This essay introduces the special section “Political Society and Popular Politics in Africa” and sets out some of the key debates and concepts that animate the contributions. It focuses in particular on the specific terrains of postcolonial governmentality and the diverse practices of political society on the continent today. The vivid ways in which various African states have combined and/or moved between liberal and authoritarian modalities of power, attended to biopolitical concerns while also exercising strong coercive force, and dealt with the question of citizenship presents the contributors to the section with important analytical opportunities. They examine the multiple lineages and formations of popular politics on the continent, outline how the concept of “political society” enables novel ways of charting and unraveling the political in African settings, and unpack the ways in which African contexts help clarify and elaborate the concept.

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