HomePolitics in Africa: A Family Affair?

Politics in Africa: A Family Affair?

La politique en Afrique : une affaire de famille ?

Revue « Cahiers d'études africaines »

*  *  *

Published on Thursday, July 13, 2017 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

This special issue aims, therefore, at accounting for the original logic of production in the family as a place of politics in terms of enunciation, representations and/or practices. We encourage original submissions based on empirical data. These contributions can also develop a more reflexive approach regarding the difficulties encountered in accessing and collecting ethnographic material relating to intimate and private realms and/or present methodological approaches regarding original tools that authors have used or developed to compile and analyze their data. 

Announcement

Argument

Beyond the idea of an “electoral path” toward democracy (Lindberg 2006) and institutional mutations established since the 1900s, we observe that there exists a familial logic in the access to positions of power and key resources, which still make sense and remain lodged at the heart of sociohistoric trajectories of the State and modes of transfer of power within African societies (Bayart 1989, Bayart et al. 1997, Daloz 1999, Carothers 2002, Foucher 2009). This familial logic continues to feed relationships based on loyalties and political allegiance as well as the renewal of political staff (Brossier & Dorronsoro 2016). This special issue investigates this challenging issue by interrogating the constancy of the importance of family and blood relationships in the context where systems of accumulation and redistribution are weakened by the penury of access to resources following the structural adjustment programs and neoliberal reforms accompanying these during the 1980s.

In light of proposals from different disciplines and approaches (in history, anthropology, sociology, and political science), this special issue proposes a re-reading of connections between family and politics while focusing on the family as a site of the political. In order to proceed, two dimensions of this issue are of particular interest. On one hand, we seek to mobilize disciplinary approaches considering the family and kinship as productive of social and political order (Tocqueville, Durkheim, Goody, Evans-Pritchard & Fortes, Lonsdale, Dahou) around the idea of a homology of structures existing within the family sphere and the political sphere (Bourdieu). On the other, we inaugurate work in the field of the “politics of affects.” Indeed, it is impossible to be satisfied with an understanding of the body politic in rational terms void of affects, passions and emotions  (Braud 1996 2007, Traini 2009). Approaching familial and political relations by way of a “politics of affects” allows us to restore the “emotional fabric” and “affective rhetoric” of the political (Perrineau 2014, Marchal & Messiant 2004).

This special issue investigates emotional registers and relationships of domination in African societies: which registers are used by leaders in the political game and how are these perceived by citizens in political, electoral and partisan contexts and, more generally, in the public space? This “politics of affects” will additionally allow for collaborative work on approaches, which are “top down” (political institutions, elites) and “bottom up” (studying popular modes of political action). It will reveal how the political world is dominated by the “language of seduction” (Braud 1996) mobilizing and manipulating emotional registers of family and kinship.  We will explore how routine use in the dominant political discourse might constitute a means of occulting practices of power-grabbing and the personalization of power that are well-documented in the literature. Moreover, the “politics of affects” will reveal how citizens invest these registers (through appropriation, rejection or reinvention), feeding the collective political imagination and thus reinvesting the “politics of the gut” or rather, “below the gut” from the angle of domestic and intimate relationships by detailing the historicity of practices of alliance, seduction, sexuality, violence, adultery, procreation and parenting that shape political practices (Nyamjoh 2009, Cole & Thomas 2009, Stoler 2013 [2002]).

This special issue welcomes contributions that inform the following three open and interconnected perspectives:

1. The family as the organizing matrix of power

The emphasis here is on cognitive and affective frameworks that shape the political imagination. We will retrace the historicity of “structures of meaning” (Geertz 1973) that nourish the process of naturalization and the formation of the nation (Senegal, for example) or which are inherent in the State (Kenya, for example) where there is a reliance on the model, even the institution, of the family. The process of producing analogies between the family space and the political arena can shed light on the rights and responsibilities that bind elites and citizens through duties and loyalties; relationships between parents and children or younger and older social counterparts by appealing to bodily metaphors and organic rhetoric to legitimate domination. It is, therefore, a matter of going beyond the view of the family as a uniform institution, fixed in time and space, in order to study the evolution of model families, it is important to account for a plurality of norms of existing familial organization, as well as their globalization which is transforming legitimate figures of authority.

