Civil wars, corporate exploitation, AIDS, and Ebola—but also democracy, burgeoning cities, and unprecedented communication and mobility: the future of Africa has never been more uncertain. Indeed, that future is one of the most complex issues in contemporary anthropology, as evidenced by the incredible wealth of ideas offered in this landmark volume. A consortium comprised of some of the most important scholars of Africa today, this book surveys an intellectual landscape of opposed perspectives in order to think within the contradictions that characterize this central question: Where is Africa headed?
The experts in this book address Africa’s future as it is embedded within various social and cultural forms emerging on the continent today: the reconfiguration of the urban, the efflorescence of signs and wonders and gospels of prosperity, the assorted techniques of legality and illegality, lotteries and Ponzi schemes, apocalyptic visions, a yearning for exile, and many other phenomena. Bringing together social, political, religious, and economic viewpoints, the book reveals not one but multiple prospects for the future of Africa. In doing so, it offers a pathbreaking model of pluralistic and open-ended thinking and a powerful tool for addressing the vexing uncertainties that underlie so many futures around the world.
Mozambique has been hailed as a success story by the international community, which has watched it evolve through a series of violent political upheavals: from colonialism, through socialism, to its current democracy. As Juan Obarrio shows, however, this view neglects a crucial element in Mozambique’s transition to the rule of law: the reestablishment of traditional chieftainship and customs entangled within a history of colonial violence and civil war. Drawing on extensive historical records and ethnographic fieldwork, he examines the role of customary law in Mozambique to ask a larger question: what is the place of law in the neoliberal era, in which the juridical and the economic are deeply intertwined in an ongoing state of structural adjustment?
Having made the transition from a people’s republic to democratic rule in the 1990s, Mozambique offers a fascinating case of postwar reconstruction, economic opening, and transitional justice, one in which the customary has played a central role. Obarrio shows how its sovereignty has met countless ambiguities within the entanglements of local community, nation-state, and international structures. The postcolonial nation-state emerges as a maze of entangled jurisdictions. Ultimately, he looks toward local rituals and relations as producing an emergent kind of citizenship in Africa, which he dubs “customary citizenship,” forming not a vestige of the past but a yet ill-defined political future.