In this short commentary, I will reflect on the contributions of this special section from an Africanist perspective, which shows both similarities and differences with the South Asian experiences. For a long time, the dogma has been that African states do not wield full sovereign power over their citizens. Because most colonial states did not make any effort to extend administrative presence much beyond urban populations as well as a few sites of natural resource extraction, it is argued, their ability to control and administer territories and populations consequently remained largely irrelevant to the modern conception of sovereignty in Africa. In this short commentary I will try to place Africanist scholarship in comparative perspective by elaborating on postcolonial sovereignties and the way in which these remain nested in both historical and contemporary global formations. Starting from the failed states paradigm, I will dedicate some space to the so-called extraversion argument, or the idea that African sovereignties are predominantly exerted through external forces. I will elaborate finally on more recent work by some anthropologists and historians who focus their attention on how sovereign state institutions actually work in practice.

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