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Self-justice and legal self-help groups have been gaining importance throughout Africa. The question of who is entitled to formulate ‘legal principles’, enact ‘justice’, police ‘morality’ and sanction ‘wrongdoings’ has increasingly become a subject of controversy and conflict. These conflicts focus on the strained relationship between state sovereignty and citizens’ self-determination. More particularly, they concern the conditions, modes and means of the legitimate execution of power, and in this volume are seen as a diagnostics as to how social actors in Africa debate and practise socio-political order. State agencies try to bring vigilante groups under control by channelling their activities, repressing them, or using them for their own interests. Vigilante groups usually must struggle for recognition and acceptance in local socio-political spheres. As several of the contributions in the volume show, legal self-help groups in Africa therefore ‘domesticate’ themselves by, among other things, seeking legitimation, engaging in publicly acceptable non-vigilante activities, or institutionalizing what often began as a rather unrestrained and ‘disorderly’ social movement. Thomas G. Kirsch is Professor & Chair of Social & Cultural Anthropology at the University of Constance, Germany; Tilo Grätz is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Hamburg, Germany & Associate Lecturer at the University of Halle-Wittenberg.
Acerca de Thomas G. Kirsch
Thomas G. Kirsch is professor for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Konstanz. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) in 2002 and taught at the Department of Anthropology and Philosophy in Halle (Saale) and at the Department of Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, before coming to the University of Konstanz in 2009. Between 1993 and 2001, he conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Zambia. He has published a book on African Christianity in Zambia and articles in some of the major refereed journals for anthropology and sociology in Germany. Other articles were published in the journals American Anthropologist (2004), Visual Anthropology (2006) and American Ethnologist (2007). Since 2003, he has also conducted fieldwork and published on issues of human safety, security and crime prevention in South Africa.
Acerca de Tilo Grätz
Tilo Grätz is Vice-Director for Research at the Centre of Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin, and an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Free University Berlin. He has conducted research in West Africa and Central Europe on topics ranging from migration, media, local level politics to informal economies and friendship relations.
Thomas G. Kirsch
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