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African Agency in a Changing Security Environment: Sources, Opportunities and Challenges

Hammerstad, Anne (2013) African Agency in a Changing Security Environment: Sources, Opportunities and Challenges. Conflict, Security and Development, 13 (5). pp. 1-16. ISSN 1467-8802. (doi:10.1080/14678802.2013.849470) (KAR id:36255)

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This special issue contributes to the growing debate on the nature and limits of African

agency. It does so by focusing on the possibilities of and constraints on agency in the

security sphere. This is a sphere traditionally characterised as dominated by existential

threats and the imperative of survival. Hence it is often considered to present an especially

restrictive environment for agency, particularly of the transformative kind.We do not take

this traditional understanding of security for granted, but adopt a constructivist

viewpoint. The articles included in this special issue have in common that they all aim to

critically explore the way in which security threats and appropriate responses are

perceived, defined and pursued by African actors, whether multilateral institutions, states,

communities or individuals.

We argue in favour of an understanding of agency which is relational and

contextualised, where structures and agency are continuously reproduced over time and

co-constitutive, a theme reflected across the studies presented. Through this approach we

aim to challenge narrow, structure-dominated and overly restrictive approaches to

understanding the responses of African actors to contemporary security challenges.

We define security in a broad manner. Some studies are concerned with traditional

security threats to states and regions, while others focus on the human security needs of

individuals to not just survive on the margins of existence but to exercise their agency to

improve, or at least attempt to improve, their lives.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/14678802.2013.849470
Uncontrolled keywords: african agency, structure-agency debate, security
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (
Depositing User: A. Hammerstad
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2013 10:59 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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