Andrea Kaufmann: The Work of State Imageries: Coping with Intricacies of the Everyday in Liberia

PhD-project in Social Anthropology, University of Basel

Aim of this project is to understand how imageries of governance and the state are shaped and how they influence everyday practice of the local population in a post-conflict setting. The field of enquiry is the urban space of Liberia. The precariousness of infrastructures, goods and services still create challenges to the local actors and their livelihoods.


Imageries of governance and the state have a vast impact on social actors and how they arrange their everyday life. This project looks at state-society relations and tensions within the difficult social and economic conditions of the aftermath of the conflict.

Specific Objectives/Research Questions

The aim of this project is to examine what imageries of governance and the state exist, if and how new imageries emerge and how they are negotiated and shaped. How do ordinary people in a peri-urban and urban setting make a living? How do they imagine the state? How do new forms of governance emerge in the context of a society in a setting of political transition?


The Emic Evaluation Approach (EEA) triangulates three components 1) Mapping the Actors; 2) Social Discourse Analysis including interviews, non-verbal statements or media; and 3) Practice Analysis. The EEA enables evaluating data from cross-cutting perspectives.

Expected/First Results

Actors respond to the malfunctioning public institutions by forming groups of collective action. This project focuses on local groups reestablishing social order and the provision of goods and services, such as security by youth groups or health by collaboration of women.


Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Till Förster

Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

Duration: June 2009 - June 2013

Download Poster: The Work of State Imageries: Coping with Intricacies of the Everyday in Liberia (2012)

Selected Publication: Kaufmann, A, 2011: Mobilizing for Improvement. An Empirical Study of a Women's Movement in West Point, Liberia, in: Stichproben, Wiener Zeitschrift für kritische Afrikastudien. 20.

Keywords: Liberia, post-conflict, statehood, social orders, collective action