This panel aims to investigate reciprocal comparisons between African countries, that have a shared legacy of British colonialism, in which there are two central objectives: to shed new light on each of the cases, but also to generate comparative insights that have a wider application.
How do we generate meaningful general statements about the pursuit of power and the practice of politics in contemporary Africa? One approach is to take concepts such as 'neo-patrimonialism' or 'ethnicity' and to make comparative statements at the continental level, invoking specific examples. A second approach is to dissect a particular country with a view to exposing its internal dynamics, and then scaling up to make more general statements. This panel seeks to explore a third approach which builds on genuinely reciprocal comparisons between African countries, in which there are two central objectives: to shed new light on each of the cases, but also to generate comparative insights that have a wider application. This panel sets out to map and to contrast the trajectories of African states that have a shared legacy of British colonialism. It is interested in questions of (i) how power is configured spatially (from the centre to the margins, and from the national to the local) (ii) the language with which leaders relate to their followers (including specific appeals and symbols) (iii) how institutions function on a daily basis (iv) and how a sense of national difference is articulated. The panel welcomes papers, especially joint contributions, which address such comparisons between two or more cases in an explicit fashion. Each of the contributions should also address the methodological issues involved in engaging in reciprocal comparison.