Accepted paper:

Becoming Citizens, Imagining Futures: Crisis and Political Culture in Kambia, Sierra Leone


Luisa Enria (University of Bath)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores how the experience of the Ebola emergency response in a peripheral Sierra Leonean town, reshaped ideas of citizenship and forged new expectations, disrupting traditional campaign tactics in the 2018 Presidential Elections.

Paper long abstract:

In July 2015, Kambia, a small town in Sierra Leone's Northern Province, became the centre of one of the last efforts to end the outbreak of Ebola that had devastated the country: Operation Northern Push. The Operation, led by the military, included curfews and punishment for failure to comply to Ebola regulations such as safe burials. in Kambia, the Operation was met with ambivalence. On the one hand widespread mistrust was confirmed by the violence of the response. On the other, it was a unique encounter with the state. This opened a conversation about what it meant to be a citizen from a previously neglected border town, also giving life to ideas of what it could mean in the future. Kambians in some ways became citizens through crisis. Based on extensive field research, the paper explores how experiences and memories of crisis forged new expectations. Focusing on the 2018 election campaign, the paper shows how Ebola disrupted the political strategies normally adopted "up country". Tracing Kambians' political imagination and hopes in this election, highlights the importance of an ethnographic perspective from peripheral towns to challenge existing accounts of electoral politics, legitimacy and the social contract.

panel Anth07
Politics at the periphery