School of Social and Political Science

New book on political legitimacy by Dr Kathy Dodworth hailed as ‘truly ground-breaking’



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Legitimation as Political Practice: Crafting Everyday Authority in Tanzania, CUP 2022

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Kathy Dodworth

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A new book by Dr Kathy Dodworth about legitimacy in politics has been called ‘truly ground-breaking’ by reviewers. In her book, Kathy bridges African studies, international relations and political theory with detailed empirical enquiry.

Dr Dodworth’s book – Legitimation as Political Practice: Crafting Everyday Authority in Tanzania, which is out now with Cambridge University Press – offers an exploration of everyday legitimation practices in coastal Tanzania.

Legitimacy in politics – the rightful use of power – has long been perceived through a Westernised lens as a fixed, binary state. Dr Dodworth’s new book challenges this understanding within postcolonial contexts.

The book reveals how non-government organisations craft their authority to act, working with, against and through the state, and what these practices tell us about contemporary legitimation.

Professor Rita Abrahamsen, Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa, said:

"This is a truly ground-breaking book! It is at one and the same time an elegant ethnographic study of everyday practices and a sophisticated theoretical enquiry of legitimacy. The result is a radical rethinking of legitimation - and by implication, of International Relations - from the African ground up."

In their review, Professor Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni from University of Bayreuth said:

“It is a very successful book with an assured shelf and virtual life. I have nothing but praise for this ground-breaking and inspiring work anchored on very rich empirical evidence.”

Critically adopting insights from political theory, sociology and anthropology, this book builds a picture of contemporary governance in Tanzania and beyond in the wake of waning Western dominance.

Launch event

There will be an official book launch hosted by the Centre of African Studies in October. Make sure to follow @africanstudies and @uoessps on Twitter for updates on how to book your place.

More praise for ‘Legitimation as Political Practice’

'This is an important and rich study of how legitimacy is produced, negotiated and contested in Tanzania – with significant lessons for the theory and practice of global politics.'

Carl Death, University of Manchester

'With its focus on the everyday rather than elites, attention to the logics of coloniality which continue to shape the present and recognition of the importance of ideas of the public, this book offers a powerful and insightful rethinking of 'legitimacy' from coastal Tanzania.'

Emma Hunter, University of Edinburgh

'Legitimation as Political Practice reformulates legitimacy. It demonstrates that our understanding of this key concept is often static and based on models that are inherently limited through their eurocentrism. By bringing together an interrogation of legitimacy as a concept with detailed firmly grounded empirical research on NGOs in Tanzania, the book both exposes the limitations of our current theorising and details the material and performative ways in which legitimacy is produced.'

Laura Routley, Newcastle University

'Legitimacy is profoundly a challenging matter in Africa. What informs legitimacy is a question that we often ask. Kathy Dodworth examines how legitimacy is produced in everyday practices. The analysis goes beyond state level by examining NGOs practices. This book is invaluable in seeking to bridge the 'legitimation practices' gap.'

Aikande C. Kwayu, University of Wisconsin-Madison