Gregory Mann

From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel

The Road to Non-Governmentality

Cambridge University Press 2015

New Books in African StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network November 17, 2017 Esperanza Brizuela-Garcia

Today we spoke to Gregory Mann about his book From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Non-Governmentality (Cambridge University...

Today we spoke to Gregory Mann about his book From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Non-Governmentality (Cambridge University Press, 2014). Gregory Mann investigates how the effectiveness of government institutions declined in the years following the independence of nation-states of the West African Sahel and gave way to a state of non-governmentality. Rather than presenting a linear explanation of this decline, Mann describes instances in which one can see its multiple roots and intricate evolution. These stories describe the activities of anticolonial leaders and intellectuals during the waning years of the colonial empire and its immediate aftermath, debates over the status of migrants and immigration within the Sahel and to France, the arrival of NGOs in light of governments inability to address the drought and famine that afflicted the Sahel between 1973 and 1974 and, finally, the role human rights organizations in the handling of Saharan prisons. By telling these stories Mann illustrates how current understandings of government decline as the result of either neocolonial or neoliberal interventions are both misguided and insufficient and sets the stage for a more nuanced debate about the role of the state in Africa that goes beyond its brief post-colonial past.

Gregory Mann is Professor of History at Columbia University. He specializes on the history of French West Africa.


Esperanza Brizuela-Garcia is Associate Professor in History at Montclair State University. She specializes in modern intellectual history of Africa, historiography, World history and Philosophy of History. She is the co-author of African Histories: New Sources and New Techniques for Studying African Pasts (Pearson, 2011).

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