African Studies: "Shame and Honor: The Everyday Practice of..." (Lecture)

  • Starts: 2:00 pm on Wednesday, October 29, 2014
  • Ends: 3:30 pm on Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Join us for a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Paller. African democracies are widely perceived to have corrupt regimes, non-responsive leaders, and little accountability. Yet, at the local-level across African societies, there is considerable variation in the ability of citizens to hold their leaders to account. Despite weak formal institutions and high levels of poverty, some residents are able to come together to demand responsiveness from their leaders and get them to account for their actions while many others cannot. Existing theories emphasize the importance of electoral competition and access to information as crucial elements of political accountability. My paper suggests that these accounts overlook the everyday practice of accountability in African societies. I argue that citizens hold their leaders to account through informal accountability mechanisms of shame and honor in daily life. Residents sanction their leaders by appealing to their moral standing in daily activities like town hall meetings, night-time chats, and house visits. This paper draws from focus group interviews to develop a theory of accountability based on a relationship of reciprocity, morality, authority, and obligation. I then draw from original data from a household survey carried out in Ghanaian slums to show patterns of accountability across local communities. I provide descriptive evidence to show that the conditions of accountability vary across slums. Dr. Paller's research examines the practice of democracy and accountability in urban African slums. He has conducted fieldwork in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. He is a visiting lecturer at Bates College where he offers courses on cities, slums and democracy; African politics and development; and democratization in the world.
154 Bay State Road, Eitls Room (Room 203)