European Conference on African Studies (ECAS) edition:4 location:Uppsala date:15-18 June 2011
This article presents an anthropological analysis of the meanings of being a public servant, based on a case-study of the rangers’ and foresters’ actions, interactions and negotiations on the periphery of the W park in Burkina Faso. The analysis specifically focuses on the paramilitary uniform, worn by both rangers and foresters, as a stately identity marker. Rangers are not legally authorized to wear this uniform and its accessories, such as a gun, in contrast to the foresters who are official public servants in Burkina Faso. Their common stately identity, based on the wearing of a similar uniform and the displaying of the concordant paramilitary gestures and language, though blurs this distinction. In other words, the uniform feeds the ambiguity that underpins processes of statecraft. The uniform moreover enables both groups of stately agents to ensure the arrests of environmental offenders, and hence to obtain revenues, commodities, opportunities, esteem, work efficiency, and public authority, which stretch far beyond the stately realm. State-practices turn out to be imagined and construed as a by-product of the residents’ search for a meaningful living, in which one particularly looks for esteem.