Panel 20

Security from below Civil society, self-defence movements and the rule of law

Panel organiser: Sten Hagberg, Dept. of Cultural Anthropology & Ethnology; Forum for Africa Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden.


This panel takes as its points of departure the current focus on security in general and in West Africa in particular. Political crises, terrorism, porous international boundaries, coups d’état, and socio-political upheavals underline the need to rethink what security means for citizens in this region. International and regional approaches to security still take predominantly military and macro-political perspectives. Yet there is a need to analyse and better understand security from below, from the grassroots and ordinary citizens. In this vein, local initiatives are central to analyses of politics, society and culture in West Africa.

This panel aims to focus on security from below, as to better understand how ordinary citizens are experiencing multiple insecurities and, in extension, how they seek to deal with them. Yet local initiatives when citizens take the law in their own hands may well challenge the rule of law, such as the resumption of innocence and a fair legal treatment.

The panel invites research papers that focus on locally based and legitimized self-defense groups and movements, particularly by looking at how they relate to civil society and more generally to the rule of law. Papers could be case-studies, or conceptual and methodological think-pieces. Comparative approaches are particularly welcome.

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