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Locating the ‘customary’ in post-colonial Tanzanian politics : the shifting modus operandi of the rural state

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Abstract
This paper examines how both rhetoric about custom and practices drawing on elements of deep-rooted political culture remain relevant in post-colonial Tanzania. This is the case despite the Tanzanian government's aggressively modernising stance and the erasure of colonial-era 'traditional' chiefs after independence. The paper identifies three patterns. Firstly, witchcraft cleansing remains a rare flashpoint over which rural people are willing to defy officials, amid legislation that has barely moved on from the colonial period. Secondly, for defenders of certain practices, describing them as customary is a way to try to place them beyond criticism, while for officials it becomes a way to wash their hands of the attendant problems. Lastly, a performative political practice can be discerned in the interactions between rural populations, officials and development experts that resonate with descriptions of pre-colonial political encounters. By looking for local legitimacy in interactions with so-called elders, development experts have become arbiters of (pseudo-)traditional authority despite their modernising identity. These observations show that discourses about and practices drawing on the customary have become deeply imbricated with the political practices of the rural state.
Keywords
Tanzania, local state, local politics, indirect rule, customary authority, development, GOVERNANCE, WORK

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MLA
Becker, Felicitas Maria. “Locating the ‘customary’ in Post-Colonial Tanzanian Politics : The Shifting Modus Operandi of the Rural State.” JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES, vol. 14, no. 1, 2020, pp. 145–63.
APA
Becker, F. M. (2020). Locating the “customary” in post-colonial Tanzanian politics : the shifting modus operandi of the rural state. JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES, 14(1), 145–163.
Chicago author-date
Becker, Felicitas Maria. 2020. “Locating the ‘customary’ in Post-Colonial Tanzanian Politics : The Shifting Modus Operandi of the Rural State.” JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES 14 (1): 145–63.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Becker, Felicitas Maria. 2020. “Locating the ‘customary’ in Post-Colonial Tanzanian Politics : The Shifting Modus Operandi of the Rural State.” JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES 14 (1): 145–163.
Vancouver
1.
Becker FM. Locating the “customary” in post-colonial Tanzanian politics : the shifting modus operandi of the rural state. JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES. 2020;14(1):145–63.
IEEE
[1]
F. M. Becker, “Locating the ‘customary’ in post-colonial Tanzanian politics : the shifting modus operandi of the rural state,” JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 145–163, 2020.
@article{8609143,
  abstract     = {This paper examines how both rhetoric about custom and practices drawing on elements of deep-rooted political culture remain relevant in post-colonial Tanzania. This is the case despite the Tanzanian government's aggressively modernising stance and the erasure of colonial-era 'traditional' chiefs after independence. The paper identifies three patterns. Firstly, witchcraft cleansing remains a rare flashpoint over which rural people are willing to defy officials, amid legislation that has barely moved on from the colonial period. Secondly, for defenders of certain practices, describing them as customary is a way to try to place them beyond criticism, while for officials it becomes a way to wash their hands of the attendant problems. Lastly, a performative political practice can be discerned in the interactions between rural populations, officials and development experts that resonate with descriptions of pre-colonial political encounters. By looking for local legitimacy in interactions with so-called elders, development experts have become arbiters of (pseudo-)traditional authority despite their modernising identity. These observations show that discourses about and practices drawing on the customary have become deeply imbricated with the political practices of the rural state.},
  author       = {Becker, Felicitas Maria},
  issn         = {1753-1055},
  journal      = {JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES},
  keywords     = {Tanzania,local state,local politics,indirect rule,customary authority,development,GOVERNANCE,WORK},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {145--163},
  title        = {Locating the ‘customary’ in post-colonial Tanzanian politics : the shifting modus operandi of the rural state},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2019.1711311},
  volume       = {14},
  year         = {2020},
}

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