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Wim van Binsbergen

Theoretical inspiration, boundaries and ethnicity


Preliminary remarks on J.F. Bayart’s approach to politics in contemporary Africa


van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1986, ‘Theoretical inspiration, boundaries and ethnicity: Preliminary remarks on J.F. Bayart’s approach to politics in contemporary Africa? paper presented at a seminar with J.-F. Bayart, Department of Political and Historical Studies, African Studies Centre, Leiden, 27 October 1986

?1986-2002 W.M.J. van Binsbergen


On an epistemological and methodological level, Bayart’s central problem appears to be far more general and rather more profound than what is generally reserved for the discipline of political science. In his choice of philosophical sources of inspiration (e.g. Foucault, Bourdieu), in his adoption of terms like ‘enunciation?and ‘genres discursives? it is clear that he is struggling, in the specific field of political analysis, with problems which others have recently begun to explore for such fields as verbal communication (cf. Bayart 1985: 353f), or the interpretation of ritual (where Devisch and others are developing a ‘praxeological?method not unlike the one advocated by Bayart). One does not have to be a declared adept of Foucault or Bourdieu to detect, in much of this, a timely concern to escape from the tautological, teleological, authoritarian and often extremely condescending nature of the structural models of thought that have dominated Western scholarship for centuries. Determinism, reductionism, accepted categorisation, established canons of social and scholarly classification, are to be discarded. We are invited to share in a dazzling intellectual adventure:

“Le champs des «modes populaires d’action politique?est celui de la mobilite, de l’ambivalence, de l’allusif, du non-dit, de l’insaissisable.?(Bayart 1981: 63)

              ?              ? The processes of consciousness and of action such as the subjects of our political analysis turn out to be engaged in, interpenetrate with one another and with our own, both as scholars and as fellow human beings. These processes we are invited to approach, not so much as structure but as history, not as classification but as genesis, in an attempt at reasoned description rather than theoretical explanation.

              ?              ? In such a context, politics could hardly remain one of various clear-cut ‘levels?or instances which together and in some well-established hierarchical relationship, like the good old layer-cake,[2] make up society. The question of how politics relates to other ‘institutional complexes? such as ideology or the economy, may turn out to be irrelevant and utterly misleading. In a kaleidoscopic fashion, processes of genesis, of alliances and contradiction, instigated and contested by real people in an eternally changing historical context, evolve; with unpredictable outcome, they continually reconstruct and recreate society. Calling certain aspects of these processes political, ideological, cultural, etc., only makes some limited sense, as long as one is prepared to admit that the political is ideological, that culture both produces and is produced by politics, etc.

“La politique se definit tout d’abord par rapport a une certaine conception de la personne out de l’individu, d’une part, de la communaute, de l’autre.?(Bayart 1985: 364)

              ?              ? Perhaps depending on the extent to which one has vested interest in the established lore of modern, U.S.A.-orientated political science (I have virtually none), one may regret such a broad approach to the subject ?and prefer some much more limited and comfortable definition in terms of ‘struggle for scarce resources?or ‘the mediation of class conflict through the state? However, as an analyst (anthropologist by training) whose primary inspiration in socio-political analysis derives from the grass-roots level of African villagers and urban poor, and as one primarily engaged in the analysis of such aspects of society as are habitually called ideological, I am inclined to welcome such an approach as inspiring and liberating. Even if I am sure to miss essential philosophical and epistemological implications of Bayart’s evolving argument, it has managed to reassure me that, after all, political analysis may be meaningful and worthwhile, i.e. may be capable of existentially relating to the processes of consciousness and social action of the people I have done field-work among and associate with, mostly at the far geographical and interactional periphery of the modern post-colonial state.


Like all human creation, modern scholarship is both innovative and accumulative. A new paradigm may ?for some years at least ?release us from the limitations and distortions of earlier modes of analysis ?but it should yet enable us to safeguard whatever may have been valuable in earlier work, even if that happened to be cast in a different (and now hopelessly dated) idiom.

              ?              ? How to both create, and transgress or negotiate, boundaries between the old and the new? There is the modern Africanist’s task for you.

              ?              ? And there is also, in much the same way, the task of every modern African, situated as he or she is, somewhere between the exercise of state power in all its formal bureaucratic trappings, and the pursuit of village and family affairs in an idiom only very partially shaped and even less controlled by the postcolonial state.

