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Political Protest in Contemporary Africa
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Book description

From spray-painted slogans in Senegal to student uprisings in South Africa, twenty-first century Africa has seen an explosion of protests and social movements. But why? Protests flourish amidst an emerging middle class whose members desire political influence and possess the money, education, and political autonomy to effectively launch movements for democratic renewal. In contrast with pro-democracy protest leaders, rank-and-file protesters live at a subsistence level and are motivated by material concerns over any grievance against a ruling regime. Through extensive field research, Lisa Mueller shows that middle-class political grievances help explain the timing of protests, while lower-class material grievances explain the participation. By adapting a class-based analysis to African cases where class is often assumed to be irrelevant, Lisa Mueller provides a rigorous yet accessible explanation for why sub-Saharan Africa erupted in unrest at a time of apparent economic prosperity.


'In this innovative and elegantly written book, Lisa Mueller brings class analysis back to the study of African politics. Based on sophisticated quantitative methods and extensive fieldwork, often in under-studied countries, she weaves together a new model of protest that distinguishes the motivations and actions of protest organizers and participants. Enlightening!'

Pierre Englebert - Pomona College, California

'Mueller’s timely book provides a lucid framework for understanding mass protests across Africa. Drawing a bold distinction between middle class leaders and working class joiners, Mueller explains how political protests happen and why they fail to deliver results for the poor and unemployed. Mueller is right to bring class back as an analytic tool.'

Alice J. Kang - University of Nebraska, Lincoln

'A useful update on the changing social context driving popular uprisings in Africa. Mueller argues that unequal growth produces both mass economic anxiety and a politically frustrated middle class. In this acutely observed book, she probes the cross-class protest alliances whose demands for change are as much about economic opportunity as democracy. Recommended.'

Michael Bratton - Michigan State University

'This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Africa's ongoing third wave of protest. Combining on the ground interviews with sophisticated social scientific analysis, Mueller convincingly shows how class shapes protest dynamics. Beautifully written and compellingly argued, Political Protest in Contemporary Africa is a deep dive into the internal dynamics of some of Africa's most transformative social movements.'

Zachariah Mampilly - Vassar College, New York

'Lisa Mueller’s excellent study of protest politics in Africa will no doubt prove to be the standard text on the topic. Based on fascinating primary source materials in several countries, and framed in a careful sociological understanding of the different motivations for protest across social classes, her book forces us to rethink our understanding of contentious politics in Africa.'

Nicolas van de Walle - Cornell University, New York

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