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States on the Move: Circulation, Mobility and Power in Africa

Discussions about political order in Africa are often still dominated by a narrow conventional understanding in which political formations are static and bound to populations in a fixed territory.
However, the lived experience of many Africans is often one of encountering the state in motion (i.e., the state as a mobile entity), and power—whether exercised by militias, gangs, unions, or regimes—expresses itself as jurisdiction over the dialectics of movement and stoppage. Taking to the road—in particular, dwelling at checkpoints located at the precarious and shifting margins of the state—enables us to closely observe the mobile subject on the move, the circulation of power relations across space, and how place shapes the tactics and maneuvers of people in transit. As a theater of ceaseless state-society negotiation, what insights does mobility and mobile infrastructures furnish about perennial tensions between both? We invite contributions that rethink movement as not just a locus of state predation and violence, but also an affective space of negotiation, resistance, collaboration, connivance, ambivalent complicity, even ambush. What, for instance, are the various arts and strategies (such as humor, strategic ingratiation, situational friendship, and appeal to ethnicity) devised by mobile people to deal with extortion? We also invite contributions that explore the productive friction between movement and control, circulation and stoppage as the fabric of the making, unmaking, and remaking of African states.

Please send your abstract as soon as possible to Peer Schouten pesc@diis.dk & Daniel Agbiboa danielagbiboa@fas.harvard.edu.