Existing accounts of resistance in Africa often neutralise the exogenous constraints on the agency of Africans and the sovereignty of the nation-state. Drawing on interdisciplinary cases from Africa, this panel explores a wider range of forms of civic agency in an age of 'fractured sovereignty'.
Conventional analyses of African politics have often either adopted an oppositional state-centred or society-centred approach in which the state is either rubbished or society celebrated. On the one hand, gloomy political scientists have framed the African state through accounts of widespread corruption and misgovernance which were thought to be partly a product of African cultural, clientelist practices. On the other hand, upbeat anthropologists have frequently conceptualised African subjectivity as the creative manner in which Africans circumvented the negative economic impact that accompanied the turn to a neoliberal policy paradigm. Our concern in this panel is that both these doom scenarios and largely celebratory accounts of agency and resistance in Africa have almost neutralised the ever-present exogenous constraints — represented for example by the restrictions imposed by Africa's colonial legacy, the international financial institutions, and global power relations more broadly — on the agency of individual Africans as well as on the sovereignty of the nation-state. Drawing on a number of interdisciplinary case studies from different parts of Africa, this panel explores a wide range of forms of civic agency in an age of what we call 'fractured sovereignty'. The panel clearly situates these forms within a global, regional and national socio-economic and political framework, hereby attempting to contribute to a better understanding of processes of 'social change actually taking place' on the continent (Chabal 2009: 11).