Global Shadows

Africa in the Neoliberal World Order

Global Shadows

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 2 tables, 1 map, 1 figure Published: February 2006

Author: James Ferguson

African Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Globalization and Neoliberalism

Both on the continent and off, “Africa” is spoken of in terms of crisis: as a place of failure and seemingly insurmountable problems, as a moral challenge to the international community. What, though, is really at stake in discussions about Africa, its problems, and its place in the world? And what should be the response of those scholars who have sought to understand not the “Africa” portrayed in broad strokes in journalistic accounts and policy papers but rather specific places and social realities within Africa?

In Global Shadows the renowned anthropologist James Ferguson moves beyond the traditional anthropological focus on local communities to explore more general questions about Africa and its place in the contemporary world. Ferguson develops his argument through a series of provocative essays which open—as he shows they must—into interrogations of globalization, modernity, worldwide inequality, and social justice. He maintains that Africans in a variety of social and geographical locations increasingly seek to make claims of membership within a global community, claims that contest the marginalization that has so far been the principal fruit of “globalization” for Africa. Ferguson contends that such claims demand new understandings of the global, centered less on transnational flows and images of unfettered connection than on the social relations that selectively constitute global society and on the rights and obligations that characterize it.

Ferguson points out that anthropologists and others who have refused the category of Africa as empirically problematic have, in their devotion to particularity, allowed themselves to remain bystanders in the broader conversations about Africa. In Global Shadows, he urges fellow scholars into the arena, encouraging them to find a way to speak beyond the academy about Africa’s position within an egregiously imbalanced world order.


Global Shadows is illuminatingly provocative about theories of African development–underdevelopment.” — Betty J. Harris, American Anthropologist

“[F]erguson does well to report . . . to us, and to inform us. . . . Amongst the shadows, he reminds us, live real people who impatiently await the light they deserve.” — Harry G. West, Anthropological Quarterly

“[Ferguson] challenges others to place Africa back within a discourse of globalization and rapid social change, without losing sight of its specific challenges and aspirations.” — Miles Larmer, African Affairs

“[Ferguson] provides a brilliant dissection of the pretensions of neoliberalism.” — David Graeber, Journal of Anthropological Research

“[T]his volume will prove invaluable . . . . [His arguments] are presented here with elegance and with urgency . . . . [Global Shadows] crosses, and challenges others to cross, spatial, temporal, disciplinary, and analytic boundaries in order to engage in broader debates about what Africa means or is taken to mean in academic and popular literature.” — M. Anne Pitcher, International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Ferguson is passionate. . . . The book is full of interesting insights and interpretations.” — Robert Mortimer, African Studies Review

“Ferguson’s scholarship and writing are exceptionally lucid, wide-ranging, and erudite; he makes vital theoretical interventions while remaining resolutely empirical and grounded in the issues of greatest concern to the people he writes about; and his political engagements are simultaneously passionate and analytically clear-eyed. Global Shadows is a truly useful book—for teaching at all levels, for reaching audiences beyond the academy and for thinking through a wide range of problematics central to the contemporary world.” — James McCarthy, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography

“Ferguson’s text is therefore an important one, because it will force other readers to take a stand on issues similarly crucial to their disciplines and, indeed, to their own lives in the world and at home.” — Misty L. Bastian, Comparative Studies in Society and History

“Ferguson's is a substantial voice for and about contemporary Africa. Global Shadows is of general interest to Africanists and includes several essays that can be used productively in the classroom. . . . Together, [the essays] make a statement that, in its collective impact, is even more perceptive than in its unconnected parts.” — Sandra T. Barnes, American Ethnologist

“James Ferguson should be congratulated for bringing material issues of social well-being to the fore, premised on norms of universality and justice. Judicious, authoritative, and committed, it should be read by all.” — Graham Harrison, Review of African Political Economy

“This is a significant book and it provides an important intervention on Africa in the global economy. The key to the contribution is that it repoliticizes and repositions Africa: the continent has not, and is not, about to fall off the global map—it is instead a stark reminder of the failure of development, structural adjustment and globalization.” — Charles Mather, Progress in Human Geography

“Unlike many essay collections, Ferguson’s adds up to a coherent whole, and is marked by his talent for providing fresh insights into stale or stagnant discussions. . . . Without doubt, and regardless of one’s perspective, Global Shadows is a major gift to the discipline. It is a confident, thorough, and thought-provoking book that raises important questions not only about the idea of Africa but also about the future of anthropology.” — Matthew Engelke, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“While providing plenty of acute observation, Global Shadows engages with 'Africa' less as an empirical territory than as a category through which the world is structured. This bold agenda is sustained by considerable innovation and renewal in the conceptual arsenal of scholars who have hitherto remained bystanders in journalistic and policy-oriented conversations on Africa. . . . Ferguson's argument achieves an urgency that most theorists of multiple modernities would not envisage.Perspectives that neglect questions of rank and membership may prevent us from seeing how the edges of this transnational status group are actually guarded.” — Harri Englund, Journal of Southern African Studies

"Ferguson's latest book is certainly a good read and presents a clear argument about Africa's engagement with the global system. . . . This is an extremely useful book for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of Africa's role in a neoliberal world order." — Rosaleen Duffy, Modern African Studies

Global Shadows is one of the most thoughtful, provocative, intelligent books written about Africa in a very long time. It raises in the most profound possible way the question of what precisely Africa is in the twenty-first century: a place, a predicament, an imaginative object, a discursive trope, a ‘place-in-the-world’ whose economies and social orders, governance and geography, are undergoing bewilderingly complex transformations. James Ferguson challenges us to understand those transformations, this place-in-the-world, in an altogether fresh manner.” — John Comaroff, University of Chicago

“Speaking rationally about Africa is not something that has ever come naturally. This book is a tour de force. James Ferguson shows that a radical critique of the most obtuse and cynical prejudices about Africa can be made without one repeating and perpetuating these prejudices under some other guise.” — Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

James Ferguson is Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University. He is the author of Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt and The Anti-Politics Machine: “Development,” Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. He is a coeditor of Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology, also published by Duke University Press, and of Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Global Shadows: Africa and the World 1

1. Globalizing Africa? Observations from an Inconvenient Continent 25

2. Paradoxes of Sovereignty and Independence: “Real” and “Pseudo-” Nation-States and the Depoliticization of Poverty 50

3. De-moralizing Economics: African Socialism, Scientific Capitalism, and the Moral Politics of Structural Adjustment 69

4. Transnational Topographies of Power: Beyond “the State” and “Civil Society” in the Study of African Politics 89

5. Chryalis: The Life and Death of the African Renaissance in a Zambian Internet Magazine 113

6. Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the “New World Society” 155

7. Decomposing Modernity: History and Hierarchy after Development 176

8. Governing Extraction: New Spatializations of Order and Disorder in Neoliberal Africa 194

Notes 211

References 229

Index 249
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3717-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3705-8
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