Political Science Politics of West Africa
by
David Ehrhardt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0043

Introduction

Nigerian “419” scams, civil war violence in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the relatively recent traumas of colonial rule: all examples of the troubling features that people commonly associate with West African societies. At closer inspection, however, a more complex picture emerges. In this picture, West Africa boasts a historical legacy of one of the most developed precolonial forms of statehood on the continent, the Sokoto Caliphate, as well as contemporary examples of ambitious regional integration. Moreover, from the arid Sahel to the voluptuous greens of the Niger Delta, the region contains unparalleled riches in resources and biodiversity. Diversity also extends into the social realm, with the complex and myriad ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities that weave and maintain West Africa’s social, political, and economic fabrics. From grinding poverty to stupendous resource riches, and from civil wars to tourist beaches, West Africa is thus a region of contrasts and the politics of the region, understood to include all actions and institutions involved in the governance of West Africa, reflect these contrasts. This article presents a selection of excellent academic texts on this diverse and fascinating realm of African politics. It discusses the themes of electoral politics, the nature of the state, and democratization alongside the impact of ethnic, religious, class, and gender identities and the politics of collective violence, in an attempt to do justice to the disciplinary and thematic heterogeneity of the academic works it presents.

General Overviews

Starting with the major historical transformations that West Africa experienced in the 20th century, this section presents works that can help to make sense of some of the most important historical trends and developments. Lovejoy 2005 provides an example of politics and Islamic state-making before colonial rule, while Crowder 1984 details the ways in which the French and English governed West Africa. Subsequently, Kirk-Greene and Bach 1995, Zeleza and Eyoh 2003, and Cruise O’Brien, et al. 1989 bridge the tumultuous years since independence. Eyoh and Stren 2007 and Olukoshi 2001 both analyze pertinent aspects of contemporary politics, with the rapid urbanization and political-economic uncertainties that characterize most of the region. Finally, as a resource for general support on West African research, the reader is referred to the West African Research Association and its research center in Dakar, Senegal.

  • Crowder, Michael. West Africa under Colonial Rule. London: Hutchinson, 1984.

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    Ambitious introduction to the French and English colonial policies in the region in the period 1880–1945. No online version, but available used and in most academic libraries.

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    • Cruise O’Brien, Donal B., John Dunn, and Richard Rathbone. Contemporary West African States. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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      Edited volume with good chapters on the politics of nine West African states. Update of Dunn’s West African States: Failure and Promise from 1978.

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      • Eyoh, Dickson, and Richard Stren, eds. Decentralization and the Politics of Urban Development in West Africa. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2007.

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        Recent collection of papers on the urban dimension of politics in West Africa, structured around decentralization, identity, and citizenship.

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        • Kirk-Greene, A. H. M., and Daniel Bach. State and Society in Francophone Africa since Independence. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

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          Comprehensive analysis and overview of the politics of Francophone Africa, based on both French and English sources. Somewhat dated, but still unparalleled in reach and depth.

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          • Lovejoy, Paul E. Slavery, Commerce and Production in the Sokoto Caliphate of West Africa. Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 2005.

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            Fascinating introduction to one of the most developed precolonial African polities: the Sokoto Caliphate. Crucial to understanding colonial and postcolonial politics in this region. Highlights the roles of Islam and slavery in this society, which stretched across Benin, Niger, and Nigeria.

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            • Olukoshi, Adebayo O. West Africa’s Political Economy in the Next Millennium: Retrospect and Prospect. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 2001.

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              Outlines the main drivers for continuity and change in contemporary West Africa, focusing on, among other topics, regional cooperation, globalization, peacekeeping, governance, civil society, and gender issues.

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              • West African Research Association.

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                Research association based at the University of Boston, aiming to foster collaborative research on West Africa, supplement documentation resources, and disseminate information about the region. Its West African Research Centre in Dakar, Senegal, provides research support to affiliated scholars.

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                • Zeleza, Tiyambe, and Dickson Eyoh. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century African History. London: Routledge, 2003.

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                  Collection of introductory articles on the major states, cities, and themes in recent African history. Good starting point for any study on Africa.

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                  Political Systems

                  These six works introduce and analyze different aspects of political systems and governance traditions in contemporary West Africa. Clark and Gardinier 1997 provides country-by-country case studies of political reform in Francophone Africa; Zolberg 1964 analyzes political change in the Ivory Coast in the decades leading up to independence. The chapters in Olowu 1999 discuss different governance issues that many West African polities face, while Berman, et al. 2004 discusses one such issue—the relation between politics and ethnicity—both in theory and in a range of country case studies. Sklar 1963 analyzes the emergency of party politics in late-colonial Nigeria, while finally Suberu 2009 complements Sklar’s classic account with an assessment of the contemporary Nigerian federal experiment.

                  • Berman, Bruce, Dickson Eyoh, and Will Kymlicka. Ethnicity & Democracy in Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004.

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                    Edited volume on African democratization, including country-specific chapters on Cameroon, Senegal, and Nigeria.

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                    • Clark, John Frank, and David E. Gardinier. Political Reform in Francophone Africa. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997.

