The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa

The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa

These compelling and wide-ranging studies explore the staying power and apparently counter-intuitive resurgence of chiefship in Africa … Chiefs have clout because their role draws on sources of sovereignty that go beyond the conventional realm of politics to encompass kinship networks, ritual, business, and the global economy. This book shines new light on the interplay of tradition and modernity, showing that chiefship is neither wholly of the state nor of the customary, but always entangled with both. — Deborah James, London School of Economics.

Detailed Information

  • Title: The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa
  • Editor/s: John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff
  • Publisher: WITS University Press
  • Country of Origin: South Africa
  • Publication Year: 2018
  • ISBN: 9781776143207
  • Bib. Info: Paperback; 368pp

These compelling and wide-ranging studies explore the staying power and apparently counter-intuitive resurgence of chiefship in Africa … Chiefs have clout because their role draws on sources of sovereignty that go beyond the conventional realm of politics to encompass kinship networks, ritual, business, and the global economy. This book shines new light on the interplay of tradition and modernity, showing that chiefship is neither wholly of the state nor of the customary, but always entangled with both. — Deborah James, London School of Economics.

How are we to explain the resurgence of customary chiefs in contemporary Africa? Rather than disappearing with the tide of modernity, as many expected, indigenous sovereigns are instead a rising force, often wielding substantial power and legitimacy despite major changes in the workings of the global political economy in the post-Cold War era – changes in which they are themselves deeply implicated.

This pathbreaking volume, edited by anthropologists John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, explores the reasons behind the increasingly assertive politics of custom in many corners of Africa. Chiefs come in countless guises – from university professors through cosmopolitan businessmen to subsistence farmers – but, whatever else they do, they are a critical key to understanding the tenacious hold that ‘traditional’ authority enjoys in the late modern world. Together the contributors explore this counterintuitive chapter in Africa’s history and, in so doing, place it within the broader world-making processes of the twenty-first century.

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