Informal authority and contested sovereignties in post-socialist Tanzania
Daivi Rodima-Taylor (Boston University)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on new forms of vigilantism and community policing that have accompanied a recent proliferation of diverse forms of lawlessness affecting Kuria borderlands between Kenya and Tanzania, and examines the effects of these on legitimacy, authority, and the state.
Paper long abstract:
Novel forms of regulating cooperation and violence are on the rise among Kuria of Tanzania. Diverse informal associations for community policing and economic cooperation have emerged in the post-socialist Kuria communities. Recent neoliberal decentralization reforms have cast new attention on the issues of autochthony and tradition in many areas of Africa, resulting in complex politics of belonging and identity (Comaroff and Comaroff 2012, 2006; Geschiere 2009). The paper focuses on new forms of vigilantism and community policing that have accompanied a recent proliferation of diverse forms of lawlessness affecting Kuria borderlands between Kenya and Tanzania. The easing of border restrictions after the demise of the socialist administration in Tanzania has brought about increased trans-border mobility, crime and smuggling. Local practices of community policing draw upon existing cultural repertoires and traditional patterns of social organization - age grades and circumcision sets, clan and lineage councils and secret societies - but also effect significant changes in these. The vigilante units and neighborhood courts display an intriguing tendency towards increased formalization, regularization of activities and routinization of procedures. In the context of a growing loss of state control over mobility and boundedness in Kuria borderlands, alternative institutions and practices of social control are taking shape, with unclear consequences to legitimacy and authority. The discussion explores how the emerging practices of violence and its control among Kuria reshape institutional and territorial boundaries, simultaneously reaffirming the importance of the state but also facilitating experimentation with alternative modes of regulation and sovereignty.
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