Handbook of Territorial Politics
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Handbook of Territorial Politics

Edited by Klaus Detterbeck and Eve Hepburn

The study of territorial politics has enjoyed a renaissance in the last thirty years. Scholars have questioned the state-centric assumptions upon which mainstream social science has been built, pointing to the territorial (re)distribution of power across and within states. This Handbook brings together leading scholars to demonstrate how territory has shaped institutional structures, public policies, elections, political parties, and identity across the world. Offering theoretical, comparative and empirical insights, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of territory on modern political, economic and social life.
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Chapter 24: Comparative territorial politics in Sub-Saharan Africa

Jan Erk


The territorial politics literature tends to place disproportionate emphasis on the experience of the Western world. An unintended consequence of comparing liberal democracies with one another is the relegation of the shared scope conditions to the background – particularly the high levels of political, economic, technological development and state capacity. Furthermore, due to informational asymmetry, when included countries from the developing world are often reduced to a few institutional variables and national averages which conceal substantial within-case variation. Add to this the methodological preference for short-termism and an underappreciation of historical variation. However, an overview of territorial politics in Africa exposes how uncodified and extra-institutional structural factors often influence the workings of federalism and decentralisation instead, and how the continent’s past still conditions the present. The analytical shortcomings of the territorial politics literature risk becoming moral ones when the partial diagnoses disproportionately based on the West are repacked as policy prescriptions for the rest.

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