Juan M. Obarrio F'11

Juan M. Obarrio

ACLS Fellowship Program 2011
Assistant Professor
Anthropology
Johns Hopkins University
‘Customary’ Citizenship in Contemporary Africa

This project explores the contemporary political status of customary law and chieftaincy in postcolonial Africa with a view to developing a comparative study of the current resurgence of custom, "tradition," and its figures of authority across the continent. Indeed, this resurgence is a key political process in contemporary Africa, particularly in post-conflict situations and transitions to neo-liberal "rule of law". Rather than consolidating democratic rights and the rule of law, what the "return" of custom and the figure of the chief, as well as claims on autochtony, local identity, and land, reveal is an ambiguous form of political belonging and sovereignty defined here as “customary citizenship.”