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Accepted Paper:

The committeefication of collective action in Africa: How can we work together to better understand committees and their role in shaping African development?  
Caroline Archambault (Leiden University College) David Ehrhardt (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

Committees have become increasingly important as the governance vehicle through which development is delivered. How can we best organize as a community to keep watch over and better understand this powerful institution mediating African development in the name of democracy and deliberation?

Paper long abstract:

A major transformation in the development industry has been the rise and dominance of community-based approaches and with it the “committeefication” of collective action. Committees have become increasingly important as the governance vehicle through which development is delivered. Throughout the continent, they have come to preside over everything from natural resource management to cultural life, and from peacebuilding to community consultation. In a recent publication (World Development 2022) we justify and launch a call to research, arguing that it is imperative to turn more systematic analytical attention to committees, and assess the extent to which they are delivering development or crippling collective action in the guise of democracy and deliberation. In this paper, using concrete examples from the field, we explore how to organize this collective endeavor. How do we observe and analyze the forms and functions of committees? What concepts do we need to operationalize committees as objects of inquiry and development as their consequence? Which methods are most suited to their comparative study across time and space and in the various systems of collective action that they are part of? As a research community how can we work together, designing and coordinating our research and centralizing our findings. Given their remarkable prominence, much of Africa’s future development seems to be in the hands of committees. Let’s turn a collective eye towards these institutional forms and build a better understanding of how they shape processes of development and social change.

Panel Anth36
African futures and the new boundaries of the anthropology of development and social change
  Session 2 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -