Within the framework of the overwhelming majority of modern theories, the state is considered as a specialized and centralized institution for governing a society, to what its right to exercise coercive authority – legitimized violence is often added as the state’s critical characteristic feature. Contrariwise, my approach stems from the presumption that the state should be perceived not as a specific set of political institutions only but, first and foremost, as a type of society to which this set of institutions is adequate. Following this approach leads to the necessity of paying special attention to coming to the fore of the non-kin, territorial relations in state society – the point often evicted from many contemporary definitions of the state due to the wide-spread vision of it as merely a specific form of political organization. I also argue that political centralization cannot be regarded as a feature specific for the state, as it is applicable to many non-state forms of societies. In the meantime, the feature typical for the state only, is specialization resulting in administrators’ professionalization, that is, in the formation of bureaucracy, related directly to the non-kin social ties coming into prominence. As for the right to coerce, it should not be made the central point of the state concept because it is a dependent variable itself: the specificity of monopoly of the legitimate violence in state society is precisely that it is exercised through and by bureaucrats who operate within bureaucratic institutions.
Today, in the United States of America, two communities with sub-Saharan Africa genetic origins – African Americans, descendents of those Africans brought to America as slaves, and the migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, who have come to the US voluntarily mainly since the 1990s – exist side by side but have different histories and occupy different positions in American society. Members of these groups have both a great deal in common and much that separates them, and much of what separates them lies hidden in the assumptions about and attitudes toward each other. This book explores the history-rooted mutual images of African Americans and contemporary African migrants and discloses how these images influence the relationship between them. The book is based on the field evidence collected in 2013–15 in seven states in thirteen towns and cities from African Americans, natives of twenty-three African states, black natives of five Caribbean nations, and non-black Americans involved with African migrants and/or African Americans. Apart from doing structured interviews with black intellectuals, it was especially interesting to roam around ‘black’ neighborhoods and talk with common people – street vendors, storekeepers, hairdressers… The research has shown that the relationship between African migrants and African Americans resembles the simultaneous attraction and repulsion of two magnets. They both understand that among all the ethno-racial communities in the country, they are the closest to each other, but their many cultural differences arise immediately when they interact because of mutual attraction; those differences are then ‘translated’ into the ‘language’ of images of the other culture, causing mutual repulsion. Being in accordance with general trends in Anthropology and African Studies, this book at the same time contributes to the research of an understudied topic and helps understand better the contemporary American society.
The chapter presents two trends of political thought, which had a great impact on the development of African nationalism after the Second World War.
Information about field research conducted by a group of anthropologists led by the author in the USA in 2013.
In America today, two communities with sub-Saharan African genetic origins exist side by side, though they have differing histories and positions within society. This book explores the relationship between African Americans, descendants of those Africans brought to America as slaves, and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, who have come to the United States of America voluntarily, mainly since the 1990s. Members of these groups have both a great deal in common and much that separates them, largely hidden in their assumptions about, and attitudes towards, each other. In a work grounded in extensive fieldwork Bondarenko and his research team interviewed African Americans, and migrants from twenty-three African States and five Caribbean nations, as well as non-black Americans involved with African Americans and African migrants. Seeking a wide range of perspectives, from different ages, classes and levels of education, they explored the historically rooted mutual images of African Americans and contemporary African migrants, so as to understand how these images influence the relationship between them. In particular, they examined conceptions of ‘black history’ as a common history of all people and nations with roots in Africa. What emerges is a complex picture. While collective historical memory of oppression forges solidarity, lack of knowledge of each other’s history can create distance between communities. African migrants tend to define their identities not by race, but on the basis of multiple layers of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic affinities (of which African Americans are often unaware). For African Americans, however, although national and regional identities are important, it is above all race that is the defining factor. While drawing on wider themes from anthropology and African studies, this in-depth study on a little-researched subject allows valuable new understandings of contemporary American society.