              ?              ? Entrenching himself firmly behind the boundary of his new emerging paradigm (and not too concerned with negotiating that boundary or helping others ?still pathetically clutching the remnants of faded earlier paradigms ?to negotiate it), Bayart energetically rejects (1985: 344) the many approaches to contemporary African society that are based on a variety of dualism ?and that, by the same token, imply some pre-existing structural ordering, often with strongly vertical implications. Strategies of hegemony formation permeate the entire (and expanding) social field and create cross-linkages. The most successful politician is the one who manages to strike the quasi-historic compromise between the various cross-cutting processes of domination ?and the Cameroonian state emerges largely as a result of that compromise:

?..l’hypothese centrale de cet ouvrage, selon laquelle la recherche hegemonique au Cameroun repose sur l’assimilation reciproque des differents segments de l’elite sociale d’origine precoloniale, coloniale et postcoloniale, qu’elle consiste en un compromis que l’on pourrait qualifier d’historique (...)?(Bayart 1979: 280).

              ?              ? Bayart does not deny the heterogeneity of the socio-political material out of which the postcolonial state emerges. Previous analyses have stressed the discrete nature of these elements, and have sought to define (in terms of a distinction between modern and tradition, urban and rural, capitalist and domestic, literate and illiterate, etc. etc.) that heterogeneity in general structural terms. In Bayart’s analysis however stress is laid not on the boundaries between what in other idiom might have been called sub-systems, nor on the empirical historical and sociological analysis of these ‘sub-systems? but the negotiability and permeability of these boundaries ?to the extent perhaps of them totally fading from the analytical scene. In essence, his view of the hegemonic process is transactional in the sense of the transactionalist anthropology that emerged primarily in Great-Britain since the 1960s (the Manchester School with such protagonists as Mitchell, van Velsen, Turner; Barth; Bailey; Boissevain), with emphasis on networks, manipulation, the primacy of dynamic interaction as continually overriding and recreating more enduring socio-political structure, etc. There seem to be no other than strategic and logistic limits to the range of the hegemonic process ?and certainly nothing in the way of a qualitative rupture, a ‘quantum jump? and hence a boundary, between the domain of modern politics, and other aspects of contemporary African society, including e.g. neo-traditional politics at the village level, hunting ritual, or Christian assemblies.[3]

          ?              ? Much like in Barth’s (1966) analysis of cultural brokerage, the essential feature of the politician is to mediate and to bridge, not only with regard to scarce resources including state privileges, but particularly with regard to ideological and cultural aspects of modern society:

“Des lors, la problematique du passage au politique conduit a l’analyse des mediations par lesquelles des repertoires culturels obtiennent leur validite au regard de l’Etat contemporain.?(Bayart 1985: 371)

At first, I was under the impression that Bayart’s transactional orientation led him to underplay ideological elements. The opposite now turns out to be true, but it remains difficult to relate his approach to more system- and structure-orientated approaches to culture and ideology in modern Africa, and particularly those that explore in detail the underlying heterogeneity, rather than the way in which that heterogeneity is partly dissolved in the course of the hegemonic project Bayart evokes so convincingly.


One important cluster of such approaches, stressing fundamental discreteness and boundaries between qualitatively different social subgroups, rather than hegemonic coagulation, revolves on the concept of ethnicity.

              ?              ? The notion that ethnic allegiance is based on some pre-colonial past and the primordial attachments somehow generated by that past, has now largely been discarded. All over Africa scholars have exposed the ‘myth of tribe?as largely a result of colonial and post-colonial incorporation processes, within which also the anthropological enterprise itself has played a problematic role (e.g. van Binsbergen 1985a and references cited there).

              ?              ? What strikes one in L‘Etat au Cameroun is Bayart’s reluctance to discuss the ethnic dimension of a hegemonic process which, among other actors, encompasses actors whose political role is partly defined in the context of ethnic consciousness, the social groups and categories perceived in that context, and the ensuing neo-traditional positions of leadership (chiefs, notables, elders) and ‘followingship? Perhaps this puzzling omission was merely a matter of the presentational dynamics of his evolving argument. Recently, Bayart has made an effort to address the matter more explicitly. His dismissal of the ethnic element in modern Cameroonian politics brings to bear all the now familiar tenets of modern ethnicity studies:

“Mais a quoi bon multiplier des exemples, tant il est clair que les identifications ethno-regionales representent l’un des pivots de la conscience politiques des Camerounais? Pourtant, il etait profondement errone d’y reduire la crise de 1983-1984.

