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Cultural and Social Anthropology

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African Political Cultures: A comparative Study in Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, South Africa, and Zambia

Funding: DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Total duration: 6 years (within the focus programme 1448 of DFG)

Funding period: 2011-2013

Project lead: Prof. Dr. Georg Klute (zusammen mit Prof. Dr. Elisio Macamo, Basel und Prof. em. Dr. Trutz von Trotha, Siegen)

Associate employee: Dr. Dereje Feyissa Dori, Humboldt-Stipendiat Bayreuth

Research associate: Dr. Thomas Hüsken; Dr. des. Raul Fernandes


Africa is a continent where creative experimenting with political orders is omnipresent. Currently, we observe the rise of new actors and the emergence of new institutions and ways of conflict resolution. Political culture is a key to understand and to explain this process of creativity and adaptation. It includes political actions, normative rules, institutional arrangements, discourses, rituals and symbols. Political culture is a dynamic phenomenon. Power, legitimacy, and violence are at its core.

Adopting a comparative, transdisciplinary and actor-centred perspective, the research project studies the political cultures of five different African countries, south as well as north of the Sahara: Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, South-Africa, Zambia, and Libya. The countries differ along the lines of the power of the state, the presence of 'heterarchical figurations', the role and meaning of violence, magic, witchcraft, codes and institutions of conflict resolution, and the kind of leaders and power groups which shape political cultures.

Applying a host of qualitative methods of anthropology and sociology and following a bottom-up research design, the study is particularly interested in the political cultures of those local and regional leaders and power groups who are at the intersection of local, regional, national and transnational politics, determine political culture, and bind people to the political order. The study aims at a better understanding of African politics and of its remarkable adaptability and flexibility and to contribute to general political anthropology and sociology.

Webmaster: Nadja Bscherer

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