(OLDIE!) Review: “State of Rebellion: Violence and Intervention in the Central African Republic” – Louisa Lombard

(This is an OLDIE – an old review from years ago! My views and opinions might have changed since then.)

Louisa Lombard’s “State of Rebellion: Violence and Intervention in the Central African Republic” is not like most other books written on African conflicts. The author examines conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR) through an anthropological perspective, in particular how violence and rebellion are part of the architecture of state power that is reinforced by ‘internal’ and ‘external’ actors, and how the foreign-imposed Weberian state-ideal is incompatible with existing conditions.

At first, I was intrigued, and thought this might be a very informative book. However, it became increasingly obvious that the author was engaging in some serious mental acrobatics to explain the recurring conflicts in the CAR without mentioning — dare I say it! — imperialism. According to the author the conflicts in the CAR are due to virtually every other reason except imperialism: the Weberian state-ideal, fuelled by foreign intervention; concessionary politics; the relations between people as reflected in the kind of state (or lack thereof) that exists; the desire for social status and personhood; etc. As a Marxist, this strikes me as very academic and ahistorical. These abstract issues, not U.S., French, and South African capital and control over the CAR’s extensive natural resources, including diamonds, uranium, oil, etc., is the ‘real’ cause of violence and instability in the CAR(!?). Hmmm….I don’t agree.

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