2. Use of kinship and heredity as a resource in political competition

Here we question the idea of the transmission of political power within the same family, viewed as one of the preferred means of power transfer (Lewis 1986, Elias 2003). Based notably on work on “practical kinship” (Weber 2005) in order to understand the shape of familial belonging and filiation (Brossier 2010, Bonte, Porqueres i Gené & Wilgaux 2011), we will reflect on modes of familial socialization from two viewpoints: on one hand, kinship as a mode of selection and regulation of candidates (Abélès 1992), and on the other, the family as a space of acquisition of capital and the transmission of patrimony, heritage and inheritance (Bourdieu 1994, Augustins 1989, Droz 2017). All the members of a socialized family in politics are not by the same token determined to accede to political mandates. This is why we will emphasize modes of preparation (ibid. 1980) and the selection of “eligible” candidates at the outset of a political race as well as access to political mandates. Here we focus on how family networks are organized on the (local, regional, national, and international) levels, thanks to the circulation of actors and alliances. The prestige of the patronym and modalities of transmission (reticularity) have to be observed within their territoriality and via the legitimacy conferred by proximity. This perspective proposes an alternative approach to applied, functional views describing client systems to underscore the importance of studying on the local level for an understanding of how much political allegiance and the logic of legitimizing power on the national level are rooted in historic and affective alliances (marriage, in particular) that determine political coalitions more than interest might. In particular, we shall investigate the position of women — mothers, wives, and daughters — in these networks, especially by analyzing the construction of social gender roles that should account for patrilineal and matrilineal logics of succession.

3. The logics of qualification and disqualification that structure the interweaving of family and politics

 Here we are interested in the constitutional “arrangements” and the institutional “handiwork” put in place by political leaders to ensure the political circulation of members of their family networks, an issue that has strangely been neglected by many who study the institutionalization of political power in Africa (Posner & Young 2007). Are these “legal qualifications” for nominations, co-opting, buying votes, and the manipulation of electoral returns what allow for the maintenance of the biological, family clan in the political arena? In addition, we shall question party politics as restoring a role of senior management, elites, and political party members, catapulted onto an ascending career path, within the party of the political candidate who is a family member, enjoying lasting security and access to resources and positions of power (Brownlee 2007). We can therefore compare the logics of qualification — whether familial, institutional, partisan, factional or media-driven (high visibility) — to the politics of disqualification, led notably by partisan and social (media, union, associative, or academic/intellectual) activism. Indeed, these kinds of activists are opposed to familial and political networks, and sometimes lead recourse to legal jurisdiction (for example, a trial for illicit gain, abuse of power). In this sense, a study on the affective economy of trust and political defiance poses the issue of elections as crucial since these determine who is “in the game” and who is “out” amongst family and political networks.

This special issue aims, therefore, at accounting for the original logic of production in the family as a place of politics in terms of enunciation, representations and/or practices. We encourage original submissions based on empirical data. These contributions can also develop a more reflexive approach regarding the difficulties encountered in accessing and collecting ethnographic material relating to intimate and private realms and/or present methodological approaches regarding original tools that authors have used or developed to compile and analyze their data. We welcome articles directly studying the African continent, utilizing Africanist historiography and interrogating the manner in which relationships between family and politics can be investigated in other areas. Finally, we hope to open the subject up to comparisons by emphasizing the interweave of family and politics in a number of regions worldwide: as much in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, as in the Arab States and Africa, abandoning thus preconceptions about which societies are perceived as having “archaic” families or “exotic” politics.

Instructions for Submissions

Original articles in French or English (max: 50 000 signes).

Images (copyright free) should be embedded in text and provided in separate JPG files (300 dpi resolution).

Summaries before September 15, 2017 to the coordinator.

Coordinator

Marie Brossier

Professeure agrégée

Département de science politique

Université Laval

Canada

marie.brossier@pol.ulaval.ca

Date(s)

  • Friday, September 15, 2017

Keywords

  • famille, politique, hérédité, parenté, patrimonialisme, Afrique, réseau, élite, société

Contact(s)

  • Marie Brossier
    courriel : marie [dot] brossier [at] pol [dot] ulaval [dot] ca

Information source

  • Marie Brossier
    courriel : marie [dot] brossier [at] pol [dot] ulaval [dot] ca

To cite this announcement

« Politics in Africa: A Family Affair? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, July 13, 2017, http://calenda.org/411471