Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

Modern States and Forms of Infra-State Mobilisation


Number of visits: 1534

After independence, the construction of the modern nation-state was the main objective of post-colonial governments in most African countries. It was an objective pursued in order to move the citizens of these nations beyond multiple senses of belonging and allegiances to unite them in a single national framework in which the legitimacy and the exercise of central power would be assured

In the early post-independence years, there was rapid socio-economic development and a widening of the areas of influence of the state in most African countries. This nation-building project, after a brief democratic spell, was accompanied by a gradual shrinking of the political space and a monopolisation of the same space by the state and its single party regimes. The state increasingly overthrew the existing actors and institutions inherited from the independence struggle, entrenching itself at the core of local political and social spaces and thus establishing itself as the agent of change and social and political development. This dominance was influenced by the religious, ethnic or social heterogeneity of the local population.

However, the post-colonial state did not completely succeed in imposing its hegemony on all the processes and structure of society. Indeed, there were groups that were able to resist the attempt at the monopolisation of the political space by the elite that inherited power after independence. In time, this resistance both overt and covert took the form of direct, wide-ranging challenges to the nation-state project.

The most important challenges to the state were to emanate from a population supposedly submissive to its modernising project. Confronted by the increasingly repressive control of the post-colonial state, the urban and rural populations developed a verity of resistance strategies, some peaceful, some violent; These strategies, of protests against the state seem aimed at constructing alternative political, social and economic mechanisms that could replace or tame those imposed by the state. The mobilisation of communal, regional, generational, gender, religious, ethnic and other identities to challenge the nation-state also foud resonance within the structures of the state. Across Africa, there is a resurgence of ethnic, youth, gender, religious and regional mobilisation in support of political projects for the re-structuring of the foundations of the post-colonial nation-state project. Within this framework, various ’traditional’ resources and networks are being re-discovered and valorised, including the role of ’traditional’ elites. Also, in the context of the prolonged economic crisis on the continent and the retrenchment of the social reach of the state, the identity discourses that are taking place have also tended to overlap with livelihood strategies of various sections of the populace.

The 2002 session of the institute attempted to explore the various dimensions of the challenges which are confronting the post-colonial nation-state, the sources of the challenges, and the various experiments which are going on at managing them whether these be state-based or not.

December 28 2009