Interactivity and the formation of figures of legitimate authority in Africa
Florence Brisset-Foucault (IMAF)
Start time:
27 June, 2013 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel explores the negotiation of claims to legitimate authority in Africa. It considers spheres of interaction between "citizens" and "leaders", how they reflect and shape practices and trajectories of leadership, and expectations about the appropriate qualities of leaders.

Long abstract:

The panel considers the implications of the multiplication, privatization and growing recognition of spheres within which people are supposed to "have a voice" and enter dialogue with those assuming the mantle of legitimate authority. Relevant spheres might include chiefly audiences, religious ceremonies, village, town hall and market-place meetings, rallies, development workshops, and radio and television call-in shows. "Participatory" and "interactive" instances have often been studied in their "horizontal" dimension, typically evaluating how "inclusive" they are. Their "vertical" effects and implications, however, have been neglected. A key ambition of this panel is to fill this gap by focusing attention on what the content of discussions and the rituals of dialogue between "leaders" and "commoners" reveal about changes and continuities in how Africans assess socio-political hierarchies. It aims at understanding how 1) political, social or religious control 2) the right to claim a representative function in relation to particular constituencies 3) the "interior architectures of civic virtue", the attributes of honour and authority are practiced, thought, formed, debated and negotiated; 4) how much "interaction" allows for social mobility - in other words how fluid or entrenched are the categories of "elite", "ordinary person", "citizen" and "leader". The organisers welcome papers based on ethnographic research, and/or innovative theoretical discussion of the categories usually used to discuss leadership, authority, such as "big man" (Medard), "notability" and "charisma" (Weber), "figures de la réussite" (Banégas and Warnier), "accountability" (Lonsdale), and theories of participatory and representative democracy (Manin for example).