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Legitimation as Political Practice
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Book description

Legitimacy has long been perceived through a Westernized lens as a fixed, binary state. In this book, Kathy Dodworth offers an exploration of everyday legitimation practices in coastal Tanzania, which challenges this understanding within postcolonial contexts. She reveals how non-government organizations craft their authority to act, working with, against and through the state, and what these practices tell us about contemporary legitimation. Synthesizing detailed, ethnographic fieldwork with theoretical innovations from across the social sciences, legitimacy is reworked not as a fixed state, but as a collection of constantly renegotiated practices. Critically adopting insights from political theory, sociology and anthropology, this book develops a detailed picture of contemporary governance in Tanzania and beyond in the wake of waning Western dominance.


‘This is a truly ground-breaking book! It is at one and the same time an elegant ethnographic study of everyday practices and a sophisticated theoretical enquiry of legitimacy. The result is a radical rethinking of legitimation - and by implication, of International Relations - from the African ground up.’

Rita Abrahamsen - University of Ottawa

‘This is an important and rich study of how legitimacy is produced, negotiated and contested in Tanzania – with significant lessons for the theory and practice of global politics.’

Carl Death - University of Manchester

‘With its focus on the everyday rather than elites, attention to the logics of coloniality which continue to shape the present and recognition of the importance of ideas of the public, this book offers a powerful and insightful rethinking of ‘legitimacy’ from coastal Tanzania.'

Emma Hunter - University of Edinburgh

‘In the current conjuncture dominated by resurgent and insurgent decolonization of the twenty-first century where the issue of locus of enunciation is privileged, this book’s central themes of legitimacy and legitimation, with a focus on the NGO sector rather than the state, are successfully de-abstracted. The book brings them down to everyday life where they can be measured easily in an intellectually rewarding manner. It is a very successful book with an assured shelf and virtual life. I have nothing but praise for this ground-breaking and inspiring work anchored on very rich empirical evidence.’

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni - University of Bayreuth

‘Legitimation as Political Practice reformulates legitimacy. It demonstrates that our understanding of this key concept is often static and based on models that are inherently limited through their eurocentrism. By bringing together an interrogation of legitimacy as a concept with detailed firmly grounded empirical research on NGOs in Tanzania, the book both exposes the limitations of our current theorising and details the material and performative ways in which legitimacy is produced.’

Laura Routley - Newcastle University

‘Legitimacy is profoundly a challenging matter in Africa. What informs legitimacy is a question that we often ask. Kathy Dodworth examines how legitimacy is produced in everyday practices. The analysis goes beyond state level by examining NGOs practices. This book is invaluable in seeking to bridge the ‘legitimation practices’ gap.’

Aikande C. Kwayu - University of Wisconsin-Madison

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  • Introduction
    pp 1-11
  • Practicing Legitimation


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