Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

Affect, Emotion and the Political Imagination: Notes on the State in Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe

Auteur(s) : Verheul Susanne ; Enria Luisa ;

As scholars increasingly reject the evaluation of African states against Western liberal norms, opportunities have opened up to study the state for what it is in practice and how it is experienced within society. A number of approaches have emerged, including ethnographic explorations of state bureaucracies, and analyses of encounters with its bureaucrats, many of which blur the lines between formal and informal governance mechanisms and institutions. This paper, however, sets out a theoretical framework for emergent approaches to the African state that engage with powerful emotions and affective relations that states elicit. Building on existing work on how the state is produced through emotions and “embodied responses”(Laszczkowski and Reeves, 2015; Artexaga, 2003) we put forward an analysis of how emotions, affect and the imaginations of ordinary citizens and civil servants can help us understand the nature of the contemporary African state. We argue for the importance of looking at how power emerges from imagined relations, expectations and illusions and the ways in which values and norms emanate from subjective and intersubjective experiences with the state. We put flesh on the bones of this analytical framework through a comparison of Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, two countries that have featured prominently in depictions of the African state as failed, corrupt or absent. In this comparison we show how a focus on affect and the political imagination can offer a different and analytically more helpful way to conceptualise encounters with the state and within state institutions, one that takes seriously the voices and aspirations of citizens and civil servants. In Zimbabwe, we focus on the period following President Robert Mugabe’s ‘resignation’ on 21 November 2017. We discuss former civil servants’ emotions of hope and disillusionment as they explore their avenues for re-engaging with, and re-inclusion within, the Zimbabwean state in this ‘new [post-crisis] era’. In Sierra Leone, we reflect on how everyday encounters with the state during the response to Ebola were shaped by specific historical memories; fears of military intervention; disillusionment with political leadership; and hopes for development after crisis.


Mot-clé : ''Emotion, Affect, material, political imagination, et State
Toutes les communications appartenant au même panel :

Voir le panel Des États de sentiments. Explorer les enchevêtrements affectifs et émotionnels des fonctionnaires et des citoyens / States of Feeling: Exploring Public Servants’ and Citizens’ Affective and Emotional Entanglements

Voir tous les panels du colloque Apad conference 2020