ALC Research Agenda

ALC Research Agenda: Peace, Society and the State in Africa

The ALCs 10-year research agenda began in 2017. Titled ‘Peace, Security and the State in Africa’, it interrogates the state in Africa in relation to the challenges of peacebuilding, as well as conflict and insecurity. The state – its nature and its role (or factual absence of it) – is at the core of the problems examined by the ALC’s six research groups. More than one decade of researching peacebuilding and statebuilding in Africa shows that the nature of the state in Africa is invariably at the core of the challenge of conflict relapse. Indeed, cumulatively, research over the years in the field of peace and security shows that there is a need to re-examine the evolution and role of the state in building and sustaining peace. To be sure, the liberal peacebuilding approach has not managed to deliver stable peace. But statebuilding remains a factor that cannot be easily jettisoned. The question remains as to the role of the state in the path to stable peace.

In particular, the nature of the relationship between the state and the larger society from which it grew has emerged as an issue requiring greater attention. The re-interrogation of the state in Africa is underlined by the need to document and explore the lessons from governance models that work in African societies and their adaptability to the state in Africa. It is evident that some things have worked and others have not; and some governance patterns mirror liberal models while others do not. Attention is gradually shifting to the very locales where conflict is occurring, for therein lies the potential pathway to sustaining peace.

Research Groups/Clusters              

  1. Future peace and the role of the state in Africa

This is an exploratory research that interrogates the perspectives, visions and expectations of current future types of peace amongst a critical social group in Africa, namely young people. It interrogates the predominant vision of peace among Africa’s youth and future leaders, as well as explores what they see as greatest sources of insecurity for African youth and Africa in general. It engages the core ideas and most viable strategies for sustaining peace as proposed or envisaged by young Africans.

  1. Dominant theories and notions of statehood

This research group critically interrogates extant and dominant theories on statehood (across the ideological spectrum) and their utility for the African context across time. It explores the key questions of what notions and models of statehood exist in Africa? Who is the state, who identifies with the state, with whom does the state identify, whom are state policies and ‘development’ meant to benefit? And what are the implications of these models for peace, security and socio-economic outcomes?

  1. Historical trajectory of African statehood across space and periods

This research group explores the historical conceptualization and interpretation of empirical realities of statehood in Africa across a range of periods. The re-visitation of the ideas and realities of statehood in Africa is guided by an appraisal of how has evolution in conceptualization and interpretation of statehood over specific periods shaped approaches to peace, security and development? And what factors differentiate the experiences of statehood in Africa from other places? Some of the periods to be examined might include, the pre-colonial; colonial; (second) industrial revolution; the Second World War and post-colonial and ”post” independence periods.

  1. Society-state dynamics and impact on peace and statehood

This research group focuses on the dynamics within societal contexts with emphasis on how various entities and actors are influencing the construct of African states and notions of statehood. This research group interrogates the extent to which the internal dynamics in African societal responses to security and development challenges are compelling a change in the state and manifestations of statehood. In particular it explores the question: how are evolutions in technology and new media altering societal responses to security and development challenges? How are these dynamics and evolutions influencing notions of statehood in Africa? And what justice and peace issues (puzzles) are brought to the fore by these dynamics and evolutions?

  1. Nodality, Old and New Regionalisms, and African Statehood

This research group considers how regionalism and regionalization, including the pivotal role of nodal entities (individuals, groups and states) and processes, have evolved across time and how these dynamics have impacted on African statehood. It is guided by questions such as: to what extent are notions of regionalism and regions changing in Africa? To what extent are the changes signposting the evolution of the ‘regions’ and ‘regionalism’ of the future? And what are the implications for statehood in Africa? How are evolutions and changes in regionalism shaping or altering notions of nodality and nodal states and regions in Africa? And what peace, security, socio-economic and political outcomes are emerging from these evolutions and changes?

  1. African statehood and the international political economy

This research group focuses on the interface between international political-economy contexts and the notions and realities of African statehood across times. It is underlined by the assumption that Africa and Africa states exist in a global context where the policies, actions or inactions, and practices of major political-economy actors shape the identities, character, functions and ideological orientations of statehood. This group is guided by questions such as how have changes in the international environment influenced notions of statehood in Africa over time? How are global economic, security and political events impinging on the African states and shaping development and security outcomes on the continent?


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