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Social Im/mobilities in Africa: Ethnographic Approaches

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Social Im/mobilities in Africa

Ethnographic Approaches

Edited by Joël Noret

236 pages, 2 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-485-8 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (November 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78920-486-5 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Readers will be impressed by the diverse range of case studies and detailed evidence from people’s personal lives. Overall, the chapters emphasize the importance of taking a multidimensional and interdisciplinary approach to understanding social mobility. Although this is a highly specialized field of study, the topics and chapters are well written and accessible enough to be of value to a wide range of readers…Recommended” • Choice

“This is a very important and timely contribution to the study of mobilities and immobilities in Africa. The volume advances our understanding of social positionalities as these intertwine and mediate with wider political and moral economies in contemporary Africa.” • Mattia Fumanti, University of St Andrews

“Addresses thorny, contemporary realities and draws on a really thought-provoking theoretical palette in opening up debate. Moving beyond social inequality and linear ideas of social mobility is a sort of manifesto that others will take up.” • David Pratten, University of Oxford


Grounded in both theory and ethnography, this volume insists on taking social positionality seriously when accounting for Africa’s current age of polarizing wealth. To this end, the book advocates a multidimensional view of African societies, in which social positions consist of a variety of intersecting social powers - or ‘capitals’ – including wealth, education, social relationships, religion, ethnicity, and others. Accordingly, the notion of social im/mobilities emphasizes the complexities of current changes, taking us beyond the prism of a one-dimensional social ladder, for social moves cannot always be apprehended through the binaries of ‘gains’ and ‘losses’.

Joël Noret is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Université libre de Bruxelles. He has conducted most of his fieldwork in Southern Benin where he worked on funerals, religious change and the memory of slavery. In the last few years, he has started investigating social inequalities in education, combining ethnography with survey research to explore the making of unequal lives.

Subject: Mobility Studies Anthropology (General) Sociology
Area: Africa


Introduction: Theorizing Social Im/mobilities in Africa
Joël Noret

Chapter 1. Inequality from up Close: Qur’anic Students in Northern Nigeria Working as Domestics
Hannah Hoechner

Chapter 2. 'Born Free to Aspire?' An Ethnographic Study of Rural Youths’ Aspirations in Post-Apartheid South Africa
Fawzia Mazanderani

Chapter 3. Great Expectations and Uncertain Futures: Education and Social Im/mobility in Niamey, Niger
Gabriella Körling

Chapter 4. ‘Precarious Prosperity?’ Social Im/mobilities Among Young Entrepreneurs in Kampala
Laura Camfield and William Monteith

Chapter 5. ‘Here Men Are Becoming Women and Women Men’: Gender, Class, and Space in Maputo, Mozambique
Inge Tvedten, Arlindo Uate and Lizete Mangueleze

Chapter 6. The Dynamics of Inequality in the Congolese Copperbelt: A Discussion of Bourdieu’s Theory of Social Space
Benjamin Rubbers

Chapter 7. Crisis, Work and the Meanings of Mobility on the Zimbabwean-South African Border
Maxim Bolt

Chapter 8. Domestic Dramas: Class, Taste and Home Decoration in Buea, Cameroon
Ben Page

Conclusion: A Multidimensional Approach to Social Positionality in Africa
Joël Noret

Appendix I: Sample characteristics
Appendix II: Summary of entrepreneurs’ directions of social mobility


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