Through detailed qualitative evidence, Dr Rebecca Tapscott’s new book traces how public authorities unpredictably claim and deny jurisdictional authority – with the result that it is never clear which actor, if any, will be (made) responsible in a given scenario, and which rules will apply. The result in Uganda is an environment of pervasive unpredictability, where diverse public authorities compete for control over people, resources, and territory.
Though public authorities may consolidate in the mould of emerging governance actors, they are vulnerable to potential violent and unaccountable state interventions, which usurp and fragment growing claims to power. The perception that the state has effective surveillance tools makes instances of state non-intervention appear as much an intentional choice as instances in which it intervenes. This allows for pockets of civic organisation while rendering those spaces precarious and causing citizens to self-police. Using a micro-analysis of public authority, the book shows how modern authoritarianism plays out in everyday life, allowing the regime to project social control.