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                      Country-by-country overview of the main political developments in all (West) African Francophone states in the 1980s and 1990s. Useful for more advanced students/scholars.

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                      • Olowu, Dele. Governance and Democratisation in West Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA, 1999.

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                        Great collection of chapters by African scholars on different aspects of West African governance, including local and urban governance, ethnic minorities, legal reforms, and democratization.

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                        • Sklar, Richard L. Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.

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                          Classic study of political party development in late colonial and early postcolonial Nigeria. Although ideologies have changed and alliances have been rearranged, the study is still relevant for a contemporary understanding of Nigerian politics.

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                          • Suberu, R. T. “Federalism in Africa: The Nigerian Experience in Comparative Perspective.” Ethnopolitics 8.1 (2009): 67–86.

                            DOI: 10.1080/17449050902738846Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            Comprehensive, recent overview of Nigerian federalism, with an unusually balanced outline of its strengths and weaknesses. Links Nigerian context to other federal systems.

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                            • Zolberg, Aristide. One-Party Government in the Ivory Coast. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964.

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                              Early study of political change in the Ivory Coast, from the end of World War II until independence. Rich empirical material.

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                              Democratization

                              The publications in this section discuss aspects of electoral politics and the processes of democratization in most West African societies. Ake 1993 provides a good introduction to the peculiarities and problems facing African democracies. The other publications focus on specific country cases. Magnusson 2001 analyzes democratization in Niger, while Mustapha 1999 focuses on elections and political parties in Nigeria. Nugent 1999 covers electoral politics in Ghana; Lund 2001 looks more broadly at the political dynamics between the Nigerian state and its local, informal contenders. European Union Election Observation Mission 2007 provides a detailed illustration of the mechanics of West African elections.

                              • Ake, C. “The Unique Case of African Democracy.” International Affairs 69.2 (1993): 239–244.

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                                Short, insightful essay on the conditions for sustainable democratization in Africa; there is a special focus on ways to bring about the genuine democratic participation of African people.

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                                • European Union Election Observation Mission. Final Report: Presidential, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and State House Elections Nigeria. Brussels: European Union Election Observation Mission, 2007.

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                                  Fascinating level of detail in the description/analysis of the 2007 Nigerian elections. Good introduction to the practicalities and problems of “elections” in contemporary West Africa.

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                                  • Lund, Christian. “Precarious Democratization and Local Dynamics in Niger: Micro-Politics in Zinder.” Development and Change 32.5 (2001): 845–869.

                                    DOI: 10.1111/1467-7660.00229Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    Expert micro-level analysis of “the state” and its contenders for political authority in Niger.

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                                    • Magnusson, B. A. “Democratization and Domestic Insecurity: Navigating the Transition in Benin.” Comparative Politics 33.2 (2001): 211–230.

                                      DOI: 10.2307/422379Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      Balanced analysis of democratization in Benin, outlining its strengths and potential risks to its stability. Interesting discussion on “insecurity,” a threat to democratization, and on its various sources in West African societies.

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                                      • Mustapha, Abdul Raufu. “The Nigerian Transition: Third Time Lucky or More of the Same?” Review of African Political Economy 26.80 (1999): 277–291.

                                        DOI: 10.1080/03056249908704386Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Brief overview of Nigeria’s track record of democratization and assessment of its 1999 democratic transition. Useful for students with some knowledge of Nigerian political history.

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                                        • Nugent, P. “Living in the Past: Urban, Rural and Ethnic Themes in the 1992 and 1996 Elections in Ghana.” Journal of Modern African Studies 37.2 (1999): 287–319.

                                          DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X99003055Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Good analysis of Ghanaian politics, with a focus on the behavior and decisions of political elites and on electoral cleavages in Ghanaian society. Advocates incorporating history and historical memory in political analyses.

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                                          State and Society

                                          This section introduces different aspects of the structure of West Africa’s state organizations, “civil society,” and the (capitalist) economy. Mustapha 2002 provides a great introduction to the nature of the contemporary West African state, while Andrae and Beckman 1998 looks at the ways in which class has become mobilized in the textile unions of northern Nigeria. Smith 2007 and Szeftel 2000 look at the hugely salient issue of corruption in West Africa, though from different viewpoints: Smith 2007 from the (ethnographic) bottom up and Szeftel 2000 from the (political economy) top down. Finally, Boone 1992 focuses on the tense relationship between the modern state and capitalist development in Africa.

                                          • Andræ, Gunilla, and Björn Beckman. Union Power in the Nigerian Textile Industry: Labour Regime and Adjustment. Uppsala, Sweden: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1998.

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                                            Unique analysis of the Nigerian textile industry throughout the oil-boom 1970s, the period of structural adjustment, and liberalization in the 1990s. Emphasis on the importance of unions, which are often overlooked actors in African politics.

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                                            • Boone, Catherine. Merchant Capital and the Roots of State Power in Senegal, 1930–1985. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511528071Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Celebrated complex analysis of the origins and development of the state in Senegal, focusing on its often paradoxical interaction with the development of capitalism.

