Association for Africanist Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Pamela Feldman (Carleton College)
Julia Pauli (Universitaet Hamburg)
New discussions of social class have been prompted by the increasing interest in the middle class in Africa and elsewhere in the Global South since 2010. However, this literature does not adequately theorize migration, despite the role global flows play in cultivating middle-class aspirations. Migration also complicates the concept of social class as an identity that is stable, in that migrants usually have multiple class statuses across their lifetime, in varied social fields, and in different geographic locations. Furthermore, class remains under-theorized within the literature on African migration—and migration more broadly—despite the fact that class-making projects are central to migrants within, into, and out of Africa. The paper first contends that migration and social class should be considered together, to illuminate the lived realities of both migration and social class for Africans and migrants in Africa under the uneven conditions of global capitalism. Secondly, it argues that social class cannot be understood as a stable identity across the life course and contexts. Instead, social class is a cultural project pursued by migrants and their significant social others through situated performances and practices of class, or class acts. This paper provides the conceptual framework for the panel “Class Acts,” to open up a discussion of four themes we consider significant for class enactments (the meanings, identities and belongings, temporalities, and relationalities of class), drawing on the ethnographic material observed and analyzed by the panel participants among African migrants and migrants to Africa.