Legitimacy and Continuity in The Horn: A Conceptual Analysis of Alex de Waal’s Political Marketplace

Master Thesis


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In this dissertation I critically engage with Alex De Waal’s understanding of the nature of legitimacy in the Horn of Africa and the concept he formulates to understand it and explain political behaviour in the Horn: the political marketplace. Through this process of critical engagement, I clarify the concept and make it more useful by embedding it within the social and religious realities of the Horn, which results in a reconceptualisation of the concept, which I call the political bazaar. This reworked concept is then used in conjunction with Talal Asad’s discursive tradition of Sunni Islam and Peter Ekeh’s primordial public to more parsimoniously, accurately and comprehensively conceptualise legitimacy in the Horn and explain why its pervasive political behaviour is bargaining. Ultimately, I attempt to both abide by Raymond Geuss’s first thesis: ‘Don’t look at just what they say, think, believe, but at what they actually do, and what actually happens as a result’, 1 and heed the warning he gives: ‘It is no sign of gimlet-eyed realism to deny the enormous real significance of religious practices, beliefs and institutions in the world, past and present, but rather a sign of simple blindness.’2