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                                              • Mustapha, A. R. “Coping with Diversity: The Nigerian State in Historical Perspective.” In The African State: Reconsiderations. Edited by Abdi Ismail Samatar and Ahmed I. Samatar, 253–279. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.

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                                                Analysis of the Nigerian state, both in a historical and political-scientific perspective. Contains a good overview of different models of the state and its applicability in postcolonial West Africa. Not easily available.

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                                                • Smith, Daniel Jordan. A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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                                                  Intriguing ethnographic account of the many guises of corruption (and the protests against it) in the daily lives of Nigerians.

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                                                  • Szeftel, Morris. “Between Governance & Underdevelopment: Accumulation & Africa’s ‘Catastrophic Corruption’”. Review of African Political Economy 27.84 (2000): 287–306.

                                                    DOI: 10.1080/03056240008704460Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Critical appraisal of international efforts against corruption in Africa; argues that liberalization and governance reforms have introduced new forms of corruption rather than eradicate old ones.

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                                                    Citizenship, Indigeneity, Autochthony

                                                    The complex demographic compositions of West African states have rendered the issue of citizenship and “autochthony” highly salient, especially in the context of state formation and postcolonial politics. Fourchard 2009 introduces the local importance of this topic historically, by looking at urban-space allocation in the context of Nigeria and Francophone West Africa. Kirk-Greene 1983 highlights the national-political origins of the Nigerian concept of indigeneity, while Bach 1997 extends this analysis and discusses the implications of this concept of citizenship in a federal state. The problematic potential of autochthony and indigeneity are discussed by Marshall-Fratani 2006, which vividly illustrates the deep connections between autochthony, the state, and the Ivoirian civil war. Crossing over into advocacy, Human Rights Watch 2006 underlines the ways in which Nigerian indigeneity is used as a tool for discrimination. Geschiere 2009 and Pelican 2009 consider autochthony and indigeneity from a more global perspective, indicating the ubiquitous and essentially ambiguous nature of autochthony (Geschiere 2009) and the tension between discourses of autochthony and of “indigenous peoples” (Pelican 2009).

                                                    • Bach, Daniel. “Indigeneity, Ethnicity, and Federalism.” In Transition without End: Nigerian Politics and Civil Society under Babangida. Edited by Larry Jay Diamond, A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, and Oyeleye Oyediran, 333–349. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1997.

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                                                      Outstanding discussion of the origins, objectives, and central problems of Nigerian indigeneity in relation to the federal state and individual citizenship.

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                                                      • Fourchard, Laurent. “Dealing with ‘Strangers’: Allocating Urban Space to Migrants in Nigerian and French West Africa, End of 19th Century to 1960.” In African Cities: Competing Claims on Urban Spaces. Edited by Francesca Locatelli and Paul Nugent, 187–217. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2009.

                                                        DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004162648.i-308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Historical analysis of definitions of “natives” and “strangers” in urban West Africa, contrasting British and French colonial approaches. Remains highly relevant in understanding contemporary urban relations.

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                                                        • Geschiere, Peter. The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Africa and Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

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                                                          Thought-provoking comparative study of autochthony in West Africa and Europe (mostly the Netherlands). Excellent bibliography.

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                                                          • Human Rights Watch. They Do Not Own This Place: Government Discrimination against “Non-Indigenes” in Nigeria. New York: Human Rights Watch, 2006.

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                                                            Well-researched advocacy document about the local fallout of the federal indigeneity policies in Nigeria.

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                                                            • Kirk-Greene, A. H. M. “Ethnic Engineering and the ‘Federal Character’ of Nigeria: Boon of Contentment or Bone of Contention?” Ethnic and Racial Studies 6.4 (1983): 457–476.

                                                              DOI: 10.1080/01419870.1983.9993427Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Early analysis of Nigerian indigeneity and its origins in the “Federal Character” principle. Excellent and balanced overview of the considerations behind the principle and its (potential) risks.

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                                                              • Marshall-Fratani, Ruth. “The War of ‘Who Is Who’: Autochthony, Nationalism, and Citizenship in the Ivoirian Crisis.” African Studies Review 49.2 (2006): 9–43.

                                                                DOI: 10.1353/arw.2006.0098Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Analysis of the centrality of notions of autochthony and citizenship in the civil war in Ivory Coast. Focuses on the production of these notions and their role in the organization of violence.

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                                                                • Pelican, M. “Complexities of Indigeneity and Autochthony: An African Example.” American Ethnologist 36.1 (2009): 52–65.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1425.2008.01109.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Critical analysis connecting the disjointed debates on “indigenous peoples” and “autochthony,” using the Mbororo and Pygmies in Cameroon as case studies.

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                                                                  Ethnicity and Politics

                                                                  A central theme in virtually all political analyses of West Africa is ethnicity and this section outlines some of the major analyses of ethnicity in different West African societies. Berman, et al. 2004 introduces the main issues, as well as several great case studies of ethnic politics in West African states. Nnoli 1998 takes a similar overview approach but with more specific focus on ethnic conflict. Cohen 1963 and Posner 2005 both provide nuanced and convincing instrumentalist accounts of ethnicity in West African politics. Other papers focus on ethnic politics in specific states, namely Ghana (Nugent and Lentz 2000 and Chazan 1982), Nigeria (Dent 2000), and Sierra Leone (Kandeh 1992).

