Work ethics, labour and subjectivities in Africa
Paolo Gaibazzi (University of Bayreuth)
Marco Gardini (University of Milano-Bicocca)
Start time:
29 June, 2013 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel aims to explore emerging work ethics in Africa and their role in promoting specific subjectivities. Contributions should not only concentrate on discourses and predicaments, but also on the social practices through which 'work ethics' are articulated, inculcated and contested.

Long abstract:

Meanings of, and values attached to, work have long been a disputed terrain in discourses on social change in Africa. Work emerges as a central issue both for the understanding of emerging economic contexts and power structures, as well as for its crucial role in producing personal and social identities. Colonial representations of African work (esp. laziness) have often enjoyed widespread currency after independence and recur in a number of governmental discourses, including development projects, and have frequently taken roots in societal discourses as well, often emerging as the principal justification for violence and labour exploitation. While certain systems of organization and valorisation of work have proved to be resilient to change, several social and cultural movements have promoted new ideas of labour, entrepreneurship and prosperity as foundations of emerging subjectivities and codes of self-conduct. Indeed, the recent growth of religious movements like Pentecostal Christianity and Islamic Reformism in Africa calls for an investigation of subjective as well as economic implications of certain predicaments of self-transformation. Similarly, as Africans circulate in worldwide circuits of labour, business and education, familiarising with ideas and systems of work, they possibly influence their societies upon return or through long-distance interaction. This panel calls for contributions that explore the legacy and the emerging of work ethic in Africa. Contributions should not only concentrate on discourses and predicaments of work, but also on the social practices and dispositions through which work-related virtues are articulated, inculcated and contested.