              Rappelons tout d’abord que l’ethnie, au moins telle que se la represente l’Europeen, sous la forme d’une entite donnee, homogene et correspondant a un terroir delimite, n’existe sans doute pas. La demonstration en a ete tres tot apportee a propos du Cameroun, avant meme que le debat ne prenne en France la tournure que l’on sait (7) [footnote reference to collections edited by Tardits and Boutrais ?WvB]. A l’instar de toutes les identifications culturelles, la conscience ethnique est contextuelle. En outre, elle n’est pas exclusive d’identifications complementaires ou concurrentes, telle que les identifications a des lignes de differenciation ancestrales ou nees de la division moderne du travail, ou encore a des ensembles culturels supra-ethniques d’ordre religieux ou national. La conscience ethnique vehicule ainsi des representations autres «qu’etniques? qui interdisent de reduire les affrontements de ce type a de simples conflits desincarnes d’identification. Y sont egalement en jeu des interets politiques, religieux, economiques. De plus, phenomene complexe et relatif, l’ethnicite n’est pas une structure statique et a-temporelle. Les rapports interethniques sont des produits de l’histoire et non une combinatoire stable d’invariants. Or les commentateurs etrangers de l’actualite camerounaise se rabattirent sur un type d’explication encore plus grossier, privilegiant la dichotomie entre le «Nord?et le «Sud? sans voir qu’aucun des termes de ce binome n’etait homogene.

              (...) Quant aux Kirdi, ils representent une mosaique d’ethnies tres diverses, dont l’insertion dans le systeme regional d’inegalite et de domination varie d’un groupe a l’autre et qui sont elles-meme parcourues par des clivages profonds. Ce qui pose probleme et interdit de bien comprendre le fond des choses, c’est une fois de plus, en definitive, cette notion passe-partout d’ethnie. Les precieux travaux de Mohammadou Eldridge demontrent que nous sommes en presence de constructions historiques nullement homogenes de ce point de vue et dont le ressort est tres classiquement politique, militaire out economique, avant d’etre «tribal? (...) Bien qu’il eut assure son ascension contre le gre des principaux lamidats de la region, qu’il leur eut impose la creation d’un parti politique de conception occidentale et qu’il eut restreint leur prerogatives des les premieres annees de son regime, M. Ahidjo avait poursuive bon an mal an cette strategie jusqu’au moment de sa demission.(...)

              La moitie Sud du pays ne presente pas une configuration plus simple. (...) c’est bien, en conclusion, cette notion de terroir qui doit prevaloir [over that of ethnic identity - WvB], au Cameroun comme dans le reste de l’Afrique, si l’on veut comprendre l’historicite de l’Etat et du politique. Nul exotisme dans ce constat.?[follows a reference to Braudel on the French nation ?WvB] (Bayart 1986: 8-11)

More seems involved however, in Bayart’s dismissal, than the accumulated wisdom of modern students of ethnicity: its recent emergence as a cultural construct, its situational nature, its lack of consistence, etc. His appreciation of this immensely important aspect of the contemporary African scene (also in Cameroon) remains somewhat sketchy, though not uninteresting:

“A tous les niveaux de celle-ci [la societe camerounaise ?WvB], les «sans importance?opposent aux consignes et aux objectifs des autorites une impermeabilite assez remarquable, sur la nature de laquelle le discours ideologique du regime ne doit pas induire en erreur. Ce qui est etiquete comme «paresse? «superstition? «tribalisme?est refus, plus ou moins conscient, car plus ou moins culpabilise par les admonestations officielles, d’un modele de developpement economique et politique.?(Bayart 1979: 267)

Here once again the tendency to take the modern state as the unique point of departure. Bayart has very strongly and with numerous repetitions stressed the historicity of the modern African state, and flatly refused to look at it as an exogenous and superficially implanted phenomenon; e.g.:

“La premiere erreur du Parti socialiste consista a exagerer la nature exogene des Etats africains, comformement a la vulgate dependantiste, et a laisser ainsi echapper l’irreductibilite de leur historicite politique (...) La seconde erreur (...) fut de tenir pour quantite negligeable les entreprises quoiqu’elles detinssent [sic] dans une large mesure la clef des relations franco-africaines.?(Bayart 1984: 127, 130)

But to accept[4] such historicity (implying that the post-colonial African state should be analysed in its own right and taken seriously as an integral, central aspect of modern African society), does not necessarily mean that one has to deny all other, perhaps equally integral and central, sources or clusters of societal structuration ?for instance, those that, in the form of ethnicity, revolve on the consciousness of a shared past within a regional, sub-national socio-political space.