                                                                  • Berman, Bruce, Dickson Eyoh, and Will Kymlicka, eds. Ethnicity & Democracy in Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004.

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                                                                    Brilliant collection on ethnicity in contemporary African politics. Excellent essays on nation-building (Kymlicka) and democratization (Ekeh, Berman), in addition to wide range of country studies.

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                                                                    • Chazan, N. “Ethnicity and Politics in Ghana.” Political Science Quarterly 97.3 (1982): 461–485.

                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2149995Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      Essay on the nexus of ethnicity and politics, detailing the importance of the state in shaping ethnicity and, reciprocally, the ways in which ethnicity is used to shape and accumulate political power.

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                                                                      • Cohen, Abner. Custom and Politics in Urban Africa. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963.

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                                                                        Classic statement of the instrumentalist perspective on ethnicity and politics; a more recent example of this approach is provided by Posner 2005. Case study of the development of the Hausa ethnic community in the “Yoruba town” of Ibadan, Nigeria.

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                                                                        • Dent, M. “Nigeria: Federalism and Ethnic Rivalry.” Parliamentary Affairs 53.1 (2000): 157–168.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/pa/53.1.157Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Dent expertly overviews the ethnic origins and ethnicized logic of Nigerian federalism.

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                                                                          • Kandeh, Jimmy D. “Politicization of Ethnic Identities in Sierra Leone.” African Studies Review 35.1 (1992): 81–99.

                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/524446Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Historical analysis of the construction of ethnic identities in Sierra Leone prior to the civil wars. Good introduction to the meanings and implications of ethnicity in the country and its intersection with class and politics.

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                                                                            • Nnoli, Okwudiba. Ethnic Conflicts in Africa. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 1998.

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                                                                              Seminal overview of conflict and violence around ethnic identities in Africa. Chapters on Nigeria, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal, and Benin, as well as African countries outside the West.

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                                                                              • Nugent, Paul, and Carola Lentz, eds. Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.

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                                                                                Collection of papers on various aspects of the history and contemporary expressions of ethnicity in Ghana. Quite unique in its comprehensive, single-country approach.

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                                                                                • Posner, Daniel N. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                  Although this is ostensibly a case study of Zambia, the institutional-rational framework presented by Posner has great relevance for understanding ethnicity in West African politics.

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                                                                                  Religion and Politics

                                                                                  The books and articles in this section are selected to provide the reader with an entry point into the complex and often heated debates on religion and politics in Africa. Ellis and ter Haar 2004 argues for the importance of religion in African politics and outlines a theory that may help to analyze the subject. Gifford 1995 looks at various aspects of Christian politics by focusing on the relationship between churches and processes of democratization; Strandsbjerg 2000 relates to this topic in the sense of showing how Christianity is considered a source of democratic power in Benin. Cruise O’Brien 1975 shows how Islamic brotherhoods became political under the yoke of colonial rule, while Villalon 1999 discusses the changing roles of these brotherhoods in contemporary Senegal. Izala is discussed by Kane 2003 as an example of a contemporary West African Islamic reform movement with political impact. Falola 1998 and Kukah 1996, however, highlight the risks inherent in the politicization of religion. Finally, Ostien 2007 illustrates a case of deeply intertwined religious and political spheres under Sharia law in contemporary northern Nigeria.

                                                                                  • Cruise O’Brien, Donal B. Saints & Politicians: Essays in the Organisation of a Senegalese Peasant Society. London: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

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                                                                                    Four essays on the political response of the Wolof people in Senegal to colonial rule. Focus is specifically on saints (marabouts) and Muslim brotherhoods. Original but somewhat popularized analysis that still informs Senegalese nexus of religion and politics.

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                                                                                    • Ellis, Stephen, and Gerrie ter Haar. Worlds of Power: Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa. London: C. Hurst, 2004.

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                                                                                      Based on their 1998 article, Ellis and ter Haar use this book to elaborate on their complex theory of religion and politics in Africa in nine thematic chapters. This inspired considerable debate on the links between religion and politics and the best ways to analyze these links.

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                                                                                      • Falola, Toyin. Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1998.

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                                                                                        Classic study of religion and political violence in Nigeria. Great chapters on various episodes and aspects of political and religious violence.

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                                                                                        • Gifford, Paul, ed. The Christian Churches and the Democratisation of Africa. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1995.

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                                                                                          Thorough treatment of the puzzling relationship between Christianity and African democratization; contains chapters from social-scientific and theological scholars.

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                                                                                          • Kane, Ousmane. Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition. Boston: E. J. Brill, 2003.

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                                                                                            Well-researched empirical study of the major Nigerian Islamic reform movement after independence: Izala.

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                                                                                            • Kukah, M. H., and Toyin Falola. Religious Militancy and Self-Assertion: Islam and Politics in Nigeria. Aldershot, UK: Avebury, 1996.

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                                                                                              Classic study in the Nigerian nexus of Islam and politics. Critical but balanced, the book argues for the political importance of Islam and the role of the national Muslim elite in increasing this importance.

