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Under pressure: aspirations and stress in African metropoles 
Mario Schmidt (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle))
Jörg Wiegratz (University of Leeds)
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Catherine Dolan (SOAS)
Anthropology (x) Inequality (y)
Philosophikum, S57
Saturday 3 June, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

How do city dwellers in African metropoles experience, deal with, and try to overcome the experience of economic pressure to carve out a viable future? This panel explores the analytic potential of ‘pressure’ in comparison to concepts such as poverty, marginalization, hustling, or social navigation.

Long Abstract:

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the war in Ukraine on economic livelihoods across Africa have heightened the urgency to study a so-far neglected topic: the experience of pressure. Amidst hiking prices, rampant inflation, shattered middle-class expectations, and governments’ inability to intervene, pressure manifests in multiple somatic, social, and psychological ways ranging from ulcers, sleeplessness, stress, gender-based violence, and suicides. Focusing on ‘pressure’ holds substantial analytical potential to explore major dynamics central to contemporary capitalism in Africa’s urban areas. As an affective state resulting from an assessment of a disbalance between economic demands and the (in)ability to fulfil them, pressure is experienced as a state of suspension between relaxation and bursting, depression and aimless vitality. Pressure, to conclude, promises to be conceptually fruitful while resonating with actors’ individual experiences across economic classes.

We invite papers contributing to the conceptual and empirical discussion of ‘pressure in the city’. Some of the questions the panel is interested in include: How do city dwellers of diverse class, religious, and gender backgrounds accommodate, negotiate, and deflect pressure? Does economic pressure offer new analytical possibilities vis-à-vis other concepts used to describe similar phenomena (poverty, hustling, waiting, navigating, etc.)? How do actors carve out their futures under the experience of encompassing pressure? What is the relation between individually perceived economic pressure and structural conditions/changes of the economy? How can interdisciplinary methodological and theoretical approaches deepen our understanding of economic pressure —the forms it assumes, the actions it motivates and the effects it generates?

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Saturday 3 June, 2023, -
Session 2 Saturday 3 June, 2023, -