P131


Popular claim-making, public authority and governance in urban Africa 
Convenor:
Lalli Metsola (University of Helsinki)
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Format:
Panels
Location:
KH209
Start time:
29 June, 2017 at 14:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
1

Short Abstract:

The panel brings together scholars who work on the interaction between popular claims and administrative responses in various African urban and peri-urban contexts, in order to enable systematic comparative debate on their modalities, aesthetics, and consequences.

Long Abstract

The process of rapid urbanization in Africa profoundly changes the conditions of popular claim-making and the ways in which it takes place. Urban contexts provide opportunities for novel forms of grievance, aspiration, organization, communication and belonging, giving rise to regular claims focusing on access to land, services, housing, and security, among others. Such concrete claims tend to be tied to a desire for recognition, justice, and representation. The interplay between popular demands, and administrative and policy responses - making, accommodating and rejecting claims - is instrumental in the production and transformation of institutions of welfare, membership in the political community ('citizenship') and public authority - in other words, state formation.

The panel brings together scholars who work on the interaction between popular claims and administrative responses in various African urban and peri-urban contexts, in order to enable systematic comparative debate on their modalities, aesthetics, and consequences. The panel invites papers that engage these themes through empirically grounded examinations of particular claim-making processes, focusing for example (but not exclusively) on the following:

- the rhetoric of claim-making; who makes claims, how are they made, and in what contexts?;

- notions of desert (i.e. who deserves what) and justice in articulating and rejecting claims;

- the institutional outcomes of claim-making and their accommodation; i.e. the emergence of particular norms, policies, and governmental structures;

- the relationship between claim-making and governance; i.e. how do popular claims contribute to the evolution of particular governance styles, and how do particular ways of making claims stem from existing relations of governance.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Carole Ammann (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Women in Muslim Kankan, Guinea’s second largest city, voice their claims in manifold ways. These political articulations range from invisible influence within the ‘traditional’ political sphere to marching on the streets – when the social, political and economic stakes are especially high.

Paper long abstract:

Women in Muslim Kankan, Guinea's second largest city, voice their claims in manifold ways. These political articulations range from invisible influence within the 'traditional' political sphere to marching on the streets - when the social, political and economic stakes are especially high. In this anthropological contribution, based on one year of fieldwork, I analyse the everyday shaping of statehood by focussing on women's claim-making and their encounters and bargaining with representatives of the local government.

I illustrate why and when women, differentiated along age, ethnic, educational and occupational lines, choose which form of political articulation by drawing on three case studies: First, I describe how widows, by forming a passive network, claim their widow's pensions. Second, I explain what enabled Madame Kanté, a well-connected elderly woman who works within 'civil society' as well as for the local administration, to release a prisoner without respecting local hierarchies and without paying any bribes. Finally, I elaborate on why women's presence within youth's protests gave the latter more legitimacy which then caused the local government to take their concerns more seriously.

In brief, I analyse how women in Kankan evaluate their individual and collective political articulations as well as the outcomes. Further, I discuss when and why their actions enjoy legitimacy in the eyes of other men and women. I argue that Kankan's women know when best to apply which mode of claim-making within the local patriarchal structures.

Author:

Ibrahim Abdullah (Fourah Bay College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is about contestation and transformation from below. Its subject is the urban poor and their quotidian struggles around citizenship in post-colonial Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Paper long abstract:

This paper deals with the archeology of violence and urban exclusion in postcolonial Freetown. It argues that subalterns underwent a double exclusion--from the colonial to the post-colonial--first as natives on the basis of race, and then subsequently, as a marginal social category. Their dogged resistance to structuration from above compels us to rethink the city and the citizenry in new ways that challenge out conception of urbanisation, citizenship and the nation-state in contemporary Africa. It discusses the colonial restrictions from above and the exclusion of natives in the colonial city based on race; examines the post-colonial divide and the reinvention of natives as subalterns within the prism of class; and finally interrogates the monumental changes that continue to make and remake post-war Freetown and the travails of the urban poor.

