The Showman and the State in Francophone Africa

The Legacy of Charles de Gaulle
  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien


This chapter explores notions of the theatrical in statehood, with a triple referent—to Fifth Republic France, to African states from 1960 onwards, and to the web of relations between France and its former African colonies: France-Afrique. The show of state is of course a general phenomenon, symbols are important to any state, markers of that state’sindividuality: the flag, draped about government buildings, focus of military attention and devotion; monuments to heroic figures from the past, a focus for state identity; state occasions, uniforms, buildings, one could continue. The state among other things is a show, and the show is central to the reality of statehood. If the state is defined by its monopoly of legitimate violence, that coercive apparatus, of military or police, defines itself in relation to a symbolic apparatus of flags, badges, uniforms, symbols which command respect. The symbol stands for the state, in important respects it is the state, the imagined state.


African State Assistance Personnel French Army Street Theatre French Soldier 
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© Donal B. Cruise O’Brien 2003

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  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien

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