August 2022

Congratulations to Wale Adebanwi (“Burying “Zik of Africa”: The Politics of Death and Cultural Crisis” (CSSH 63-1, 2021); “Death and Burial: The Affinity of Journalism and Ethnography“) on the publication of the edited volume Everyday State and Democracy in Africa: Ethnographic Encounters (Ohio University Press, 2022). The publisher writes,

Bottom-up case studies, drawn from the perspective of ordinary Africans’ experiences with state bureaucracies, structures, and services, reveal how citizens and states define each other.

This volume examines contemporary citizens’ everyday encounters with the state and democratic processes in Africa. The contributions reveal the intricate and complex ways in which quotidian activities and experiences—from getting an identification card (genuine or fake) to sourcing black-market commodities to dealing with unreliable waste collection—both (re)produce and (re)constitute the state and democracy. This approach from below lends gravity to the mundane and recognizes the value of conceiving state governance not in terms of its stated promises and aspirations but rather in accordance with how people experience it.

Both new and established scholars based in Africa, Europe, and North America cover a wide range of examples from across the continent, including
– bureaucratic machinery in South Sudan, Nigeria, and Kenya
– infrastructure and shortages in Chad and Nigeria
– disciplinarity, subjectivity, and violence in Rwanda, South Africa, and Nigeria
– the social life of democracy in the Congo, Cameroon, and Mozambique
– education, welfare, and health in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burkina Faso

Everyday State and Democracy in Africa demonstrates that ordinary citizens’ encounters with state agencies and institutions define the meanings, discourses, practices, and significance of democratic life, as well its distressing realities.

Congratulations as well to Graham Denyer Willis (“The Potter’s Field” (CSSH 60-3, 2018)). His new book, Keep the Bones Alive: Missing People and the Search for Life in Brazil (University of California Press, 2022) is described thusly:

Every year at least 20,000 people go missing in São Paulo, Brazil. Many will be found, sometimes in mundane mass graves, but thousands will not. Keep the Bones Alive explores this phenomenon and why there is little concern for those who vanish. Ethnographer Graham Denyer Willis works beside family members, state workers, and gravediggers to examine the rationalization behind why bodies are missing in space—from cemeteries, the criminal coroner’s office, prisons, and elsewhere. By accompanying the bereaved as they confront an indifferent state and a suspicious society and search for loved ones against all odds, this gripping book reveals where missing bodies go and the reasons why people can disappear without being pursued. Recognizing that disappearance has long been central to Brazil’s everyday political order, this humanistic account of the silences surrounding disappearance shows why a demand for a politics of life is needed now more than ever.