The panel would like to explore the new forms of dependence in rural Africa. It assesses how current (neo)liberal policies tend to promote individual empowerment and autonomy, and then redefine or reproduce dependence lines amongst peasantries, within agrarian economies and towards the state.
The panel would like to explore the new forms of dependence in rural Africa. In dominantly rural societies, peasants have long been subjected to various systems of dependence (towards the state and/or within their own communities), and dependence has been a means to secure material benefits and a basis for achieving social personhood (Ferguson 2013, 2015). Here, dependence is understood as hierarchical dynamics of subordination governing relations between individuals. People might try to escape from dependence relations, for they openly contradict an emancipatory ideal; they might also seek such unequal links, for they provide security or a means to survive. Current (neo)liberal development policies tend to promote individual empowerment, autonomy and entrepreneurship alike. To what extent do these policies redefine or reproduce dependence lines amongst peasantries, within agrarian economies and towards the state? To what extent do the peasants' daily lives adapt to ideological prescriptions of individual autonomy? Do these changes entail redefinition of equality in rural communities? Rather than offering a comprehensive understanding of peasant dependence, this panel aims at deepening these questions by providing empirical materials. The individualization of land ownership through land titling programmes, the extension of microfinance, the transformation of rural labour, the increased impact of global finance on rural markets, the expansion of both public and private health and education services, or the promotion of social assistance programmes targeting the poorest rural dwellers all take part in the redefinition of dependence bounds.