The enduring experience of hardship, in the form of layers of various crises,
can become deeply ingrained in a society, and people can come to act and react under
these conditions as if they lead a normal life. This process is explored through the analytical
concept of duress, which contains three elements: enduring and accumulating
layers of hardship over time, the normalization of this hardship, and a form of deeply
constrained agency. We argue that decisions made in duress have a significant impact
on the social and political structures of society. This concept of duress is used as a lens
to understand the lives of individual people and societies in Central and West Africa
that have a long history of ecological, political, and social conflicts and crises.
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