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Beyond failure: exploring the heart of the Malawi state and its future trajectories 
Tanja Hendriks (KU Leuven)
Sam Farrell (University of Cambridge)
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Happy Kayuni (University of Malawi)
Gerhard Anders (University of Edinburgh)
Anthropology (x) Futures (y)
Neues Seminargebäude, Seminarraum 15
Thursday 1 June, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

Like many African states, the Malawi state is often characterized primarily in relation to the things that it failed or fails to do. Looking to the future, this panel is interested in exploring understandings of the Malawi state that move beyond just (moral, political or economic) failure.

Long Abstract:

Determined through a 'good governance' discourse and a limited set of development metrics, with continued corruption scandals surrounding the misuse of public funds, and popular disappointment with unmet expectations of progress, the democratic Malawi state is often framed as a failure. Academics, development practitioners and Malawi citizens have puzzled over why poverty persists, and the promised development and prosperity of democracy has not materialised. In this panel, we welcome contributions that explore understandings of the Malawi state and its future trajectories that look beyond just (moral, political or economic) failure.

We are particularly interested in papers that focus on the specific interactions, practices and relationships that actually produce the Malawi state; exploring what goes on at the heart of it. We use the notion of the heart (mtima, in Chichewa), in a locative sense, but also to point to the potential moral and emotional dimensions of these practices, inner workings and moral worlds of the state. How is the state imagined, enacted and produced? How do civil servants, politicians, NGO-employees and citizens understand its responsibilities? How is its future framed through hope and hopelessness? What is the influence of religion, the economy and politics on these processes and relationships? How do people persist and suspend their own disbelief in success, while dealing with debilitating moral dilemmas on a daily basis? Alternatively, can we think of successes or achievements of the Malawi state? By whom have these been attained, and what, if anything, can we learn from these for the future?

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -
Session 2 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -