Accepted paper:

Creating social order in Somaliland: Policing as institutional bricolage

Authors:

Toke Møldrup Wolff (Copenhagen University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the formal and informal practices negotiated in the daily encounters between the ‘traditional’ clan-based legal system and the state’s police institutions in Somaliland. These practices exemplify institutional bricolage, the amalgamation of seemingly competing visions of justice.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates how competing ideas of law and order are negotiated in a context of legal pluralism. Specifically, the paper explores the formal and informal practices negotiated in the daily encounters between the 'traditional' clan-based legal system, the Xeer, and the state's police institutions in Somaliland. The case study illuminates how social order is created and enforced as the state's uniformed personnel seeks to establish a power base in a small village in Somaliland, which has traditionally been governed by clan authorities. In this interface, opposing approaches to ideas of power, governance, the state and order are amalgamated and incorporated into a dynamic legal framework. Within academia as well as in common parlance, the act of policing is habitually described in the context of formal police institutions, implying an intimate relationship between policing and the state. Based on doctoral research in rural Somaliland, this paper suggests a much more complex reality; the act of policing is a contested social activity performed by multiple actors and at several institutional levels within - as well as outside - the auspices of the state. The paper considers the act of policing as institutional bricolage; the marriage of formal and informal institutional practices coming together to 'get the job done' in far-away places beyond the realm of formal state institutions. Essentially, this paper broadens the discourse on policing by discussing how order is being shaped in 'sites of contestation' where competing actors claiming legal authority seek to implement opposing normative ideas.

panel P202
Taking rules seriously: Between formality and informality in African bureaucracies