Father, Sons and the State: Discipline and Punishment in a Wolof Hinterland
Gettysburg College Cultural Anthropology
(Impact Factor: 2.95).
01/2009; 24(1):33 - 67. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1360.2009.00026.x
This essay builds on fieldwork in rural Senegal to examine three cases in which elder household heads called on gendarmes to physically discipline rebellious youths. These cases, which revolved around harsh acts of corporal punishment, invite inquiry into common assumptions about African families and states. The first assumption is the common dichotomy drawn between African youths, portrayed as modern and menacing, and African elders, portrayed as “traditional” and hence benign. The second assumption is the dichotomy drawn between the African family, conceived as solidary and nurturing, and the African state, conceived as alien and predatory. In examining these cases of discipline and punishment, this essay reveals the ever-shifting power relations that link Wolof household heads, dependent junior males, and state agents, and simultaneously introduces new questions about the morality of farmer–state relations and generational conflict. My analysis reveals the spatial geography of Senegal's youth crisis, which takes different forms in rural and urban locales. The anxiety of rural patriarchs is fed by a fear-mongering media obsessed with youthful anarchy in the cities, and a long-standing political rhetoric about the threat of rural out-migration. Elder men in the countryside, who experience diminishing household authority under neoliberalism, make proactive efforts to keep the urban youth crisis at bay. They seek to augment their domestic power by reestablishing links with a state that has long bolstered patriarchy but whose power is currently in decline. By lending patriarchs their coercive force, gendarmes attempt to accomplish through private, indirect means, what the postcolonial state is unable to do: maintain social order by reining in disruptive youths. The harsh disciplinary measures that gendarmes employ are not alien to Wolof culture, but integral to Wolof conceptions of child rearing.
Available from: Nichola Khan
- "In Sierra Leone , long - term war is argued to prolong dependent youth , relegating marriage , employment and economic autonomy to an unattainable fantasy ( Shaw , 2007 ) . In Senegal , Perry ( 2009 ) constructs the brutal discipline of male youth by family elders , acting in tandem with state gendarmes , as an attempt to forge new power and recover diminishing authority under Senegal ' s structural adjustment reforms . Whilst appearing new , these extreme forms of violence reflect culturally condoned practices of disciplining rebellious male youth , and support rather than undermine the prevailing familial moral order . "
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ABSTRACT: This article draws on ethnography and life history interviews conducted in a central Karachi neighbourhood with militants affiliated to Pakistan's student organization, the Islami Jamiat-i-Tuleba. It explores a complex configuration of national and city politics, local processes, family dynamics and individual biography in the trajectories of male youth to some violent jihadist scenes in Pakistan and Afghanistan (c.1986-2006), and raises questions concerning the way violence is collective (political, societal, local) as well as private, idiosyncratic and imagined. Violence in this context is not solely driven by deprivation, exclusion, Karachi's arms trade (burgeoning since the mid-1980s) or notions of Islamist ideology. Rather it derives from resourceful ways people use social networks to subvert their everyday difficulties in local communities, and relate to themselves and others in a field of social, psychological and political domains. The article also prioritizes affective and fantasy aspects of wholeness and love. It argues violence is destructive and (re)generative, enfolding militants' endeavours to impose certainty onto a fractured personal landscape by undermining conventional forms of security, while simultaneously highlighting the insecurity of this undermining. These anthropological readings are prioritized over conventional tropes of religion and ideology deriving from the overarching concepts of Islam, civil society and the state.