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                                                                                              • Ostien, Philip. Sharia Implementation in Northern Nigeria 1999–2006: A Sourcebook. 5 vols. Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum, 2007.

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                                                                                                Superb source on Sharia in contemporary northern Nigeria. Focuses on its history, on its legal and institutional forms of implementation, and on the legal proceedings of two controversial zina cases of Safiyatu Hussaini and Amina Lawal.

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                                                                                                • Strandsbjerg, C. “Kerekou, God and the Ancestors: Religion and the Conception of Political Power in Benin.” African Affairs 99.396 (2000): 395–414.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/afraf/99.396.395Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Considers religion as a source of political power, differentiating between the power derived from vodun (“voodoo,” associated with dictatorship) and from Christianity (associated with democracy).

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                                                                                                  • Villalon, L. A. “Generational Changes, Political Stagnation, and the Evolving Dynamics of Religion and Politics in Senegal.” Africa Today 46.3–4 (1999): 129–147.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1353/at.2003.0106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Outlines the main challenges and transformations in Senegalese Muslim Sufi orders in the 1990s, one of the pillars of Senegal’s stable postcolonial political system.

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                                                                                                    Gender, Class, Politics

                                                                                                    This section highlights works that can help understand the multiple and complex nature of class and gender in West Africa and their intersections; the emphasis on Nigeria is due to the wealth of class research on the country in the 1970s and 1980s. Williams 1976 provides an excellent overview of Nigeria’s political economy, including class and gender relations, just after the country’s independence in 1960. Subsequently, Sandbrook and Cohen 1975 analyzes the development of class consciousness in Africa from a “radical” Marxist viewpoint. Cohen 1981 discusses the structures and political functions of unions in 1970s Nigeria, just prior to Lubeck 1986’s analysis of class formation in the Islamic context of Kano; Andræ and Beckman 1998 provides a historical and contemporary analysis of the textile unions in the same city. As for the politics of class, Beckman 1982 links the imperialist nature of the Nigerian state to different forms of capital accumulation. The state is also the focus of Parpart and Staudt 1989, which discusses the relationship of women to the African state. Looking closely at more local dynamics, Clark 1994 provides an ethnographic account of the position of women in the Ghanaian economy, while Amadiume 2000 discusses the ways in which West African women are engaged politically.

                                                                                                    • Amadiume, Ifi. Daughters of the Goddess, Daughters of Imperialism: African Women Struggle for Culture, Power and Democracy. New York: Zed, 2000.

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                                                                                                      Engaging and politically engaged work on women in Africa, with special focus on Igbo women in southern Nigeria. Rooted in extensive ethnographic fieldwork as well as participation in women’s activism in Igboland.

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                                                                                                      • Andræ, Gunilla, and Björn Beckman. Union Power in the Nigerian Textile Industry: Labour Regime and Adjustment. Uppsala, Sweden: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1998.

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                                                                                                        Seminal analysis of labor mobilization and union activism in the textile industry in northern Nigeria. Discusses the sector’s development after independence in 1960. Unusual in-depth knowledge of an often overlooked set of actors in the analysis of African politics.

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                                                                                                        • Beckman, Björn. “Whose State? State and Capitalist Development in Nigeria.” Review of African Political Economy 23 (1982): 37–51.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/03056248208703487Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Marxist analysis of the Nigerian state as an organ of capital accumulation, both for international and domestic bourgeois actors, without an overemphasis on the importance of oil income. Interesting position on postcolonial forms of “imperialism.”

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                                                                                                          • Clark, Gracia. Onions Are My Husband: Survival and Accumulation by West African Market Women. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                            Ethnographic account of women traders in the market of Kumasi, Ghana, based on several years of fieldwork. Good discussion of the importance of place and space, the intersections of gender, class, religion, and ethnicity, and the impact of structural adjustment and other large-scale reform policies in the late 1970s and 1980s.

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                                                                                                            • Cohen, Robin. Labour and Politics in Nigeria. London: Heinemann, 1981.

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                                                                                                              Early and extensive treatment of Nigerian unions in politics, describing their structures, their political roles and affiliations, and their links to the military government.

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                                                                                                              • Lubeck, Paul. Islam and Urban Labor in Northern Nigeria: The Making of a Muslim Working Class. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 1986.

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                                                                                                                In-depth analysis of the development of class in an African Muslim society. Based on extensive quantitative and qualitative fieldwork in Kano, Nigeria. Dense and somewhat dated, but still a great treatment of class and workers’ identities in the context of Islam.

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                                                                                                                • Parpart, Jane L., and Kathleen A. Staudt, eds. Women and the State in Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1989.

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                                                                                                                  Groundbreaking collection of papers on the relationship between African women and the state in all its guises and forms. Good conceptual conclusion by Chazan and case studies of Nigeria and several other African countries.

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                                                                                                                  • Sandbrook, Richard, and Robin Cohen. The Development of an African Working Class. London: Longman, 1975.

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                                                                                                                    Great collection of empirical Marxist analyses of class formation in various African countries (including Nigeria and Ghana). Explicitly supportive of organized workers’ interests (i.e., “radical”), the collection, including its conceptual introduction, is essential reading for anyone interested in class issues related to West African politics.

