The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa – Talk Announcement

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The impact of elections in Africa project featuring Professors Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis will launch its findings on Ghana, Kenya and Uganda at a talk in London on 13 June 2017, with Dr George Bob-Milliar as discussant. Click through for more details and to reserve a place.


The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa: Research from Ghana, Kenya and Uganda

13 June 2017, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London.

Lecture by Professor Justin Willis, Professor Gabrielle Lynch and Professor Nic Cheeseman, Discussant Dr George Bob-Milliar

Since the 1950s, elections by secret ballot and adult suffrage have lain at the heart of both dreams and fears about Africa’s possible futures – and have sparked continuing debates. Will the vote transform governance, teaching citizenship and making governments accountable? Will unscrupulous politicians stoke ethnic and sectarian hatred, sparking chaos? Or are elections merely a show for an international audience, a threadbare disguise for authoritarian rulers? The results of a major ESRC-funded project suggest that the universal secret ballot is much more embedded in popular ideas of authority than sceptics would argue.

But the research has also shown that the ballot has not had any uniform or transformative effect on citizenship; and that elections themselves are not always what they seem. Elections are nominally constructed through law and regulation; they are made of paper, and process. Yet the behaviour of voters, candidates and officials is shaped by expectations and attitudes that make demands, and impose constraints, quite distinct from – and even contradictory to – the formal rules. This lecture explores the emergence, nature and significance of these moral economies of elections.

The lecture is free and open to all

Everyone who wants to attend must book a place by emailing or calling (+44) 020 7969 5201, preferably before Thursday 8 June.


Justin Willis is Professor of Modern African History at the University of Durham. He was formerly Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) in Nairobi. He is also the Vice President of Research and Chair of the Research Committee at the BIEA. His work is largely concerned with identity, authority and social change in Eastern Africa over the last two hundred years.

Gabrielle Lynch is Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Warwick. Her research interests lie in understanding the nature and political salience of ethnic identities, politics of being indigenous, causes of inter-communal violence, impact and utility of reconciliation and transitional justice mechanisms, and elections and democratization.

Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy and International Development at Birmingham University. In addition to numerous book chapters, he is the author of Democracy in Africa: Successes, failures and the struggle for political reform (CUP, 2015) and over twenty journal articles. These days, he spends much of his time writing about contemporary events in Africa in a bi-weekly column for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. Professor Cheeseman also regularly provides analysis to the UK and US governments, and is an advisor to, and writer for, Kofi Annan’s African Progress Panel.

Dr George Bob-Milliar is Senior Lecturer at the Department of History and Political Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Ghana-Legon. His articles have appeared in leading journals including Democratization, Journal of Modern African Studies, African Affairs, and International Journal of African Historical Studies. He has been visiting fellow at Cambridge University, Makerere University, and the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS).

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