Moral Economies of Corruption: State Formation and Political Culture in Nigeria
Steven Pierce is Senior Lecturer in Modern African History at the University of Manchester. He is the coeditor of Discipline and the Other Body: Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism, also published by Duke University Press, and the author of Farmers and the State in Colonial Kano: Land Tenure and the Legal Imagination.
Corruption, Nigeria, and the Moral Imagination
A paradox to taking a culturalist approach to corruption is that the various moral discourses critiquing it cannot be reduced to a mechanical set of principles allowing one to conclude particular actions are right or wrong. How does one conceptualize the processes through which moral claims are negotiated? What constitutes the publics and the public spheres in which this negotiation takes place, and how can one discuss the social negotiation of “right” and “wrong” without trafficking in circular logic? (We know “the community” regards an action as wrong because of popular protest. We know people engaged in particular acts because they were condemning “wrong” behavior.) This is not entirely satisfactory. After laying out the problematic of moral economies, the chapter develops a reading of a fascinating essay by the noted poet Odia Ofeimun as a window onto how moral economies operate, at least in one singularly gifted moral imagination.