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date: 04 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This contribution explores the role of ‘traditional’ authorities in governance arrangements and how the term ‘tradition’ was used and constructed by local as well as external actors. First, it outlines how tradition was previously discussed and eventually deconstructed in scholarly debates. Second, it looks at how tradition is conceived as an emic notion in the social sciences today, in particular in anthropology and sociology, and how it is used as a legitimizing claim to the past by political actors in areas of limited statehood in West and East Africa. Third, its role in settings of legal pluralism where ‘traditional’ or ‘customary’ norms are recognized parallel to civil law is examined. The fourth section develops a more theoretical perspective on ‘traditional’ authorities and processes of political articulation in governance arrangements. Finally, the contribution concludes by outlining the relevance of this approach for a post-structuralist social theory of governance.

Keywords: tradition, articulation, politics, formation of governance, legal pluralism, post-structuralism, social theory, Africa

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