My first monograph is out: "Legitimation as Political Practice", published by Cambridge University Press (2022). Please order it to your university library and let me know what you think. Here's the blurb:

Legitimacy has long been perceived through a Westernized lens as a fixed, binary state. In this book, Kathy offers an exploration of everyday legitimation practices in coastal Tanzania, challenging this understanding within postcolonial contexts. She reveals how non-government organizations craft their authority to act, working with, against and through the state. Synthesizing ethnographic fieldwork with theoretical innovations from across the social sciences, this book builds a picture of contemporary governance in Tanzania and beyond in the wake of waning Western dominance. 

Here is a podcast of me discussing the book.

Some reviews:

“This is a truly ground-breaking book! It is at one and the same time an elegant ethnographic study of everyday practices and a sophisticated theoretical enquiry of legitimacy. The result is a radical rethinking of legitimation – and, by implication, of International Relations – from the African ground up.”

Rita Abrahamsen, University of Ottawa

“In the current conjuncture dominated by resurgent decolonization, where the issue of locus of enunciation is privileged, this book’s central themes of legitimacy and legitimation with a focus on NGOs are successfully de-abstracted and brought down to everyday life. I have nothing but praise for this ground-breaking and inspiring work anchored on very rich empirical evidence.”

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, University of Bayreuth

“This is an important and rich study of how legitimacy is produced, negotiated, and contested in Tanzania – with significant lessons for the theory and practice of global politics.”

Carl Death, University of Manchester

‘Legitimacy is profoundly a challenging matter in Africa. What informs legitimacy is a question that we often ask. Kathy Dodworth examines how legitimacy is produced in everyday practices. The analysis goes beyond state level by examining NGOs practices. This book is invaluable in seeking to bridge the ‘legitimation practices’ gap.’

Aikande C. Kwayu, University of Wisconsin-Madison

'Legitimation as Political Practice radically reformulates legitimacy. The book exposes the limitations of our current understanding of legitimacy, its static nature and reliance on Eurocentric models. Its examination of NGOs in Tanzania demonstrates a more fruitful way to theorize the material and performative ways in which legitimacy is produced.'

Laura Routley, Newcastle University

With its focus on the everyday rather than elites, attention to the logics of coloniality which continue to shape the present and recognition of the importance of ideas of the public, this book offers a powerful and insightful rethinking of ‘legitimacy’ from coastal Tanzania.

Emma Hunter, University of Edinburgh

Other publications:

Dodworth, K. & Mukungu, B.N. (2023): 'Our hands are bound!' Pathways to community health labour in Kenya',  Social Science & Medicine Vol. 332. First output from our Wellcome Trust project on community volunteers. Watch video primer

Dodworth, K. (2019): ‘Negotiating the public: voluntarism and its work in Tanzania’, African Affairs Vol. 118 Issue 470 

This article won African Affairs’ inaugural postgraduate paper prize and was subsequently published in this journal, the highest ranked area studies journal at the time. It won due to its engagement 'with a contemporary debate in IR about public authority and legitimation, while simultaneously illustrating this through rich and detailed fieldwork. It is an intriguing and highly interesting paper, that engages both with recent theoretical debates about public authority and with extensive empirical fieldwork.'  

Dodworth, K. (2022): NGOs and Lifeworlds in Africa: Transdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Melina C Kalfelis and Kathrin Knodel, African Affairs

Stewart, E,; Dodworth, K,; Ercio, A. (2022). 'The everyday work of hospital campaigns: public knowledge and activism in the UK’s National Health Services' in Crane, Jenny; Hand, Jane (eds) Protests, Posters, and Prescriptions: Cultural Histories of the National Health Service in Britain. Manchester University Press

Stewart, E. & Dodworth, K. (2021): ‘The Biggest Charity You’ve Never Heard Of’: Institutional Logics of Charity and the State in Public Fundraising in Scotland’s NHS, Journal of Social Policy (Online First View)

Dodworth, K. & Stewart, E. (2020): ‘Legitimating complementary therapies in the NHS’, Health: online

Dodworth, K. (2018): 'A ‘real’ African woman!’ Multipositionality and its effects in the field, Ethnography 22.2.

Dodworth, K. (2014): ‘NGO Legitimation as Practice: Working State Capital in Tanzania’, Critical African Studies 6.1. Teaching text at the University of Edinburgh and Lincoln and close to 3,000 views.


Theoretical innovation through empirical enquiry