Conflict in Africa: trajectories of power competition and civic (dis)engagement

Somali children in Mogadishu 2011: living ‘beyond the state’This ASCL collaborative group sets out to explore processes of legitimacy construction, authority, and conflict escalation or mediation among people in Africa within the context of new growth trajectories. New contexts of state developmental initiatives, foreign investments, land lease agreements, and globalizing religious movements change the game and affect socio-political and civic spaces, adding to already existing challenges. While state structures and narratives are pervasive at least in name and on paper, many people - notably in transitional conflict zones like the Sahel, South Somalia and Central Africa - have learned to live ‘beyond the state’, and devise their own local solutions to survival and livelihood problems.

In this group we study the political, socio-economic, technological and cultural aspects of these processes, and aim to contribute to theoretical and practical thinking about social mobilization, ideological formations and the role of frameworks of ‘social reproduction’. This will also lead to rethinking the changing material and ideological linkages of African actors with those outside the continent. The research undertaken will yield field data, insights and contributions to discussions on security and the rule of law in Africa, prominent in several policy debates and international development efforts, e.g. of the Netherlands Government.


J. Abbink – Developmental dilemmas and political culture in Ethiopia and the Horn – local refractions and cultural response.

W. van Beek – The recrafting of religious and cultural identities in Africa in the context of local-global connections (Provisional).

H. van Dijk – a) Long-term impacts of violence and climate variability on food security in Africa; b) The governance of ‘ungoverned spaces’ in Africa.

M. Kaag – Transnational Islamic NGOs in Africa.

L. de Vries – The political dynamics of state building and contestation in South Sudan and Central Africa.

M. van Vliet – Changing state-society relations in Mali and West Africa: the interplay between formal and informal institutions.


Cooperative links (selection):

University of N’Djamena

Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen

Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa; Department of Political Science, Addis Ababa University; French Center for Ethiopian Studies (CFEE), Addis Ababa; OSSREA, Addis Ababa

CNRS, Paris
Université d’Aix en Provence, Département d’Anthropologie

Université du Mali, Bamako; Institut Point Sud, Bamako, Mali

The Netherlands:
Institute for History, Leiden University, NL
AISSR, Amsterdam, NL
Conflict Studies, Utrecht University

Ibadan University and Millennium Advancement Initiative (Research)

Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales (CEDEJ; Khartoum branch)

African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE), University of Edinburgh
IMI (Migration Studies), Oxford

South Africa:
University of Kwazulu Natal, Durban


About this project

Project type: 
Collaborative group
2012 to 2014
Library staff member: 

External affiliates

Alexander Meckelburg (University of Hamburg)
André van Dokkum (VU Amsterdam)

Funding and cooperation


pending; proposals prepared