Source: Studia Africana (Centro de Estudios Africanos de Barcelona)
Frederick Cooper, ‘The Politics of Citizenship in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa’, Studia Africana Vol.16 (2005): 14–23.
« My goal in this article is to look at a crucial period in African history, the decade and a half after World War II in order to understand better the options and constraints of postcolonial Africa. What is striking about this period in both British and French Africa — the focus of my article — is the strength of what is now seen to be weak in Africa: a politics of citizenship, of reciprocity between the expectations states and citizens have of each other.’ We think today of African states as brittle — rulers distant from their people, afraid of organizations not directly dependent on the leadership, unwilling to entertain demands coming from below, working through patron-client ties, personal militias, and dubious connections overseas more than through accessible, transparent institutions. To focus on weaknesses of citizenship is not to condemn the state for ignoring ‘society’ or to blame the divisions within society for the problems of the state, but to emphasize that the mechanisms which connect the state with networks, organizations, and collective sensibilities in society operate poorly — to the detriment of both state and society. »