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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 July 2019

Extract

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.

Type
Ethnographies of emergence
Copyright
Copyright © International African Institute 2019 

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