FATHERS, SONS, AND THE STATE: Discipline and Punishment in a Wolof Hinterland
ABSTRACT 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.
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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. · 2.95 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This essay presents a history of articulations between the state apparatus and the realm of the “customary” in northern Mozambique, throughout periods of colonial rule, Socialism, civil war, and postcolonial democratic regimes. The analysis pivots around the ethnographic study of magico-religious rituals combined with postsocialist political rallies. In Mozambique, current recognition of chieftaincy and the “customary” by the state, supported by international donors, reverses decades of postcolonial ban on indigenous authority and practice. This peculiar case presents a paradigmatic perspective on the complex trajectory of indigeneity in postcolonial Africa, where local autochthonous structures and identities are entangled within a history of colonial violence, political oppression, and recent harsh conflict.Cultural Anthropology 04/2010; 25(2):263 - 300. · 2.95 Impact Factor