Lezing Alice Wilson: Sovereignty in exile: a Saharan liberation movement governs.

18-05-2018 van 10:00 tot 11:30
Paddenhoek 1, 9000 Gent, lokaal 1.3
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Conflict Research Group
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Debates in Conflict & Development: rethinking statehood & governance

Lecture Alice Wilson: Sovereignty in exile: a Saharan liberation movement governs.


Insurgents, revolutionaries and liberation movements who seek to capture state power often aim to change the very nature of the state and society, e.g. promising to promote participation, social egalitarianism and redistribution. Yet if and when insurgents have the opportunity to practise state power, this is often in precarious circumstances of post-war reconstruction, or exile and lack of international recognition. In such conditions, what resources and techniques help construct revolutionary state power? The in-depth study of the liberation movement of Western Sahara, which runs a partially recognised state authority in exile in Algeria, suggests how making (revolutionary) state power can entail recycling and transforming the social relations of a pre-existing, non state-centred alternative form of sovereign power, in this case tribes. The resulting, apparently exceptional, form of state power suggests fresh perspectives on Eurocentric and North African models of the state. In the discussion part of the class, building on the lecture, we examine in-depth empirical accounts of attempts to create revolutionary state power, asking how these insights complicate grand narratives of revolutionary change.

Questions to think about:

1) What are the advantages and disadvantages of thinking about claims to create revolutionary state power as a break with the past?

2) What competing accounts of legitimate political authority and legitimacy do you observe in these and related readings? Can you compare the roles of internal and external audiences?

3) What conceptual advantages and disadvantages are there to framing a particular case (such as Western Sahara), or a particular moment (such as "the revolution"), as an exception?


Alice Wilson is a lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Sussex, UK. Her research interests span political and economic anthropology, with a particular interest in radical projects for social change, such as revolutions and liberation movements. Her geographical focus is on the Middle East and North Africa. Alice’s recent book, Sovereignty in exile: a Saharan liberation movement governs (University of Pennsylvania Press 2016), charts experiments in sovereignty and revolutionary state power in the case of the liberation movement from the disputed territory of Western Sahara in north-west Africa. Sovereignty in Exile won Honorable Mention in the 2017 book award of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. In her current research, Alice examines legacies of the former liberation movement in Dhufar, southern Oman.