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                                                                                                                    • Williams, Gavin, ed. Nigeria: Economy and Society. London: Collings, 1976.

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                                                                                                                      Collection of essays on the political economy of Nigeria in the 1960s and 1970s, seen largely through a Marxist lens of class-based analysis. Williams’s long introduction on Nigeria’s economic and class development and Remy’s paper on the experience of women workers in Zaria are particularly worthwhile.

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                                                                                                                      Structural Adjustment

                                                                                                                      Most of the studies in this section approach the design and implementation of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) in the 1980s and 1990s through a political economic lens, with the exception of Mkandawire and Soludo 2003, which focuses more on the economic aspect of the reforms. Gibbon, et al. 1992 and Herbst 1993 outline political analyses of structural adjustment. Osaghae 1995 and Jega 2000 discuss structural adjustment in an even broader societal context by focusing on its impact on identity formation in Nigeria. Finally, Meagher 1997 analyzes the microdynamics of structural adjustment, with special attention to its impact on urban-rural relations.

                                                                                                                      • Gibbon, Peter, Yusuf Bangura, and Arve Ofstad, eds. Authoritarianism, Democracy, and Adjustment: The Politics of Economic Reform in Africa. Uppsala, Sweden: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1992.

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                                                                                                                        General introduction to the political economy of structural adjustment and other economic reforms in Africa. Good conceptual chapters on international and local political actors involved in reform implementation, as well as a useful chapter on the impact of structural adjustment in Nigeria.

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                                                                                                                        • Herbst, Jeffrey Ira. The Politics of Reform in Ghana, 1982–1991. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                          Great political-economic analysis of the politics behind structural adjustment and economic reform in Ghana in the 1980s. Strong analysis of the nature of the African state; other publications by Herbst are equally worthwhile.

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                                                                                                                          • Jega, Attahiru, ed. Identity Transformation and Identity Politics under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria. Uppsala, Sweden: Nordic Institute of African Studies, 2000.

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                                                                                                                            Accessible and outstanding analysis of structural adjustment and its wider sociopolitical context in Nigeria. Chapters on the state, religious identity, labor identity, and youth are especially worthwhile.

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                                                                                                                            • Meagher, K. “Shifting the Imbalance—the Impact of Structural Adjustment on Rural-Urban Population Movements in Northern Nigeria.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 32.1–2 (1997): 81–92.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/002190969703200107Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Excellent empirical analysis of structural adjustment, differentiating its rural and urban impacts.

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                                                                                                                              • Mkandawire, P. Thandika, and Charles Chukwuma Soludo, eds. African Voices on Structural Adjustment. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                Collection of studies, mostly by (political) economists, attempting to appraise the wider societal impact of structural adjustment. Chapter by Olukoshi is excellent on SAPs and governance in Africa generally, while those by Tshibaka and Emenuga focus on West Africa specifically. Available online.

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                                                                                                                                • Osaghae, Eghosa E. Structural Adjustment and Ethnicity in Nigeria. Uppsala, Sweden: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                  Incisive and concise analysis of structural adjustment and its impact on ethnic identities in Nigeria.

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                                                                                                                                  The Military and Politics

                                                                                                                                  One of the characteristic features of West African postcolonial politics has been the influence of the military on government. Hutchful and Bathily 1998 provides a good starting point for understanding the general roles and impact of military governments, while Kandeh 1996 focuses in some detail on one particular (and particularly destructive) type: those run by the “militariat.” Focusing on the Nigerian military governments, Kirk-Greene 1993 is an exceptional source for those interested in the Biafran war politics, while Diamond, et al. 1997 discusses the subsequent military regime under Babangida. Gyimah-Boadi 1993 and Zack-Williams 1999 cover two remaining countries with extensive military-rule experience, Ghana and Sierra Leone, respectively.

                                                                                                                                  • Diamond, Larry Jay, A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, and Oyeleye Oyediran, eds. Transition without End: Nigerian Politics and Civil Society under Babangida. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                    Classic collection of twenty-one essays on the political stagnation and bleak prospects for democracy under the Babangida regime (1985–1993) in Nigeria. Provides the historical context of the politics of the time, as well as detailed empirical analyses by prominent Nigerian experts of parties and politics, problems of governance, and the vibrancy and struggles of civil society.

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                                                                                                                                    • Gyimah-Boadi, Emmanuel. Ghana under PNDC Rule. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                      Rawlings’s Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) was both an effective implementer of structural adjustment policies (see Herbst 1993, cited under Structural Adjustment) and a highly stable government. This edited volume reviews Rawlings’s successful authoritarian regime, for example, in terms of its impact on the legal system and Ghana’s gender relations and the government’s ideological background.

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                                                                                                                                      • Hutchful, Eboe, and Abdoulaye Bathily. The Military and Militarism in Africa. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                        Good sourcebook of essays on military regimes and civil-military relations in Africa.