Author:

Nadine Machikou (University of Yaoundé II)

Paper short abstract:

La communication porte sur la mobilisation de réseaux religieux contre les dysfonctionnements de l’administration publique en s’intéressant aux agents publics pentecôtistes au Cameroun. Cette résistance est envisagée comme produit d’une compétence éthique qui entérine ou conteste l’ordre établi

Paper long abstract:

Dans un contexte de résurgence du religieux que Peter Berger lisait sous les traits d'un réenchantement du monde, la mobilisation de référentiels religieux dans le travail administratif sont un traceur des transformations des sociétés africaines. En fondant une image de soi et du monde mais aussi un modèle de conduite théorisé, la religiosité est un ressort qui est d'une grande portée sur les dynamiques administratives. Cette communication se propose de rendre compte de la rencontre entre réseaux de croyances religieuses, discours et action de résistance dans et sur l'administration publique en s'intéressant aux agents publics pentecôtistes au Cameroun. Qu'il s'agisse de l'invocation de l'intégrité, la dénonciation d'actes de corruption, les appels à la repentance des élites, les sessions de jeûne et prière, etc., les pratiques concrètes de résistances administratives sont envisagées par le biais de la cristallisation d'une compétence éthique. Cette résistance est celle de gens ordinaires au sens d'Eric Hobsbawn ; allie exigence éthique et indocilité au regard des normes et pratiques dominantes dans une société soumise à un pouvoir monolithique et autoritaire. Cette rencontre singulière entre compétence éthique et résistance actualise l'expérience de la violence pratique et symbolique et la demande d'ordre qui traversent des espaces administratifs dominées par les dysfonctionnements et la corruption. Elle est aussi révélatrice de la capacité des croyances religieuses à marquer d'anciennes ou de nouvelles solidarités, à entériner l'ordre établi ou à le réfuter. L'on suivra tout particulièrement la portée administrative des expressions individuelles ou collectives de la piété lorsqu'elles fondent des réseaux.

Author:

Claire Benit-Gbaffou (Wits University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses how policy instruments are being developed by the City of Johannesburg to foster the joint management of urban parks, in the post-apartheid context of neoliberal pressures and yet a strong municipal redistributive mandate, through conflict-ridden engagements with park user groups.

Paper long abstract:

Whilst Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) has stated its strong redistributive objective in post-apartheid Johannesburg, with the rapid development of new urban parks in former Black townships, its operational budgets have remained limited, in the face of many pressing housing and infrastructural needs of the city. Many park users, especially in formerly white and middle classes suburbs, have resorted to form of neighborhood or community management to compensate for JCPZ scarce resources. JCPZ is however attempting to rebuild its mandate over these public spaces, developing a series of policy instruments to respond but also formalize the involvement of park users in the management of urban parks. The paper traces the genealogy of these policy instruments in the making, caught between multiple logics where neoliberal pressures and models, regular engagements with park users marked by contested legitimacies and racial tensions, and the municipal broader transformative agenda, shape the way in which the post-apartheid state redefines its mandate.

Author:

Lalli Metsola (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the various forms of residents’ claim-making over land, services and housing, and official responses to these claims in the urban fringe settlements of Windhoek, Namibia. In particular, it discusses incrementality as a characteristic of both resident strategies and policies.

Paper long abstract:

The research of which this paper forms an early part focuses on the intersection of various forms of residents' claim-making over land, services and housing, and official responses to these claims in the urban fringe settlements - often informal - in Windhoek, Namibia and Gaborone, Botswana. In this connection, the author conducted fieldwork in Windhoek from mid-June to the end of August 2016. The purpose of this paper is to introduce findings from this field trip and to start situating them in the context of broader theoretical debates concerning political subjectivity, public authority, and state formation. The paper seeks, first, to outline the empirical patterns of claim-making, i.e. who the claimants are, to whom and in what forums resident claims are articulated, and how they are justified and reacted to in the Namibian setting characterized by rapid urbanization and widespread unemployment coupled with relatively strong state capacity - and expectations of such - to enhance citizen welfare. Second, the paper discusses incrementality as a characteristic of both resident strategies and policies, and the interplay between the two, pondering on whether, and how, such incremental strategies and policies may be productive of institutionalized forms of relations between citizens and authorities.