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 11/2011; 36(3). DOI:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2011.01074.x · 1.63 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: I had the pleasure of commenting on the articles in this issue when they were first presented as papers at the 2006 annual meeting of the African Studies Association, and the remarks that follow remain true to the character of those comments while acknowledging that the original papers have been reworked and updated. These provocative articles, coupled with my experiences doing ethnographic research in Guinea-Bissau—first among Manjaco in the village-cluster of Bassarel more than twenty years ago, and more recently (and briefly) among immigrant Manjaco in Lisbon—have led me to reflect upon anthropology's relationship to recent history, and to what anthropologists can contribute to an understanding of Guinea-Bissau: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Anthropology has a peculiar relationship to events, especially events that affect whole nations or regions. Anthropologists wish to be current, and we want to illuminate the big picture. And yet we have to acknowledge that there are inherent constraints in our work: the investigations we engage in are usually time consuming, our reports are therefore always belated, and our conclusions are the product of an intimate engagement with relatively few people who are, moreover, often situated on the periphery or at the margins of the state. Thus, even when the articles in this issue were first presented, "today" was already history because their focus was on the period after the war of 1998–99, which began as an attempt by the military to oust President Vieira and ended up as a protracted conflict (largely restricted to the capital, Bissau) that destroyed important infrastructure, caused NGOs to cease operations throughout the country, and led to the mass exodus of at least a quarter-million people from the capital city to seek refuge as "guests" in rural villages (see Vigh 2006).
Just as anthropology has a peculiar relationship to time that makes it hard for us to be current in the journalistic sense, so too are we rarely among the elite "insiders" when momentous events occur. Our interlocutors are usually rural or, if they are urban, they are poor or otherwise disenfranchised. Thus, of the authors represented in this issue, Joanna Davidson (119–41) and Marina Temudo (47–67) have lived with and listened closely and with remarkable acuity to Diola and Balanta farmers near the northern and southern borders of Guinea-Bissau, paying close attention to conflicts between youth and elders and frictions between autochthones and allogènes (see Geshiere & Nyamnjoh 2000)—between locals and outsiders; Lorenzo Bordonaro (69–92) and Henrik Vigh (143–64) have spent much productive time in the company of young men clinging to scant hope in the Bijagos "praça" of Bubaque and at the edges of the "praça" in the capital of Bissau; Michelle Johnson (93–117) has paid sympathetic attention to Mandinga men and women living, with increasing self-consciousness about the problem of identity, as Africans and as Muslims in Lisbon. Our collective sample of the inhabitants of Guinea-Bissau is small, if arguably representative of the majority of the nation's inhabitants. Yet we (and this is also true for much of Africanist anthropology) do much more studying down (peasants and proles) than up (presidents and generals).1
The concentration on the political and economic margins is perhaps all the more acute for those of us who study in Guinea-Bissau because it is such an out-of-the-way place even for Africa. A country that was for a short period, at least officially, a colony of Portugal, the poorest and for a time the most politically retrograde of the European empires; and a country that is not quite the poorest in the world but close to the bottom—Guinea-Bissau is a small sliver of West Africa that in some ways is its own little world. Yet perhaps in some senses it is also exemplary of the region. Because Guinea Bissau was the most marginal of the Portuguese African colonies, it developed little in the way of a colonial anthropological archive. A handful of administrators wrote mostly superficial reports on indigenous societies in the pages of the Boletim Cultural da Guiné Portuguesa, or more sporadically, as fairly schematic monographs (e...
African Studies Review 09/2009; 52(2):165-179. DOI:10.1353/arw.0.0214 · 0.50 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This essay considers new forms of investment, risk, and self-determination, among Botswana's middle and aspirant classes, as well as the loneliness and rage that are at stake when they fail. In it, I use specific instances and more widespread talk of suicides and murder–suicides contemplated, attempted, and accomplished as a vehicle for pondering the social dimensions of investment, and the perils of secrecy and the loneliness that shadow it. Amid a new regime of risk, investment, and self-determination brought by discontinuities of economic boom and widespread AIDS death over the past decade, Batswana are facing new questions about how to invest in relationships, selves, and futures. The essay concludes with a radically different context, a cancer ward, where Batswana seek to exile suicide and nihilism from the beds, minds, and hearts of patients through processes of socialization and paternalism that deny self-determination, while at the same time questing for and demanding investment in high-tech biomedicine.
Cultural Anthropology 10/2009; 24(4):652 - 680. DOI:10.1111/j.1548-1360.2009.01043.x · 2.95 Impact Factor
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