Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 July 2018
This chapter begins to explore how the labour market experiences traced in the previous chapters influence young people's political mobilisation, by focusing on the landscape for political action in the four urban microcosms. It analyses the relationship between youth and the post-war state; how the former's political subjectivity is structured by experiences of marginal work; and the variety of ways that exist for young people to be political actors in post-war Sierra Leone. In other words, it asks how young people relate to and imagine the post-war state to which they are envisioned to pose a threat. What avenues are available to voice and mobilise around shared political claims? Most importantly: what is the nature of this mobilisation, and how does it relate to marginal work?
As suggested by Chatterjee's (2004) work, The Politics of the Governed, this analysis centres on the distinction between the formal structures of governance and the ways in which state-society relations are experienced in practice. Citizenship rights, such as the right to associate or to vote, must be viewed side by side with the praxis of citizenship, the everyday experiences of interactions with the state and its actors. In most of the world, civil society as a normative ideal is in fact the prerogative of an elite few, while the masses’ relationship to the state is better conceptualised as ‘political society’, whereby populations ‘have to be both looked after and controlled by various government agencies’, and as such enter into political relationships with state actors that rarely conform to constitutional visions (ibid.: 38). Through these interactions of welfare provision and control, segments of the population are classified into different ‘categories of governmentality’, which are in turn invested with ‘the imaginative possibilities of community’ as the governed attempt to make political claims (ibid.: 60). This, Chatterjee argues, is by definition a heterogeneous mode of interaction with the state, and depends on the forms of community formation, their ability to position themselves vis-à-vis the state and the nature of the claims made on its institutions. As such it is a far cry from the equal application of the rights of citizenship.