Accepted paper:

Political subjectivity and social stratification: Baku and Luanda in comparative perspective


Tristam Barrett (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the political subjectivities of different social classes in Baku and Luanda, and puts them into comparative perspective with the cases presented by other panelists.

Paper long abstract:

As in the cases of Maputo, Caracas, and Luanda – discussed by the other panelists – the oil-boom economy of present-day Baku, Azerbaijan, is effecting a large-scale economic transformation within the city, and correspondingly new forms of social stratification have emerged. Those who participate in the new economy of oil and related booming sectors (construction, real estate, finance, public administration) form a burgeoning middle class with new expectations and possibilities for meeting them. On the other hand, those who remain either within the continuing economy of post-socialism or on the margins of the new economy – or whose social position within the previous order of things has been eroded – maintain an altogether different set of dispositions and attitudes to life, and accordingly, to the political. But despite the seeming commonalities, patterns of class formation and their implications may differ in each context. In this paper we present findings on social stratification and political dispositions from our separate field research in Baku and Luanda. We seek to draw together common threads between these findings and those of other panelists, to begin to formulate the grounds for a comparative perspective on the issues investigated in this panel. We know that oil affects cultural understandings of authority, value, and everyday life [cf. Coroníl's “The Magical State” and Apter's "The Pan-African Nation”]. But does it affect all classes in the same way? What differences exist between the political attitudes and dispositions of the new middle classes, and other marginal (and marginalised) groups in oil-rich states? In what ways do these groups construe political authority, and how do their attitudes and dispositions ultimately help perpetuate the very different political imaginaries that sustain these states? Are there significant homologies across each of our case-studies? And what effect do the very different historical legacies of these countries have on these questions? In seeking to answer these questions, we hope to find the grounds for a rich comparative debate on the nature of political subjectivity in resource-rich authoritarian states.

panel P19
Political subjectivities in resource-rich authoritarian countries