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                                                                                                                                        • Kandeh, Jimmy. “What Does the ‘Militariat’ Do When It Rules? Military Regimes: The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia.” Review of African Political Economy 23.69 (1996): 387–404.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/03056249608704204Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Provocative analysis of the impact of a regime originating in the military underclass (the “militariat”). Using Sierra Leone and Liberia (and to a lesser extent the Gambia) as examples, Kandeh argues for the destructive nature of “militariat” rule.

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                                                                                                                                          • Kirk-Greene, A. H. M. Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria: A Documentary Sourcebook, 1966–1970. 2 vols. Aldershot, UK: Gregg Revivals, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                            Unique collection of public documents and statements of public officials from the time of the Biafran civil war. Indispensable for historians of the period, or for advanced scholars of the Biafran war.

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                                                                                                                                            • Zack-Williams, A. B. “Sierra Leone: The Political Economy of Civil War, 1991–98.” Third World Quarterly 20 (1999): 143–162.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/01436599913965Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Critical analysis of the military regime prior to the 1990s civil war in Sierra Leone, highlighting its personalized rule and economic mismanagement as the causes of war. Useful for students of military regimes, as well as those studying the causes of civil war.

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                                                                                                                                              War and Collective Violence

                                                                                                                                              Although in different forms and guises, collective violence has featured prominently in the recent histories of virtually all West African societies. One aspect of this vast and complex topic, youth violence and vigilantism, is treated excellently by experts in the special issue of Africa, “The Politics of Protection, Perspectives of Vigilantism in Nigeria” (see Pratten 2008). Urban riots, a related form of collective violence, are discussed by Wiseman 1986 from a historical viewpoint and by Falola 1998 from the perspective of religion. Kirk-Greene 1993 provides a unique sourcebook for students of the Biafran civil war. Civil war, although in this case in Sierra Leone, is also the central concern of Richards 1996, Zack-Williams 1999, and Keen 2005, which represent some of the best works from the extensive Sierra Leone literature. Richards 1996 builds a rational explanation for the gruesome violence of the war, while Keen 2005 focuses more on its wider societal causes. Zack-Williams, then, uses the perspective of structural political economic causes of war: a perspective that also lies at the heart of Stewart 2008. Her edited volume focuses on one factor that can be a cause for conflict—horizontal inequalities—and through case studies and comparative analyses details the mechanisms by which this factor may cause conflict.

                                                                                                                                              • Falola, Toyin. Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                Great discussion of the role and position of religion in the production and organization of collective violence in Nigeria.

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                                                                                                                                                • Keen, David. Conflict & Collusion in Sierra Leone. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                  Original analysis of the Sierra Leone civil war, based on extensive interviews on all levels of society. Focus is on civil war as an expression of the frustration and marginalization of the poor and powerless countries. Useful for scholars on Sierra Leone politics as well as students of civil war. See also Richards 1996 and Zack-Williams 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Kirk-Greene, A. H. M. Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria: A Documentary Sourcebook, 1966–1970. 2 vols. Aldershot, UK: Gregg Revivals, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                    Unique collection of Nigerian public records from the civil war period. Indispensable for historians analyzing the causes and development of the Biafran war.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Pratten, David, ed. Special Issue: Perspectives of Vigilantism in Nigeria. Africa 78.1 (2008).

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                                                                                                                                                      Excellent collection of articles on vigilantism by leading experts in the field. Diverse, expert analyses, based on extensive fieldwork in and knowledge of Nigerian society.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Richards, Paul. Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth & Resources in Sierra Leone. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                        Provocative analysis of civil war and its violence in Sierra Leone as situationally “rational” and “effective.” Spurred critical reactions and considerable debate, for example, in the article “Lumpen Culture and Political Violence” Africa Development 22 (1997): 3–4. See also Zack-Williams 1999 and Keen 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Stewart, Frances. Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multiethnic Societies. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                          Rich volume presenting the results of the “horizontal inequalities” research at CRISE, Oxford. West Africa is treated in chapters 8, 9, and 10, which focus on Nigeria, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. Useful for academics and policy makers.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Wiseman, John. “Urban Riots in West Africa, 1977–85.” Journal of Modern African Studies 24.3 (1986): 509–518.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X0000714XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Insightful essay on urban riots as the main form of mass political participation in West Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Zack-Williams, A. B. “Sierra Leone: The Political Economy of Civil War, 1991–98.” Third World Quarterly 20.1 (1999): 143–162.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/01436599913965Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Article on the structural political and economic causes of the Sierra Leone war; useful in conjunction with Richards 1996 and Keen 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                              Natural Resources, the Environment, and Agriculture

                                                                                                                                                              This section introduces comparative and single-case studies of different aspects of environmental and rural politics in West Africa. Of the comparative works, Boone 2003 analyzes the development of state institutions in rural Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. Bryceson and Jamal 1997 provides multiple case studies of agricultural change in the context of the “Washington consensus,” while Fairhead and Leach 1998 presents a comparative analysis of West African deforestation. Mortimore 1998 also looks comparatively at desertification and environmental degradation and puts emphasis on the non-human, external factors affecting these processes. Single-case studies are presented by Hill 1998, a classic ethnographic account of cocoa traders in Ghana; Egwu 1998, which connects structural adjustment to agrarian change and rural forms of ethnicity; and Woods 1999, which looks at the developments of Ivoirian cooperatives in relation to the nation-state. Turning to the impact of oil and the “resource curse,” Soares de Oliveira 2007 analyzes the complex web of actors involved in the oil politics of the Gulf of Guinea. Peel 2009, finally, provides penetrating (and sometimes even shocking) journalistic accounts of the environmental and political struggles in the Niger Delta, which is one of the main areas of political instability in contemporary West Africa.

