The essays in this important new collection explore the diverse, unexpected, and controversial ways in which the idea of civil society has recently entered into populist politics and public debate throughout Africa.
In a substantial introduction, anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff offer a critical theoretical analysis of the nature and deployment of the concept—and the current debates surrounding it. Building on this framework, the contributors investigate the "problem" of civil society across their regions of expertise, which cover the continent. Drawing creatively on one another's work, they examine the impact of colonial ideology, postcoloniality, and development practice on discourses of civility, the workings of everyday politics, the construction of new modes of selfhood, and the pursuit of moral community.
Incisive and original, the book shows how struggles over civil society in Africa reveal much about larger historical forces in the post-Cold War era. It also makes a strong case for the contribution of historical anthropology to contemporary discourses on the rise of a "new world order."