Political participation and micro-politics in African states
Panel Convenor: Tareq Sydiq, Center for Conflict Studies at the University of Marburg.
This panel focuses on studies contributing to African micro-politics as rooted in communities and
lifeworlds. It does so through case studies examining the relationship of micro-politics with the
state’s political and bureaucratic institutions.
Recent studies on African Statehood and Statebuilding have illustrated inadequacies in
conceptualizing politics around a unified, institutionalized state and have developed understandings
of politics as a multidirectional process rooted in social communities and lifeworlds as much as
political and bureaucratic institutions associated with the state. This is especially urgent in postcolonial
states, which face institutions weakly associated with societies, but not necessarily weak
societies or social engagement, as well as authoritarian states, which in regulating institutionalized
politics push political processes outside of official channels. These findings raise important questions
for research on African politics: How do people pursue political interests, when institutions
conventionally understood to accumulate such interests fail to do so both intentionally and due to
inadequacies? And are they building alternative social institutions?
Political institutions are regarded beyond the nation state; international institutions and actors
provide similar points of access to Africans pursuing political goals and can be used strategically,
while also exerting repressive power on multiple levels. With international organizations, NGOs,
foreign states and regional organizations present, political, military and economic power is
multiscalar, requiring multiscalar strategies in dealing with them. This panel thus invites
contributions which focus on empirically showing how Africans pursue political goals within
challenging institutional frameworks. Especially encouraged are Sociological or Anthropological case
studies which shift attention away from institutional logics of state building toward citizen’s
strategies in dealing with existing institutions to work with, circumvent or subvert them. It
encourages theoretical papers discussing whether informal politics and social institutions have the
capacity to offer alternatives to conventional states, explaining enduring challenges to expansive
institutions while providing a possible vision of a non-statist state.