                                                                                                                                                              • Boone, Catherine. Political Topographies of the African State: Territorial Authority and Institutional Choice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511615597Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Outstanding analysis of the state and political power in rural Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. Focuses on the interests, strategic decisions, and power struggles of Africa’s (local) elite in the formation of political institutions.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Bryceson, Deborah Fahy, and Vali Jamal. Farewell to Farms: De-Agrarianization and Employment in Africa. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Collection of good case studies of de-agrarianization and agricultural change in, among others, Nigeria and Ghana. Critical of structural adjustment and the “Washington consensus,” the book is particularly useful for its empirical grasp of the contemporary political and economic realities of African farmers.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Egwu, Samuel G. Structural Adjustment, Agrarian Change and Rural Ethnicity in Nigeria. Uppsala, Sweden: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Study of the impact of structural adjustment on ethnicity in rural Nigeria. Of interest to those studying (ethnic) identities as well as rural, agricultural change.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Fairhead, James, and Melissa Leach. Reframing Deforestation: Global Analyses and Local Realities: Studies in West Africa. London: Routledge, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Outstanding, country-by-country study of deforestation in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Sierra Leone. Critical of exaggerated claims of West African deforestation, based on their tracing of the historical processes of forest decline and growth.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Hill, Polly, and Gareth Austin. The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana: A Study in Rural Capitalism. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Reprint of Hill’s classic 1963 study, with an introduction by Austin discussing the impact of the work on later research. Fascinating ethnographic account of cocoa farmers and the social-economic structures they operate in.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Mortimore, Michael. Roots in the African Dust: Sustaining the Sub-Saharan Drylands. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511560064Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Optimistic analysis of desertification and environmental degradation in the Sahel, emphasizing the role of natural, environmental factors over human agency in these processes. Uses evidence from countries such as Mali and Nigeria.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Peel, Michael. A Swamp Full of Dollars: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria’s Oil Frontier. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Journalistic account of the oil economy, ranging from angry youths in the swamp creeks to the realist logic of the American and British government. Based on extensive field experience in Lagos and the Delta. See also Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas’s book Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil in the Niger Delta (London: Verso, 2003).

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Soares de Oliveira, Ricardo. Oil and Politics in the Gulf of Guinea. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Sociopolitical analysis of the momentous impact of oil on the governance of states bordering the Gulf of Guinea. Good discussion of the roles of local, national, and international actors involved in the politics of oil.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Woods, D. “The Politics of Organising the Countryside: Rural Cooperatives in Cote d’Ivoire.” Journal of Modern African Studies 37.3 (1999): 489–506.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X99003122Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                Great study of the role of the state, and its retreat, in the organization of the interests of rural producers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Regional and International Politics

                                                                                                                                                                                Regional cooperation and integration, however flawed and problematic, has been a core feature of West African postcolonial politics. Lavergne 1997 assesses and explains the extent of this integration critically, while Olukoshi 2001 outlines the main drivers behind cooperation and integration processes. Jalloh and Falola 2008 discusses the long historical relationship between the United States and the West African region, while LeVine 2004 traces the lingering French influence on Francophone West Africa. Finally, Adebajo and Mustapha 2008 zooms in on the major power in the region, Nigeria, and assesses its track record and capacity to bring about a pax-Nigeriana.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Adebajo, Adekeye, and Abdul Raufu Mustapha, eds. Gulliver’s Troubles: Nigeria’s Foreign Policy after the Cold War. Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Exceptional and comprehensive collection on Nigeria’s foreign policy, critically assessing the impact of its ambitions as regional power to instate a pax Nigeriana.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Jalloh, Alusine, and Toyin Falola, eds. The United States and West Africa: Interactions and Relations. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Fascinating accounts of the multiple historical and contemporary linkages between the United States and West Africa, focusing not only on foreign policy but also on historical connections and the role of West Africans in America.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Lavergne, Réal P., ed. Regional Integration and Cooperation in West Africa: A Multidimensional Perspective. Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Major collection of articles on the regional integration of West Africa, written by academics, politicians, and activists. Useful for academics and policy makers alike, as it assesses and reflects on the prerequisites for West African integration.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • LeVine, Victor T. Politics in Francophone Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Analysis of major themes with shared relevance for former French West African states, including their colonial history, independence struggles, political cultures, and ideologies. Outlines the remnants of French colonial rule but also the similarities (and divergences) of the postcolonial political experiences of these states.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Olukoshi, Adebayo. West Africa’s Political Economy in the Next Millennium: Retrospect and Prospect. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Overview of the main drivers for West Africa’s political economy, with excellent discussions of regional peacekeeping, financial and monetary regional integration, and regional infrastructural development.

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