              ?              ? Is it possible that part of Bayart’s reluctance to address the nature and political implications of ethnicity stems from his refusal, on analytical grounds (the rejection of dualism in all its forms, the vulgate, perhaps, ?to use a darling expression of his ?of unboundedness and unlimited accessibility for the hegemonic exercise?), to allow for other more or less autonomous fields of socio-political crystallisation of structure, outside and beyond, perhaps even prior to, the modern state?

              ?              ? This is not to deny that within the context of the hegemonic process as associated with the modern state, an explicit notion of traditional culture is engineered and manipulated ?in Cameroon, in the Dutch Parliament (where recently Minister of Social Services Brinkman called for a return to traditional values of neighbourly assistance to compensate for state withdrawal...), in the South African ideology of Apartheid, etc. Even popular culture (of which ethnic consciousness could perhaps be regarded one conspicuous form) is subject to such hegemonic manipulation:

?..une culture est historique avant d’etre «culturelle? Elle n’est pas reservoir de representations constantes, existant d’une facon objective en tant qu’africanite (par exemple), mais reactualisation permanente de ces representations dans le contexte d’une situation historique donnee, c’est-a-dire, si l’on s’en tient a la culture dite populaire, redefinition perpetuelle par rapport aux groupes sociaux dominants (7)[footnote reference to Hurbon - WvB].(...)

              Dans le cas de l’Afrique, il est d’autant plus important de refuter l’idee d’un corpus culturel populaire (...). Sous sa forme ethnologique, elle a conduit a l’ethnophilosophie, selon laquelle il y aurait unicite culturelle en Afrique (la negritude) (...) [, notion qui] participe directement du debat politique, dans des sens contradictoires: formulees en termes «d’authenticite? elle contribue a etayer l’autonomie des groupes dirigeants africains par rapport au «centre? occidental, mais aussi a asseoir ideologiquement leur domination nationale?(Bayart 1981: 57-58)

Yet one continues to wonder how much of a more or less independent ethnic factor would remain discernible to those who are prepared to look for it outside the modern state.

              ?              ? In profound ways to which my present short argument cannot do justice,[5] Geschiere (e.g. 1986) has sought to further develop Bayart’s approach ?both by theoretical analysis, and by applying it a grassroots situation (the Maka of S.E. Cameroon) on which his prolonged field-work has offered him an intimate view such as few political scientist working from the national level could ever hope to acquire. In this connexion, Geschiere stresses the importance of regional variation within the unitary hegemonic project (Geschiere 1986: 323f) ?but although this would seem to invite an analysis in terms of ethnicity, he has not yet provided one in detail (however, cf. Geschiere 1986: 323, 334f).

              ?              ? Barbier (1981: 132ff) touches on the same topic when, in his critical reflection on L’Etat au Cameroun, he argues that the complex dynamics of the Bamileke political situation (including the U.P.C. episode) could at best only partly be understood under the heading of Bayart’s opposition between ‘aines?and ‘cadets? But even so, ethnicity in itself offers no adequate alternative explanation:

‘On peut se demander en consequence si l’U.P.C. eut un tel impact en pays bamileke (...) simplement parce qu’elle avait su, la premiere, deborder le cadre ethnique pour regrouper les principaux groupes de la region de Douala (Dwala, Bamileke, Basaa) et apparaitre comme etant la plus capable d’assumer le cadre national qui se profilait au terme de la decolonisation??(Barbier 1981: 135)

Yet the ethnic factor has continued to remain puzzlingly relevant in this context:

“Depuis la crise des annees soixante, les chefferies bamileke retrouvent un second souffle en se reorganisant autour d’une alliance entre les detenteurs du pouvoir traditionnel (chefs et notables) et certains emigres qui, ayant reussi dans leurs activites economiques, aspirent a une consecration sociale dans leur milieu d’origine en recevant un titre de notabilite. (...) dans le cas bamileke, ces processus se realisent en dehors d’un quelconque appareil politique?[as defined in modern national politics - WvB] (Barbier 1981:135f)

It does not really help to redefine the problems of analysis that arise here, from ethnic to territorial or geographical terms, as Bayart seems to contemplate. Of course, the clustering and intersection of processes of interaction, communication and conceptualisation within a limited geographical area, as well as the parcelling up of the African landscape by colonial and post-colonial administrative divisions with all its political and economic consequences, forms a very important context for the rise of ethnicity.[6] But once it has emerged, the consciousness it generates, whether we call it ethnic or territorial, sectional, sub-national or regional, is never easily to be explained away by reference to the modern state. Moreover it seems to reintroduce notions of boundedness and boundaries (be they even administrative and geographic) whose specific effects on the hegemonic process might be fruitfully analysed.


