Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Dissertation Defense, Rachel Elbin, “Tumesahaulika (We’ve Been Forgotten): Performing Development in Post-Conflict Mtwara”

May 7 @ 10:00 am

Tumesahaulika (We’ve Been Forgotten): Performing Development in Post-Conflict Mtwara

Abstract: “In southeastern Mtwara, Tanzania, development has historically figured as a moral contract between the state and its rural residents: Mtwara residents’ (wanaMtwara) involvement in development projects both legitimized the social development Tanzanian state and afforded rural citizens increased access to resources and political opportunities (Green 2014). Ujamaa, the country’s founding socialist ideological and political framework, prescribed the distribution of political favors and development resources along a tiered hierarchy of government offices from the lower-lying district level to the authoritative heights of ruling party officials. Residents’ recognition of and participation in hierarchical relations of political office have historically allowed them opportunities to make claims on the state.

Present-day Mtwara residents cite a series of sacrifices their region has made to advance the cause of Tanzanian nation-building as the cause of the region’s current underdevelopment: southeastern ethnic groups’ revolts against colonial German authority at the start of the twentieth century (Sunseri 2000); participation in government-directed villagization projects under the African socialist platform of Ujamaa from the 1960s to the early 1970s (Lal 2010, 2012; Green 2014); and mobilization to support FRELIMO at Tanzania’s southern border throughout the Mozambican War for Liberation in the 1970s (Msalya 2015; Kabwe 2015). In recognition of these regional sacrifices on behalf of the Tanzanian nation, wanaMtwara have expected the central government to provide development resources. However, the state has not lived up to this expectation. This perception is reflected in the phrase “tumesahaulika” [we’ve been forgotten], which asserts a moral obligation for the state to meet residents’ development expectations.

Following the offshore discovery of natural gas in Mtwara in 2010, the central government reframed national policy to promote mineral wealth-based economic growth and invite foreign direct investment from interested foreign actors. In light of the potential for aggressive economic growth, extractive sector actors have reconceptualized the role of the Tanzanian state. In many ways, it now resembles Ferguson’s (2005, 2006) sketching of the contract-based neoliberal state prevalent at extractive sites throughout the Global South. According to literature, concentrated areas of global capital investment in extractive projects form enclaves, dis-embedded from the historical and moral contexts of their host countries. Within these spaces, Ferguson claims, the state primarily exists to abet the flow of global capital rather than to secure the delivery of development to its citizenry. While Tanzanian political leaders pursue this ideal of the state, communities in Mtwara seek to complicate the production of a dis-embedded mineral enclave by making development claims on the state.

When natural gas deposits were first discovered, Mtwara residents anticipated that gas refineries, processing plants, and new infrastructure would bring employment opportunities to their region. However, rumors of state plans to transport the gas from Mtwara to metropolitan Dar es Salaam via a pipeline prompted wanaMtwara to mount a series of demonstrations. Following official confirmation of the planned pipeline in 2013, confrontations between Mtwara residents and local police escalated, and the central government deployed the national guard in an unprecedented exercise of military power that resulted in the loss of at least eight civilian lives. Two years later, wanaMtwara marked the anniversary of this day as a critique of the state.

Drawing from semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and focus group sessions conducted from February 2015 to March 2016 in Mtwara and Dar es Salaam, I situate Mtwara residents’ projection of moral claims and expectations on the Tanzanian state across three critical contexts: the development work of three Mtwara-based civil society organizations; the bureaucratic procedure and protocol of local government offices; and residents’ memorialization of the 2013 violence. Over the course of fieldwork, I observed as state actors leveraged the contractual authority of the state to promote opportunities for career advancement within local tiers of government office. Meanwhile, community members staked claims on the state based on interpretations of its authority over the natural gas industry.”


This dissertation defense will be held via Zoom. If you would like to participate in the defense, please contact Rachel Elbin at elbinrac@msu.edu for video meeting details.


May 7
10:00 am
Event Category:


Video Conference