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How Norms Do Not Diffuse: The European Development Fund and Statehood in Sub-Saharan African

Stefan Cibian
Central European University
Stefan Cibian
Central European University
Open Panel

Abstract

The increasing literature on various forms of state failure reveals a surprising reality which refuses to obey the cannons of western societal organization. A myriad of authors and streams of literature address, with varying degrees of persuasion, the way many of the Sub-Saharan African states do not function. On a conceptual level, the paper claims that the centrality of western understandings of statehood renders all other forms of governance irrelevant and furthermore obscures our capacity to conceptualize and run analysis beyond the theoretical boundaries of western statehood. Focusing on the European Development Fund as an empirical case study and based on field work conducted in several African countries and in Brussels, this paper will make two further claims. First it will assert that failed states literature is on a wrong path in its struggles to portray what these states are not rather than what they are. The proposed alternative is to take distance from the concept of ‘state’ in analyzing most of the Sub-Saharan African contexts. Second, while bringing evidence from the field, the paper will show and substantiate the incapacity of the western conceptualizations of statehood to account for the meanings institutional and relational ontologies acquire on the ground.