New paradigms may release us from earlier limitations, but they also have the tendency to impose a new sort of orthodoxy on the analyst. Bayart’s approach certainly throws new light on the processes and strategies by which idioms and what he calls ‘genres discursives?/span>[7] which do not directly emanate from the modern state, are drawn into the overall political process at the national and regional level in many African countries, but it remains unclear where the boundaries lie of the paradigm ?and of the hegemonic process it seeks to describe. Is this simply a matter of lack of understanding and philosophical sophistication in my part, or is there a genuine theoretical question here? Is there a limit to the manipulation and brokerage of the hegemonic endeavour? Is the process fed perhaps from other sources than the modern state alone ?or has the contemporary world-wide scale of social construction (cf. mass media, the increasingly intercontinental and international context of regional and national political processes, the continuing penetration of the capitalist mode of production) now destroyed any such niches and refuges, or at least imposed total control upon them (it does not sound likely)? If not, can we explore those sources, do they include something that is not a creation of the modern state and that would be described in terms of ethnic analysis?[8] And does the fact that our own method, and our own professional world as European Africanists (cf. van Binsbergen 1984), are so very much defined within the context of the modern state and its logic, not preclude any real insight on these points?


Barbier, J.-C.

1981                      ? ‘Alliance ou conflit entre le haut ou le bas?? rubrique “A livre ouvert: L’Etat au Cameroun de J.-F. Bayart? Politique africaine, 1, 1, janvier 1981: 130-37.

Barth, F.

1966                      ? Barth, F., 1966, Models of social organization, Londen: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Occasional Papers no. 23.

Bayart, J.-F.

1979                      ? L’Etat au Cameroun, Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, first edition (the second edition, of 1984, has been used here).

1981                      ? ‘Le politique par le bas en Afrique noire: Questions de methode? Politique africaine, 1, 1, janvier 1981: 53-82.

1984                      ? La politique africaine de Francois Mitterand: Essai, Paris: Karthala.

1985                      ? ‘L’Enonciation du politique? in: Passage au Politique, special issue of Revue francaise de science politique, 35, 3: 343-73.

1986                      ? ‘La societe politique camerounaise (1982-1986)? Politique africaine, 22, juin 1986: 5-35.

n.d. (1986)            ?Oral presentation, African Colloquium, Netherlands African Studies Association & African Studies Centre, Leiden, 24 October 1986.

Faure, Y.-A.

1981                      ? ‘Croissance etatique et accumulation... des obstacles? rubrique “A livre ouvert: L‘Etat au Cameroun de J.-F. Bayart? Politique africaine, 1, 1, janvier 1981: 128-30.

Geschiere, P.

1986a                    ? ‘Paysans, regime national et recherche hegemonique: L’implantation de l’U(N)C, le «Grand Parti National? dans les villages maka? Politique africaine, 22, juin 1986: 73-100.

1986b                    ? ‘Hegemonic regimes and popular protest ?Bayart, Gramsci and the state in Cameroon? in van Binsbergen et al. 1986a: 309-47.

van Binsbergen, W.M.J.

1984                      ? ‘Can anthropology become the theory of peripheral class struggle? Reflexions on the work of P.P. Rey? in: W.M.J. van Binsbergen & G.S.C.M. Hesseling (eds.), Aspecten van staat en maatschappij in Afrika: Recent Dutch and Belgian research on the African state, Leiden: African Studies Centre, pp. 163-80.

1985a                    ? ‘From tribe to ethnicity in Western Zambia: The unit of study as an ideological problem? in: W.M.J. van Binsbergen & P. Geschiere (eds), Old modes of production and capitalist encroachment, London/Boston: Kegan Paul International, pp. 181-234.

1985b                    ? ‘Political organization and the Lozi/Tonga frontier in Central Western Zambia? paper, Africa Colloquium, Netherlands African Studies Association, November 1985; revised version to be included as chapter 5 in my forthcoming monograph, Tears of Rain: The Nkoya Experience 1900-1978.

