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Building political relations: cooperation, segmentation and government in Bancoumana (Mali)

Pes, Luca Giuseppe (2011) Building political relations: cooperation, segmentation and government in Bancoumana (Mali). PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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A stable and peaceful country by West African standards, Mali uneasily fits the paradigm of a ‘failed state.’ While government and development agencies tend to interpret Mali’s stability as the outcome of successful institutional reform, foreign scholars and local intellectuals emphasise the power of enduring traditions and their adaptation to changing conditions in Malian society. Critically assessing both views, this dissertation explores political relations and practices in post-colonial Mali in a rural locality of Mande, the region south-west of the capital Bamako. The work draws on 18 months of field research in the rural municipality of Bancoumana to document an intensely mediated form of government resulting from the dynamic process of grouping and of building cooperative relations in everyday social life. I examine how projects broadly intended to deepen state control such as the ‘framing’ of resident and migrant populations by the state, the betterment of the land, the recognition and the registration of ‘traditional’ rights, among other practices of bureaucratic ‘fixing’ are dealt with in the locality. The analysis links their history to processes of fission and fusion of social groups, where the interventions may exacerbate tensions or, instead, create solidarity among different village factions. Thus, the practices and processes of government in the locality are able to successfully fill the gap between the state and other agencies, and society. Contributing to the anthropological tradition studying law, politics and the state in Africa, the dissertation links recent trends in the anthropology of the state, and of more specific regulatory domains such as land development and taxation, to a reanalysis of the traditional chestnut of the anthropology of West Africa, a ‘segmentary style’ of social organization.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Luca Giuseppe Pes
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Mundy, Martha and James, Deborah

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