Drawing the Boundary between State and Society: An Anthropological Perspective from Mali

Pes, Luca
August 2014
Global Jurist;Aug2014, Vol. 14 Issue 1-3, p121
Academic Journal
Stable and peaceful country by West African standards, Mali uneasily fits the paradigm of a 'failed state.' While government and development agencies tend to interpret Mali's stability as the outcome of successful institutional reform, foreign scholars and local intellectuals emphasize the power of enduring traditions and their adaptation to changing conditions in Malian society. Critically assessing both views, this paper addresses Mali's peaceful condition from the perspective of Mande, the region south-west of the capital Bamako. It draws attention to the intensely mediated form of government resulting from the dynamic process of grouping and of building cooperative relations in everyday social life. Contributing to the anthropological tradition studying law, politics and the state in Africa, the paper links recent trends in the anthropology of the state to a reanalysis of the traditional chestnut of the anthropology of West Africa, a 'segmentary style' of social organization.


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