Accepted Paper:

Social movement without formal groups: youth as driver of social change in northern Togo  
Bernhard Martin (University Halle-Wittenberg)

Paper short abstract:

In intergenerational conflicts African youth is often acting as a social movement searching for social and economic emancipation. But young people are rarely organized in formal groups. Rather they collaborate effectively by mutual support, sharing experience and exchange of points of view.

Paper long abstract:

Youth can be an important force in processes of social change in African local societies. As most societies are organized by gerontocratic principles, especially young men are disadvantaged economically and endowed with less power. Therefore generational relations are tense and youth is searching for possibilities to contest the rule of the old men.

This was also the case in northern Togo until the 1980s. During the following decade the cotton boom with its possibility to earn a lot of money during short time, the democratization process and a general shift in values induced a successful rebellion of the youth against the existing social structures.

The paper aims to analyze this process of social change by regarding northern Togolese youth as a social movement without formal groups. In their struggle for economic and political emancipation young men and women did established formal groups as clubs or associations (age sets did not existed in northern Togo). Although each of them decided independently from each other, the young people supported each other by solidarity in case of intergenerational conflicts as well as by sharing experience and exchange of points of view.

Panel P015
Youth and social movements