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Boundaries, Communities and State-Making in West Africa
The Centrality of the Margins

$39.99 (P)

Part of African Studies

  • Date Published: July 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107622500

$ 39.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Border regions are often considered to be the neglected margins. In this book, Paul Nugent argues that through a comparison of the Senegambia and the trans-Volta (Ghana/Togo), we can see that the geographical margins have shaped notional centres at least as much as the reverse. Through a study of three centuries of history, this book demonstrates that states were forged through an extended process of converting a topography of settled states and slaving frontiers into colonial borders. It argues that post-colonial states and larger social contracts have been configured very differently as a consequence. It underscores the impact on regional dynamics and the phenomenon of peripheral urbanism. Nugent also addresses the manner in which a variegated sense of community has been forged amongst Mandinka, Jola, Ewe and Agotime populations who have both shaped and been shaped by the border. This is an exercise in reciprocal comparison and shuttles between scales, from the local and the particular to the national and the regional.

    • Offers an extended comparison between two regions of Africa, making this analysis both wide-ranging and in-depth
    • Operates at different scales - regional, national and local – and shows how these are connected
    • Brings together discussion of some key elements in the study of African history: borders, cities, states and economies
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    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘This must-read West African showpiece, magnificently executed in the finest traditions of African historical scholarship, with notably intensive archival and library research and extensive fieldwork, should be replicated for other regions to bridge a yearning gap in African and global historiography.’ Anthony I. Asiwaju, University of Lagos, Nigeria

    ‘A model example of deeply-contextualized comparative research. It makes a compelling case that the analytical framework within which African states are viewed should be shifted from 'neo-patrimonialism' to 'social contract' - the latter being deftly deployed throughout this well-written and accessible study.’ Gareth Austin, University of Cambridge

    ‘This ambitious work argues that to understand states and state-making in contemporary Africa, one must focus on 'the margins' - that is, on the making of boundaries and borders. This radical redefinition of analytic perspective, developed in a text of grand historical and spatial sweep, has produced a book that will be a great interest to historians, political scientists, geographers and anthropologists.’ Catherine Boone, London School of Economics and Political Science

    ‘A tremendously creative study, masterfully bringing to the West African fore that which has hitherto been seen as marginal: the edges of the colonial and postcolonial state. With his fine frontier brush, Nugent paints us a different conceptual picture of how we ought to reimagine the centres and perimeters of African polities.' William F. S. Miles, Northeastern University, Boston

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107622500
    • length: 636 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 30 mm
    • weight: 1.02kg
    • contains: 6 b/w illus. 15 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Centering the margins: states, borderlands and communities
    Part I. From Frontiers to Boundaries:
    2. Configurations of power in comparative perspective: commerce, people and belief to c.1880
    3. Port cities, frontiers and boundaries: spatial lineages of the colonial state
    Part II. States and Taxes, Land and Mobility:
    4. Constructing the compound, keeping the gate: a fiscal anatomy of colonial state-making, c.1900–40
    5. Being seen like a state: frontier logics, colonial administration and traditional authority in the borderlands
    6. Border regulation and state-making at the margins: taxation, migration and contraband during the interwar years
    7. Land, belief and belonging in the borderlands
    Part III. Decolonization and Boundary Closure, 1939–69:
    8. Bringing the space back in: decolonization, development and territoriality c.1939–60
    9. The vanishing horizon of Senegambian unity: statist visions and border dynamics
    10. Forging the nation, contesting the border: identity politics and border dynamics in the Trans-Volta
    Part IV. States, Social Contracts and Respacing From Below, 1970–2010
    11. Barnacle states and boundary lines: states, trade and urbanism in the Senegambia
    12. The remaking of Ghana and Togo at their common border: Alhaji Kalabule meets Nana Benz
    13. Boundaries, communities and 're-membering': festivals and the negotiation of difference
    Conclusion. Boundaries and state-making: comparisons through time and space.

  • Author

    Paul Nugent, University of Edinburgh
    Paul Nugent is Professor of Comparative African History and is located in both the the Centre of African Studies and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. He has published extensively on borders, but also on Ghanaian politics, post-colonial African history and the history of South African wine. His books include African Since Independence: A Comparative History (2nd edition, 2012) and A Decade of Ghana: Politics, Economy and Society, 2004–2013 (with M. Amoah, K. Aning and N. Annan, 2015). Nugent was the co-editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies from 2012 until 2017, alongside Leo Villalón, and has since joined the editorial board of this journal. He is also the founder and chair of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE).

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