Imagining the anti-gang: the state, the father and Jean-Claude Van Damm

by Maarten Hendriks

06 Dec 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Abstract: Empirically focusing on the so-called anti-gang, a civilian policing group in the city of Goma (DRC), this article examines the nexus between the workings of the imagination and the politics of everyday policing. Four forms of political imaginations through which the anti-gang imagine themselves as everyday policing actors are identified: political imaginations around the state, citizenship, the father, and martial arts and action movies. The article makes two main arguments. First, political imaginations are not merely fantasies. Instead, the anti-gang harness them to do political work and impose themselves as street authorities. In doing so, they in turn contribute to giving form to these political imaginations, by making them tangible and experienced as real in everyday urban life. Second, the article asserts that the political imaginations that shape and are shaped by anti-gang practices show that they do not so much propose a new political order. Instead, they seek to be included in it, escape marginalisation and become politically significant.

Keywords: Civilian policing group, everyday policing, political imagination, Goma, DRC.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 11 (Citizenship, Marginality and Urban (In)security in Contemporary Africa)

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