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The Postcolonial African State in Transition


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Table of Contents

1. Stateness as civilizational discourse: political history as state ideology / 2. The Trail of the Horse: Statelessness and the Ethics of State Inhibition / 3. The impermanence of territoriality: Statelessness and the Constitution of 'the political' / 4. Encounter and Metamorphoses: statization and centralization in Moogo / 5. Rituals as Political References / 6. The State in Transition: A recapitulation

About the Author

Amy Niang teaches International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Sao Paulo.


Amy Niang has written a book on the African state unlike any before it. It effectively argues that scholarship on the African state has thus far been predicated on two misconceptions: one regarding what historically makes a state a state; and, two, what gives political organizations their legitimacy, or stateness. This is the result of a general confusion of political power (or ascendency and control by historical entities or organizations) with political rationality: the purpose of public life, particularly with the validity of their aesthetic: form, rituals, and the like. This confusion not only privileges one historical trajectory toward stateness, Europe's; it also obscures the diversity of the human trajectory with regard to the conceptions of ethics and public morality - and therefore ethical relations, moral ends, and teleology of political instruments and institutions. This point was worth-making and it is made brilliantly with good historical references. -- Siba N. Grovogui, Africana Studies, Cornell University
Amy Niang's Postcolonial African State in Transition offers an eloquent intervention into postcolonial African thought. It insists that we rethink the conceptual fields through which we have understood Africa, its people, and in particular the African state and demands that we grapple with the misreading of statehood and the frameworks that have supported its fictions. By asking what social forms the centralised state displaced? And how are we to make sense of the various dimensions of the contemporary African state, the book calls on us to rethink categories such as "legitimacy," "sovereignty" and "informality" by historicising the African statecraft and reconsidering the role of Westphalia in Africa's postcolonial universes. This reconceptualization is brilliant and refreshing. It is a must read for all committed to rethinking the way we talk about African lifeworlds - its past, its present and its future. A tour de force! -- Kamari Clarke, Professor, Carleton University

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