Current projects

The Everyday Practice of Paying Taxes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Why do citizens pay taxes? This question is surprisingly underexplored. Understanding when citizens pay taxes and why they find it relevant and purposeful is central for answering this question. Tax compliance is a major concern in developing countries and particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, in order to reduce dependency of foreign aid and increase state revenues for providing adequate health, educational and infrastructural services for their populations. In a nutshell, taxes are needed to build capable states that can provide for their citizens. Remarkably, taxation has not figured centrally on the agenda among scholars working on statebuilding in Africa or the African voter. Determinants of willingness to pay taxes in developing countries need to be scrutinized using an insider’s perspective of what it means to be a taxpayer on an everyday basis across different socioeconomic groups. This project expands on current explanations through focusing on the social practice of taxes; when, how and where taxation occurs and how this practice forms part of the everyday for ordinary citizens. This is studied through an ethnographic study of the practices surrounding tax payment in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the willingness to pay taxes and the relative tax burden vary. A comparative micro-study of citizens’ experience with taxes, using interviews and observations, will reveal the room for building a tax paying culture.

Funder: the Swedish Research Council

Living Peace and Elite Legacy: Comparative Life Histories of Peacemakers

Attempts to remove the war elite have often failed despite concerted efforts. Continuity of elites tends to be the defining trait despite the upheaval of war and peace agreements. The question then is how the legacy of these elites has played out over the years. The current research into this group of actors is very limited and mostly concerned with older wars (typically the World Wars). While the recent wave of civil wars and ensuing peace also have to deal with the challenge of an old elite surviving from the war this group has attracted little attention from peace scholars. Signatories to peace agreements can take on many different roles in the peace and preferably they should subscribe to democratic norms and become role models for society at large. Oftentimes, these actors would be banned from public office if recommendations from Truth and Reconciliation commissions were taken seriously. Yet, in order to secure the initial peace these actors are often given a prominent role in politics, with the aim to avoid spoilers. The question of what the inclusion of these actors does to the development of peace looms large. How sustainable and how enduring is their adoption of a new political role in society? This project examines a range of central actors involved in the peace process and their subsequent political life journeys over the last 20 years or more. This comparative elite study adds insight into the role played by elite actors and their legacy in terms of shaping peace politics and the extent to which they function as role models.

This project is part of a larger research program entitled Varieties of Peace.
Funder: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond/the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences

The Politics of Resentment in Sweden and the United States: Emotion, Motivation and Identity

Polarization and anger characterize political discourse in many western countries, not the least on the spending of the welfare state’s resources. A growing number of citizens put the costs of immigration and integration policies against improved welfare services, and feel that political leaders ignore important problems, disregard their interests and base decisions on debates dominated by the perspective of a few. The reactions have sometimes been violent, e.g. harassment and threats against perceived opponents. This raises questions, about the legitimizing capacity of the welfare state, and the possibilities to develop and sustain democracy. This project asks: how can we understand this resentment in relation to the welfare state? The politics of resentment has three traits: the feeling of being ignored by decision-makers; the motivation to demand greater consideration for one’s interests; and a strong identity that is perceived to be dismissed by society and political leaders. Studies of the USA suggest that the explanations are economic inequality, vulnerability, backlash against feminism and multiculturalism, and growing distrust towards political leaders and institutions. These factors are important, but we see that similar mobilization has occurred in countries where these factors vary. This indicates that they do not give the whole explanation. In this study, we focus on two countries that differ considerably with regard to economic inequality, vulnerability, attitudes to gender equality and multiculturalism, and trust for political leaders and institutions: Sweden and the USA. We seek explanations in social-psychological mechanisms that appear to occur in both cases. Focusing on feelings, motivation and identity, we explore such mechanisms through life-history interviews, which put the interviewee’s experiences and reflections at the center. The project thereby contributes to deeper understanding of the politics of resentment in the USA and Sweden.

Funder: Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE)

Ex-Combatants and Veterans Coming Home

The returning veteran is often celebrated yet tragic life stories infuse our ideas of who the veteran is and their life after coming home. In contrast, the idea of the ex-combatant as a rather a-political and a-moral character, which provides a threat to society, tends to infuse our ideas of combatants returning home after war in the Global South. This project utilizes life history interviews with various different types of former combatants and veterans from different wars to shed light on what the experience of coming home after war is like. In particular, it focuses on the paths of long-term political mobilization after disarmament, in relation to various social movements. The contribution of this project is to bring together so called veteran experiences with ex-combatant experiences in one single study. Many have noted the uncomfortable division between veterans (in the Global North) and ex-combatants (in the Global South), but there is no research that offers an empirical comparison across this divide in a singly study. The project therefore aims to bring out similarities in the challenges and opportunities for political mobilization more broadly for former combatants after disarmament as a global phenomenon.

Funder: the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund