Call for Papers – International Conference Municipalities and Local Powers in Africa (16th – 21st Centuries)

Deadline: 30 May 2014 - 12:00am

Dates: 4 - 6 November 2014


Where: Lisbon, Portugal

Venue: Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Conveners: Augusto Nascimento (IICT); Eugénia Rodrigues (IICT); Paulo Jorge Fernandes (IHC/FCSH-UNL)

Academic interest in the forms of local government in Africa has been increasing since 1990’, in correlation with the emergence of democratic movements on the continent.
Historically, most African societies were organized around small units in which political power resided in a chief or group of individuals. The local authorities, under various modalities and headed by lineage chiefs, played an important role in social reproduction, ensuring order and the representation of the community. The legitimacy of these power-holders was based on traditional forms of authority, structured according to customary rules derived from the community. In certain periods of history and in certain territories of Africa, these communities were incorporated into larger states, but this remained the organizational basis of many African societies.
Colonization did not always eliminate the role of traditional authorities. In the majority of European empires, under various forms, the traditional chiefdoms were integrated into the foundation of the colonial administrative apparatus, even though this sometimes subverted the process of choosing African authorities and its territorial base.
Often, the traditional authorities served as intermediates between the populations and the imperial powers. After independence, and often during tumultuous political processes of independence, this role was also negotiated in relation to the independent states. In several cases, roles have even been strengthened, as the traditional authorities seek to enlarge their area of intervention.
Among the local arrangements transferred by European empires into Africa are the municipalities, which joined the existing local authorities. The municipal powers were imposed by the Europeans in distinct political contexts and times.  The municipalities generated colonial elites, which joined the lobbying of the imperial power in Europe and their representatives based on the African territory over local issues.
Regardless of the actual results, the municipalities offered the possibility of political participation, especially to urban elites.  Perhaps because of this, municipalities allowed the gestation of distinct identities, not necessarily nationalistic, but in any case, potentially different to the Metropolitan power-induced.
In a simplistic synthesis, during the twentieth century there was a consensus that brought together several political beliefs regarding the relevance of the state as a homogenizing institution and a promoter of social and economic development. This perspective has led to the devaluation, or even rejection of the local authorities as social actors. Formal examples of such include the replacement of elected chambers with unelected committees, a process occurring in parallel with changes to traditional authorities.
The processes of African independences and the installation of democratic regimes, albeit occurring across very wide chronological frames, brought to the table the issue of reconstruction of the institutional architecture and the merging of the different levels of political representation. Regardless of the conflict inherent in any relationship involving the distribution of power, the construction of vast political entities – such as the state –does not negate the interrelation between the state and the various forms of local power.
The range of issues to contemplate in approaching the building of powers, political representation and political and social cohesion issues present in today’s Africa is extremely varied. Subordinate to these issues, taking into account the historical and contemporary perspectives, this conference is intended to make a scientific contribution to the understanding of local power and its role in social development and in setting state policy throughout African societies. This conference will be a platform for social scientists to interact, cooperate and strengthen research output.
Deadline for proposals submission: 30 May 2014
Proposals submission: by email to [email protected]; attach a Word file with the title, an abstract (300-600 words), name and a bio-note (100 words)
Notification of acceptance: 30 June 2014
Languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English and French
Organizing Comittee: Augusto Nascimento (IICT); Eugénia Rodrigues (IICT); Paulo Jorge Fernandes (IHC/FCSH-UNL)
image credit: IHC-NOVA
Read older posts from this section

Leave a Reply