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Pluralism and the Politics of DifferenceState, Culture, and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective$
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R. D. Grillo

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294269

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198294263.001.0001

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Pluralism and the Patrimonial State: Pre‐Colonial Africa

Pluralism and the Patrimonial State: Pre‐Colonial Africa

(p.27) 2 Pluralism and the Patrimonial State: Pre‐Colonial Africa
Pluralism and the Politics of Difference

R. D. Grillo (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The early patrimonial states of pre‐colonial Africa studied by anthropologists were usually polyethnic in character, subjectively perceived by rulers and ruled to be comprised of different peoples. Nonetheless, ethnicity did not generally constitute a problem. Detailed case studies of the Alur of Uganda, a classic example of a segmentary state, the Azande of Central Africa, and the Nupe of Nigeria, which had a more unitary structure, show that rulers were engaged in ‘extractive’ rather than ‘normative’ mobilization, as Azarya calls it. They were generally not concerned with much beyond maintaining their power and that of their immediate families, and extracting sufficient resources from their followers to enable them to do so, while ensuring that those followers were not driven by their demands to take their allegiance elsewhere. In this context, citizenship was subjecthood, and rulers had little interest in promoting a common identity or their own culture.

Keywords:   Africa, Alur, anthropology, Azande, ethnicity, extractive mobilization, Nupe, patrimonial states, segmentary states, subjecthood

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