Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-4rdrl Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-16T08:56:12.881Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Ethnographies of emergence: everyday politics and their origins across Africa Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 July 2019


The articles that appear in this part issue focus on disparate topics, from rumours of electoral fraud to the production of art, and span the African continent from Guinea and Ghana in the west to Zimbabwe in the south. Despite their evident differences, the contributors see their pieces as united by a common theme: emergence. Elaborating on Simone's influential exploration of the intertwined concepts of emergence and emergency (2004), as well as prior research in Africa on informal economic practices (the exchange of goods and services unregulated by states) (Hart 1973; Piot 2010; Roitman 2004; Weiss 2009), we consider emergence to be the process by which new social formations become thinkable, repeatable, and even – at times – habitual. Although conditions of crisis or precarity or even revolutionary upheaval might be fertile ground for emergence, insofar as these social conditions represent ‘rupture[s] in the organization of the present’ (Simone 2004: 4), the articles here also show that new social practices do not emerge out of nowhere. Rather, these articles demonstrate that attention to quotidian encounters can illuminate how citizens mobilize previously existing norms and patterns of behaviour in response to social change or economic crisis.

Ethnographies of emergence
Copyright © International African Institute 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Arendt, H. (1990) On Revolution. New York NY: Penguin Group.Google Scholar
Comaroff, J. and Comaroff, J. L. (2005) ‘Naturing the nation: aliens, apocalypse, and the postcolonial state’ in Hansen, T. Blom and Stepputat, F. (eds), Sovereign Bodies: citizens, migrants and states in the postcolonial world. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Degani, M. (2017) ‘Modal reasoning in Dar es Salaam's power network’, American Ethnologist 44 (2): 300–14.Google Scholar
De Herdt, T. and Olivier de Sardan, J.-P. (eds) (2015) Real Governance and Practical Norms in Sub-Saharan Africa: the game of the rules. Volume 7. Abingdon and New York NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (2011) A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
Geschiere, P. (2009) The Perils of Belonging: autochthony, citizenship, and exclusion in Africa and Europe. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Goldstone, B. and Obarrio, J. (2017) African Futures: essays on crisis, emergence, and possibility. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Guha, R. (1988) ‘The prose of counter-insurgency’ in Guha, R. and Spivak, G. C. (eds), Selected Subaltern Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Hart, K. (1973) ‘Informal income opportunities and urban employment in Ghana’, Journal of Modern African Studies 11 (1): 6189.Google Scholar
Hoffman, D. (2011) The War Machines: young men and violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Durham NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Larkin, B. (2008) Signal and Noise: media, infrastructure, and urban culture in Nigeria. Durham NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Livingston, J. (2012) Improvising Medicine: an African oncology ward in an emerging cancer epidemic. Durham NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
McGovern, M. (2013) Unmasking the State: making Guinea modern. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Newell, S. (2012) The Modernity Bluff: crime, consumption, and citizenship in Côte d'Ivoire. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Piot, C. (2010) Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Roitman, J. (1990) ‘The politics of informal markets in sub-Saharan Africa’, Journal of Modern African Studies 28 (4): 671–96.Google Scholar
Roitman, J. (2004) ‘The reconstitution of state power in the Chad Basin’ in Das, V. and Poole, D. (eds), Anthropology in the Margins of the State. Santa Fe NM: School of American Research Press.Google Scholar
Sahlins, M. (1981) Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: structure in the early history of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Scott, J. C. (1990) Domination and the Arts of Resistance: hidden transcripts. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Sewell, W. H. (2005) Logics of History: social theory and social transformation. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Simone, A. (2004) For the City Yet to Come: changing African life in four cities. Durham NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Smith, N. R. (2015) ‘Rejecting rights: vigilantism and violence in post-apartheid South Africa’, African Affairs 114 (456): 341–56.Google Scholar
Smith, N. R. (2019) Contradictions of Democracy: vigilantism and rights in post-apartheid South Africa. New York NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Stites, R. (1989) Revolutionary Dreams: utopian vision and experimental life in the Russian Revolution. New York NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Vigh, H. (2006) Navigating Terrains of War: youth and soldiering in Guinea-Bissau. New York NY: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
Vigh, H. (2009) ‘Motion squared: a second look at the concept of social navigation’, Anthropological Theory 9 (4): 419–38.Google Scholar
Weiss, B. (2009) Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops: global fantasy in urban Tanzania. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar