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Sedimentation, Fragmentation and Normative Double-Binds in (West) African Public Services

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Chapter Summary

This chapter makes the case for the anthropological or ethnographic study of statehood, which is severely lacking in the case of Africa. In concrete terms, it summarizes the findings of an international research programme carried out by a team of African, French and German researchers in four countries of West Africa, which are occasionally supplemented by evidence from other parts of the continent. The chapter concentrates on a few selected findings of the research project and argues that, by a process which the author refers to as sedimentation, historical trajectories have resulted in the emergence of heterogeneous and fragmented bureaucracies which, from the perspective of the public servants working in them, are complex normative universes shot through with numerous double binds. Macro-differences between public services around the globe should not, therefore, be essentialized but understood as the accumulated products of numerous micro-processes.

Keywords: bureaucracy; heterogeneity; public servants; sedimentation; West Africa



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