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Civic Agency in Africa


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The recent eruption of popular protests across North Africa and the Middle East has reopened academic debate on the meaning and strategies of resistance in the 21st century. This book argues that Western notions of state and civil society provide only a limited understanding of how power and resistance operate in the African context, where informality is central to the way both state officials and citizens exercise agency.
With the principle of informality as a template, the chapters in this volume collectively examine the various modes - organised and unorganised, formal and informal, urban and rural, embodied and discursive, serious and ludic, online and offline, successful and failing - through which Africans contend with power. Resistance takes place against the backdrop of deep fractures in state sovereignty, the remnants of colonial rule and the constraints of a global, neoliberal economic system.

Ebenezer Obadare is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Kansas; Wendy Willems is Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Media Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.


In the year of his death, Patrick Chabal . . . wrote the forward to this edited volume, which celebrates the everyday resilience, strength, and global consciousness of the continent's citizenry. His contribution is a testament to the work's scholarly importance as a beacon of interdisciplinary synergy that promotes ongoing dialogue and understanding by paving empirical pathways that lead to the facts about African resistances. JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY HISTORY

[A] thoughtful and important contribution to the ways in which we view and approach resistance across Africa. AFRICAN STUDIES QUARTERLY A great book. AFRICA REVIEW OF BOOKS

Makes innovative interventions in the debates around how we think about the agency and resilience of ordinary people. ... Reading this book [is] an unusually enjoyable experience. AFRICA

An excellent collection, well-edited and, without exception, well-written. THE JOURNAL OF MODERN AFRICAN STUDIES

A theoretically and empirically rich book [which] serves to update a number of ideas about resistance in Africa. AFRICA AT LSE BLOG


First Published: 20 Feb 2014
13 Digit ISBN: 9781847010865
Pages: 256
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: James Currey
BIC Class: GTB

Details updated on 11 Jan 2016


  • 1  Foreword by Patrick Chabal
  • 2  INTRODUCTION - African resistance in an age of fractured sovereignty by Wendy Willems and Ebenezer Obadare - PART ONE: POST-COLONIAL STATE FORMATION AND PARALLEL INFRASTRUCTURES
  • 3  Global technologies of domination and arts of resistance in Africa: from colonial encounters to the Arab Spring by Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni
  • 4  Citizenship from below: the politics of citizen action and resistance in South Africa and Angola by Bettina von Lieres - PART TWO: EMBODIED MODES OF RESISTANCE AND THE POST-COLONIAL STATE
  • 5  The politics of confinement and mobility: informality, relocations and urban re-making from below by Ilda Lindell and Markus Ihalainen
  • 6  Overcoming socio-economic marginalisation: Young West African hustlers and the reinvention of global capitalism by Basile Ndjio
  • 7  Accepting authoritarianism? Everyday resistance as political consciousness in post-genocide Rwanda by Susan Thomson - PART THREE: POPULAR CULTURE AS DISCURSIVE FORMS OF RESISTANCE
  • 8  Participatory politics in South Africa: social commentary from above and resistance from below by Innocentia J. Mhlambi
  • 9  Laughing at the rainbow's cracks? Blackness, whiteness and the ambivalences of South African stand-up comedy by Grace A. Musila
  • 10  'Beasts of no nation': Resistance and civic activism in Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's music by Jendele Hungbo - PART FOUR: PUBLICS AS EVERYDAY SITES OF RESISTANCE
  • 11  The power of resonance: Music, local radio stations, and the sounds of cultural belonging in Mali by Dorothea E. Schulz
  • 12  Narrating the contested public sphere: Zapiro, Zuma and freedom of expression in South Africa by Daniel Hammett

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