State and society are powerful concepts, but actual public institutions in Africa defy clear-cut distinctions. Questions of citizenship, property and security are not the preserve of the state. While formal government is often weak and sometimes failing, public authority is dislocated to, or appropriated by, other institutions that endeavour to act as the state. Focusing on the condition of public authority in Africa, Twilight Institutions investigates how a range of institutions seek voluntary compliance to their authority, and claim legitimacy in an attempt to govern. This volume approaches public authority 'from below', exploring a variety of concrete encounters between forms of public authority and the more or less mundane practices of ordinary people. The expertly written essays in this collection reflect upon the failure of government institutions to maintain control; while there is no shortage of institutions attempting to exercise authority, none is continuously successful. Fading in and out of power, these institutions operate in the twilight between state and society, between public and private.