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Britain and Africa Under BlairIn Pursuit of the Good State$
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Julia Gallagher

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085000

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085000.001.0001

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Idealisation in Africa

Idealisation in Africa

(p.102) 6 Idealisation in Africa
Britain and Africa Under Blair

Julia Gallagher

Manchester University Press

This chapter looks at how the British government engaged in Nigeria and Sierra Leone between 1997 and 2007. It is based on a series of interviews carried out with British officials who served in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and with Nigerian and Sierra Leonean political activists and commentators who engage with or observe the British attempts to do good in Africa. The chapter explores how much the notion of connection to a pure ‘good’ could survive the experience of coming face to face with the inevitable messiness of implementing policy on the ground. It considers the ways in which Britain imagines itself engaged in a non-ideological political arena in Africa. It also explores an alternative strategy employed by British officials, which is an attempt at non-engaged engagement. This begins with the conception of Britain's historical role in West Africa as essentially benevolent or long-forgotten. It finds current expression in a British oppositionalist posture which attempts to reform from the outside. The chapter argues that this enables a continued distance from messy politics and self-idealisation.

Keywords:   Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Britain, Africa, good, non-engaged engagement, West Africa, politics, self-idealisation

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