What determines the variety in power configurations around the same public service between different places or over time? What explains the different ways in which public services reacted to a particular attempt at reform, to a particular development initiative or to any other type of disruption?
In Africa, as elsewhere, public services are given shape both by the idea of improvement of people's wellbeing and by a set of daily routines and practices that connect a diversity of contradictory political, economic, bureaucratic and social interests that make up the everyday governance of a public service, almost always at quite a distance from its original purpose. A more detailed understanding of these interests and the internal contradictions they give rise to may be an important first step to explain the dynamics of change in governance and, possibly, to identify new possibilities for change. In this panel, we would especially like to invite proposals that take a comparative perspective: what determines the variety in power configurations around the same public service between different places or over time? Or what explains the different ways in which public services reacted to a particular attempt at reform or to a particular development initiative or any other type of disruption? We are also interested in proposals that work on public services as vantage points from which one can take a look at the "lame Leviathian" (Callaghy) of the African state itself: how does the idea of the state and what it is supposed to do evolve over time, how unifying is it still, suspended between different visions, enactments and performances?