Publisher: African Studies Association

Africa Has Never Been “Traditional”: So Can We Make A General Case? A Response To The Articles

Jane I. Guyer
KEYWORDS: Africa Has Never Been “Traditional”: So Can We Make a General Case? A Response to the Articles


Marginal Gains (2204) has been described as a surprising and bold book. Since the articles in this collection, which take one or other of its arguments as points of departure, share certain similar qualities, they can be treated as a collective effort initiating new debate with non-African economic research and thinking. This article reviews the argument of the book, highlights the concept and phenomenon of ordinal ranking in both the book and the articles, and then uses the findings to begin an appreciative critique of the ideas of Michel Callon. Although Callon's approach intersects with that of Marginal Gains in many ways, the scalar ranking of people, and the use of rank to exclude and divert, finds more prominence in the book's approach, which also has more relevance for Europe than economists seem to have acknowledged so far. The article ends with a new instance of ordinal ranking, from Cameroon.

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