizenship emerge in the process? Proposals that provide ethnographic exploration of intensive and even aggressive forms of state intervention (and concomitant challenges to it) are especially encouraged—including but not limited to: special schools and vocational training institutions; amnesty and reintegration programs for militants and soldiers; shelters for women, children, and vulnerable persons; medical mandates and prevention campaigns; and reform and detention centers such as asylums, prisons, and rehabilitation programs.
Please send abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 1.
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