State recuperation, resource mobilisation and conflict: Researching citizenship and capacity in African states

Programme co-ordinator: Lars Buur
The programme was started in 2003 and ended in 2004

The research programme explores the complex interconnections between postcolonial state recuperation, resource mobilisation and conflict in South Africa and Mozambique. Through the prism of resource mobilisation - formal and informal taxes, user fees, self-help and aid etc. - the programme explores the dynamics behind state recuperation and its effects with regard to the constitution of different types of citizenship, forms of democratic organisation and sorts of conflict. While there is widespread agreement about the need to improve the public sector in developing countries and to increase resource mobilisation, conflicts arise as soon as the agenda becomes specific. Conflicts often offer rich and compact pictures of how resources are employed in competition over rights, contestation of law, redistribution patterns and how authority and legitimacy are challenged.

Programme description
The research programme intends to explore the complex interconnections between postcolonial state recuperation, resource mobilisation in a broad sense (this includes taxes, user fees, self-help, and aid etc.), and new arenas for conflict in African states. The term recuperation is intended to describe the processes by which the re-constitution of state legitimacy and forms of state practice (particularly in areas such as resource mobilisation and service provision) are embarked upon during political, economic and administrative decentralisation reforms in African states. It is generally accepted that conflicts are generic to reform. While there is widespread agreement about the need to improve the public sector in developing countries and to increase resource mobilisation, conflicts arise as soon as the agenda becomes specific. Conflicts often offer rich and compact pictures of how resources are employed in competition over rights, contestation of law and decentralisation plans and how authority and legitimacy are challenged. Obvious questions such as the following will be explored: Which kind of taxes and other forms of revenues give rise to certain kinds of conflicts? What role does the sequence of reform activities and resource mobilisation play in the articulation of certain kinds of conflicts? Who or which key protagonists feature most prominently in conflicts related to reform and resource mobilisation?

Furthermore, the programme aims to explore the consequences formal and informal resource mobilisation and service provision have for the constitution of different kinds of citizenship. It is becoming increasingly clear that the colonial distinction between citizens with rights and membership of the political community on the one hand, and subjects governed indirectly through a range of different arrangements such as traditional authority, local justice structures, party or interest groupings on the other, continues to underlie practices of citizenship in Africa, if not elsewhere. The programme will through the prism of resource mobilisation (forms of taxation and revenue generation) explore the constitution of ‘differentiated’ or ‘conditional’ citizenship; pointing to the fact that de jure rights have not necessarily been converted into de facto rights for many of the most poor sections of African populations. As such the programme will focus on preconditions for state capacity building and planning by focusing on state practices and the relationship between state practices and state-subjects that underpin claims to legitimacy.

Over its 3(-6) year timeframe the programme aims to contribute empirical knowledge, conceptual analyses and to provide a historical and comparative context of relevance to development studies and interdisciplinary social science.


Lars Buur has a doctoral degree (PhD) from the Department of Ethnography and Social Anthropology, Aarhus University, Denmark and carried out his postdoctoral research at the Danish Institute for International Studies (former Centre for Development Research) in Copenhagen. He has done intensive fieldwork in South Africa and Mozambique: first for his doctoral degree on the work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission 1996-1999; most recently for his postdoctoral research project on state recuperation, local justice enforcement, traditional leadership, crime, and vigilantism in South Africa and Mozambique.

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