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Introduction

Understanding Experiences and Decisions in Situations of Enduring Hardship in Africa

Mirjam de Bruijn and Jonna Both

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.