1986                      ? ‘The post-colonial state, “state penetration?and the Nkoya experience in Central Western Zambia? in van Binsbergen et al. 1986a: 31-63.

van Binsbergen, W.M.J., F. Reijntjens & G.S.C.M. Hesseling

1986a                    ? (eds) State & Local Community in Africa/Etat et communaute locale en Afrique, Les Cahiers du CEDAF Cahier 2-3-4, Serie 2, Brussels: Centre d’Etude et de Documentation africaines.

1986b                    ? ‘Aspects of modern state penetration in Africa? in van Binsbergen et al. 1986a: 369-400.

[1]This paper was prepared for a seminar with J.-F. Bayart at the Department of Political and Historical Studies, African Studies Centre, Leiden, 27 October 1986. Rather than offering an argument, it provides the materials for a future argument ?including extensive quotations and bibliographic references which are ‘notes for further use? least of all should the latter imply that I see the analysts’s task primarily as compilatory! This hastily written draft paper is not to be cited or quoted without my consent.

[2]            ? But what about its glacial counterpart, cassata:?the Napolitan variety of layered icecream ?cf Bayart 1985: 346...?

[3]            ?The fundamental nature of the boundary problem in the appreciation of Bayart’s work is also hinted at in the following observation by Faure:

“Bayart a raison d’insister sur l’etroite liaison des ressources publiques et privees dans le processus de formation d’une classe dominante camerounaise. L’Etat postcolonial sert precisement de creuset a cette dynamique sociale en favorisant l’interpenetration des positions de pouvoir (bureaucratie) et de richesse (economie). (...) Il est des lors logique de presenter l’absence de frontieres entre le domaine public et le domaine prive comme participant de l’essence meme du regime politique. Les faits de detournement des ressources publiques a des fins personelles, que certains designent comme la neo-patrimonialisation de l’Etat africain, que d’autres nomment corruption en la circonscrivant bien a tort a son aspect penal, illustrent parfaitement le processus d’accumulation qui se joue a l’ombre des structures politiques modernes. Mais Bayart, tout en restaurant la signification sociologique de ces phenomenes trop souvent percus commes des signes de pathologie politique, me parait laisser de cote un aspect important de la question: jusqu’a quel point le franchissement des frontieres entre le public et le prive n’est-il pas prejudiciable aux objectifs de l’Etat??(Faure 1981: 129)

However, instead of the state-centredness of Faure’s final sentence one would wish to investigate the genesis and the conditions of reproduction for the boundary he so rightly invokes.

[4]            ? Again, this is no longer a contentious position in African studies, at least not outside France; cf. van Binsbergen et al. 1986: 372f, 390f; and for a case-study, van Binsbergen 1986.

[5]              ? Meanwhile, Geschiere’s approach remains sufficiently close to Bayart’s to allow us to apply the following characterization ?meant as a positive assessment, to be sure ?to the work of both:

‘[his] insights are heuristic and methodological rather than that their concrete substance is yet capable of generalization: the specific features of the field at a given time and place can lead to totally different outcomes ?and, as in other domains of African studies today, the methods of anthropology gradually give way to those of an anthropologically-enlightened contemporary history.?(van Binsbergen et al. 1986b: 385)

[6]            ? For a study of the emergence and juxtaposition of ethnic identities by the super-imposition of various economic and administrative boundaries since ca. 1850, cf. van Binsbergen 1985b.

[7]            ? As situationally optional forms of expression and mobilization at the disposal of the political actors in contemporary Africa, Bayart distinguishes, among others, the discursive domains of: Western institutions and social forms; Marxism-Leninism; Christianity; local traditions of statehood (which would be a proper heading to discuss ethnicity at length!); etc. Bayart’s approach explains the coming together of these genres as part of the hegemonic process, but not their specific relations with actual social groups in society, nor their historical discreteness on the basis of a different genesis in different parts of the world. Is the boundary of his paradigm then simply a matter of specialization between scholarly discipines?

[8]            ? E.g., Bayart’s notion of ‘regional victors?refers to a phenomenon which is wide-spread in modern Africa, but which yet seems to be partly informed, at least in the popular consciousness and at least in Zambia, by precolonial military confrontations, filed in the popular consciousness not through the modern state but through joking relationships, e.g. between Bemba and Ngoni.




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