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Negotiating Statehood in Post-Conflict Africa. Dynamics of state (re)construction in societies after civil war
Project funded by own resources
Project title Negotiating Statehood in Post-Conflict Africa. Dynamics of state (re)construction in societies after civil war
Principal Investigator(s) Péclard, Didier
Organisation / Research unit Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften / Politikwissenschaft (Goetschel),
swisspeace foundation,
swisspeace foundation / Statehood and Conflict (Péclard)
Project start 01.07.2009
Probable end 30.06.2013
Status Completed

Academic and policy research about Africa has been largely dominated in recent years by
discourses about the purported “failure” of the State. Incapable of providing basic services to its
citizen, challenged in its monopoly over violence and security, contested by various social actors
and groups, at times violently through armed rebellion, the State in Africa has come to be seen as an
“empty shell”, or as void of any tangible “reality”. Yet, despite this crisis, States continue to exist,
and the State failure discourse has been rightly criticised for offering a normative perspective which
tends to take the Western State model as a yardstick and use it in order to “measure” statehood in
other contexts, and for thereby analysing states for what they are not instead of trying to grasp how
they actually work on the ground.

This project aims therefore to study and analyse the concrete day-to-day practices of states and to
understand how new forms of statehood emerge as the result of negotiation processes between
various local, national and international actors. The focus will be on post-violent conflicts settings
in Africa, because civil wars are moments of intense social and political change, and processes of
State (re)construction in post-conflict phases allows to see states “at work” at a crucial moment in
their history. It will also take secondary cities (such as district or provincial capitals) as a unit of
analysis, thus bridging an important gap in the literature and providing empirically-based
knowledge on how power flows between the central state power and its periphery through these
administrative centres.

With case studies on Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan and Angola, the project will build on the
research module on ‘Negotiating statehood’ developed at IP swisspeace during phase 2 of the
NCCR N-S. It will bring this conceptual one step further by focusing on how states (re-)deploy
themselves after conflict. By taking secondary cities as unit of analysis, it will also bridge a gap in
the literature on the topic. It will thus contribute to current debates about statehood in Africa and
beyond at both an academic and policy levels.

Keywords Africa, conflict, statehood
Financed by Other funds

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