Brokerage, Crisis and the Renegotiation of Social Norms

Brokerage has been an issue in African anthropology since the early days of the Manchester school (Gluckman et al. 1949; Bierschenk et al. 2002). A major characteristic of brokerage is that it facilitates or eases social tensions. However, brokerage also has a more exploitative side, in the sense that brokers may create or sustain divides, so that they can bridge them (Murphy 1981; Stovel and Shaw 2012). Rather than working toward reconciling the communities, brokerage may turn out to be the clever management of privileged knowledge and access (Murphy 1981).

one may wonder what aspects of brokerage prevail in the case of the ABED and to what extent the relationship between hosts and strangers has been transformed. First, we have to state that the tutorat in western Cote d’Ivoire has long functioned without the brokerage of an association. Perhaps the question about brokerage can be explored by asking why the association was created at this point in time.

Typically, brokerage occurred in an unfamiliar situation, at the end of a violent crisis, when trust in social norms and institutions—such as the tutorat—had diminished. As a consequence, social conflicts could no longer be dealt with in the habitual mode of the tutorat. It’s very rights and duties had to be renegotiated after deferred expectations and abuses that occurred during the conflict after vast socioeconomic transformations, outlined in the text. As norms are of societal concern, various social actor groups were involved to renegotiate the terms of engagement. Part of this negotiation was conducted by the ABED in the form of recording aspects of the tutorat-agreement on paper, particularly pertaining to land transfers.

The role of the ABED as a broker between the Burkinabe and both the first settlers and the Ivorian State has introduced an active new actor and new dynamics in the host-stranger paradigm. The association of the Burkinabe may be regarded as a creative governance attempt to making life more predictable in an era that has drastically changed since the first Burkinabes arrived. It functions as a governance provider, principally in two fields: (1) as a broker in social conflicts (e.g., through negotiating reconciliations and the occupation of forest reserves) and (2) a governance provider in the context of weak public institutions (formalization of land transfers).

Due to its malleability, the tutorat-model is still at the core of land transfers. However, the usual vertical relationship between host and stranger lineage group has been complemented by a new actor that can sometimes tip the balance of power. When represented by an association, the migrants are better placed to strengthen their position in the host- stranger paradigm.

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