Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana

Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana

The Public Anthropology of Kalanga Elites
Richard Werbner
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/16/2004
ISBN: 978-0-253-11024-4
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Are self-interested elites the curse of liberal democracy in Africa? Is there hope against the politics of the belly, kleptocracies, vampire states, failed states, and Afro-pessimism? In Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana, Richard Werbner examines a rare breed of powerful political elites who are not tyrants, torturers, or thieves. Werbner’s focus is on the Kalanga, a minority ethnic group that has served Botswana in business and government since independence. Kalanga elites have expanded public services, advocated causes for the public good, founded organizations to build the public sphere and civil society, and forged partnerships and alliances with other ethnic groups in Botswana. Gathering evidence from presidential commissions, land tribunals, landmark court cases, and his lifetime relationship with key Kalanga elites, Werbner shows how a critical press, cosmopolitanism, entrepreneurship, accountability, and the values of patriarchy and elderhood make for an open society with strong, capable government. Werbner’s work provides a refreshing alternative to those who envision no future for Africa beyond persistent agony and lack of development.

Author Bio

Richard Werbner is Professor of African Anthropology and Director of the International Centre for Contemporary Cultural Research at the University of Manchester and Professorial Fellow at the University of Botswana. Among his books are Ritual Passage, Sacred Journey; and Tears of the Dead, for which he won the Amaury Talbot Prize.


“. . . the book is enlightening in its call that we have a new paradigm shift in the way we write about Africa. —”
 — net, April 2005

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reflections and Frontiers
Part 1. Citizens Negotiating Power: Elites, Minorities, and Tribal Bureaucrats
1. Postcolonial Wisdom: The Post-Civil Service and the Public Good
2. The Minorities Debate
3. The Politics of Recognition and "Pressure Groups"
4. Cosmopolitan Ethnicity, Entrepreneurship and the Nation
5. Official Blundering and the Discredited Commission
6. Land, Clients, and Tribal Bureaucrats
Part 2. The Rise of Public Man: Elders
7. Bringing Back the Dead
8. Public Officer, Public Officer Emeritus
9. The Making of a Reasonable Radical
Epilogue: Postcolonial Wisdom, Beyond Afro-pessimism