This event marks the launch of the new book Arbitrary States, which draws on the Museveni regime’s governance in Uganda to understand contemporary authoritarianism.
Unlike the despots of the past, known for arbitrary violence and direct rule, today’s authoritarians use the rule of law. Many of these regimes even cultivate democratic institutions: elections, separation of powers, and institutions designed to promote transparency and accountability. This has puzzled scholars – how can authoritarians survive in contexts of democracy? Research on African politics offers helpful answers.
Based on ground-breaking research in the new book Arbitrary States, this event examines authoritarianism from below, showing how some regimes use pervasive political unpredictability to maintain control in the face of democratic institutions and weak state capacity. The event will explore how the Ugandan state uses local violent actors including militias, vigilantes and community policing initiatives for everyday governance, while denying them the ability to consolidate local authority that would allow them to challenge the state.
Speaking to global debates on authoritarian institutions and the rule of law, the book’s author, Dr Rebecca Tapscott, will be joined by expert speakers to discuss the ways authoritarians are increasingly asserting themselves through seemingly democratic institutions.
Learn more about the book.
Dr Rebecca Tapscott is an Ambizione fellow at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy at the Graduate Institute in Geneva and concurrently a Visiting Fellow at LSE's Centre for Public Authority and International Development and Edinburgh's Political and International Relations Department. Her research focuses on political violence, authoritarianism, and masculinity in low-capacity states, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Her new book 'Arbitrary States: Social Control and Modern Authoritarianism in Museveni's Uganda' is out now.
Dr Jude Kagoro holds a PhD in Sociology from Bayreuth University, Germany. Since 2013, Dr Kagoro has been working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS), Bremen University, Germany and he is presently the head of the research project “Figurations of Internationalized Rule in Africa”. Between 2013 and 2018 he worked on the “Policing in Africa Project” at Bremen University. Dr Kagoro has also completed consultancies with the Rwanda National Police and the Uganda Police Force and, in 2018, Dr Kagoro was awarded the Golden Jubilee Award by the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for his contributions towards the professionalisation of the Uganda Police Force.
Professor Aili Mari Tripp is Wangari Maathai Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research has focused on gender/women and politics, women’s movements in Africa, transnational feminism, African politics, and the informal economy in Africa. Her most recent book is a comparative study of women’s rights and legal reform in North Africa: Seeking Legitimacy: Why Arab Autocracies Adopt Women’s Rights (2019). She is author of several award-winning books, including Women and Power in Postconflict Africa (2015), Museveni’s Uganda (2010), African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes (2009) with Isabel Casimiro, Joy Kwesiga, and Alice Mungwa, and Women and Politics in Uganda (2000).
Professor Alex de Waal (chair), is an Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, and has worked in north-east Africa for thirty years, including as an adviser on Sudan to the African Union. Alex is also an Investigator at the LSE Centre for Public Authority and International Development.
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Photo credit: U.S. Army Africa photo.