Building on an understanding of the state as an ongoing and contested performance, this panel explores how national narratives are created, transformed and contested, to uphold or disrupt what the state stands for in different political contexts across the African continent.
The idea of the state remains contested in many parts of the African continent: Political elites, opposition parties, rebel groups, and 'the international community' can tell radically different stories of what a specific political community stands for or should become. Building on an understanding of the state as an ongoing and contested performance, this panel explores the politics of national narratives in Africa. National narratives are inherently political. They are used to connect images of a political community's past, present and future, and to provide a sense of continuity and purpose, silencing events and representations that threaten the foundational narratives of the state. They are drawn upon to legitimise domestic policies and can shape how a state engages with its international environment. At the same time, dominant narratives are always open to contestation and can be a site of political struggle. This panel will bring together papers that explore how dominant national narratives - and counter-narratives - are constituted and contested in African politics, and what they make possible; the forms of governance and international engagement they legitimise, challenge, and/or seek to naturalise. It invites papers that critically engage with the idea of 'the African state'. They can focus either on contemporary politics or historical perspectives.