11 Dec 2023
16:15  - 17:45



Guest lecture / Talk

Till Förster: "Nafoun – there is no fire"

In the framework of the ZASB key area "Politics and Governance"

Men drinking

Drinking millet beer. (Photo: Till Förster)

Till Förster, Professor Emeritus, former Chair of Anthropology at the University of Basel, will present a book project on politics in the West African savannah. The online presentation is followed by a discussion with the audience.

Book abstract

What can social theory learn from politics in a small town in the West African savannah? Many believe there is not much of interest in such remote places ­– except that Western interventions and development aid may terribly fail, and that it would be better to leave such backward places to their own resources. This book argues otherwise. It is about learning from a remote place, a small town and a coalition of villages that are scattered over the grasslands of the West African savannah. Western understandings of politics do not work in this area where the state is but a shallow shadow of what it claims to be. Nevertheless, since the wars of Samory Touré at the end of the 19th century, the town and its environment has been a non-violent social space where conflicts of interest and disputes were settled by other means – as Nafoun, the name of the town already showed: “There is no fire”. How that was done is the subject of the book. It first asks general questions about politics and how Western definitions of politics can give way to other understandings and concepts that can, on the one side, improve the analysis of other forms of political practice, and on the other side, serve as a conceptual basis for general comparisons.

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