Deepening democracy and cultural context in the Republic of Mali, 1992-2002
Sears, Jonathan Michael
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This thesis challenges the view that the Republic of Mali is a model of democratization in Africa with the aim of opening the conceptual framework of democratic citizenship inherent in the democratization discourse to greater critical scrutiny. The ‘enthusiastic’ view is held and set forth by various segments of the unity-seeking ruling class (local and foreign, State and NGO) of bringing to Mali a Western-oriented, procedurally minimal democracy, and citizen identity commensurate with international financial institutions’ and donor countries’ vision of democratization as political and economic liberalization. Consequently, this hegemonic project co-opts selected indigenous and Islamic idioms of political and social identity, to reinvent democratization as ‘moral governance.’ Cosmopolitan upper and upper-middle class actors thus apologize for highly personalized politics at the national and local levels, and articulate these more broadly with idioms of recovering rectitude and social cohesion that preserve and reproduce hierarchical social norms. In Malian political culture and in the scholarship of Malian political change, the hegemonic project of citizen identity formation becomes more evident as a construction, as discourses, norms, and practices produced and reproduced by privileged actors. Moreover, the contested character of these constructions becomes evident only as we address the development and deployment of selectively synthesized indigenous, Islamic, and Western-democratic norms, practices, and institutions of citizenship in contemporary Mali. Without a more embedded sense of political membership and identity, the merely procedural democratic project remains vulnerable to challenges from multiple, alternative sites of moral, social, and political authority.