Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Lauren MacLean -- Citizens or Clients?: A Comparative Analysis of Political Attitudes and Everyday Practices in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

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"Citizens or Clients?: A Comparative Analysis of Political Attitudes and Everyday Practices in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire." with Lauren MacLean, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Indiana University. 

This paper reconsiders the concepts of citizenship and clientelism based on the political attitudes and everyday practices of subjects in Africa. Drawing on original survey and ethnographic research at the village level in two similar regions of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, I reveal puzzling differences in the indigenous notions of citizenship and/or clientelism. In the Ghanaian region, village residents described a community-oriented notion of reciprocity with the local government, and clientelism was more localized at the grassroots. Meanwhile, in the Ivoirian region, respondents expressed an individually-oriented sense of entitlements from the central state, and political claims were exercised through a more vertical and national clientelist system. I argue that this striking variation is due to important differences in the history of state formation. I then test my theory about the importance of state formation by analyzing Afrobarometer data across different sub-national regions of Ghana only. Overall, the paper emphasizes the importance of studying the variations in the everyday meanings of citizenship from below rather than assuming a linear expansion of state-guaranteed rights from above in post-colonial African contexts. 

Lauren M. MacLean is an assistant professor of political science at Indiana University. MacLean’s research interests focus on the politics of state formation, social welfare and citizenship in Africa and in American Indian/Alaska Native communities in the U.S. She earned her Ph.D. in 2002 from the Department of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley and then completed a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan (2002–2004). She has a forthcoming book entitled Informal Institutions and Citizenship in Rural Africa: Risk and Reciprocity in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire (Cambridge University Press) and several articles published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, the International Journal of Public Administration, the Journal of Modern African Studies, and Studies in Comparative International Development.