Accepted paper:

A transnational (middle?) class of experts: the afterlives of socialist technical assistance in Mozambique's mining sector


Jon Schubert (Brunel University London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the tensions between socialist and neoliberal imaginaries of middle classness through an ethnographic mapping of the professional selves of technocrats in the Mozambican mining sector.

Paper long abstract:

Global imaginaries of middle classness, although resonating in very different ways in specific national contexts, are more often than not imagined to conform to broadly Western, capitalist-liberal aspirations — a detached house in the suburbs, a certain type of car, a specific number of children, and globalised markers of consumption. However, as the material from ethnographic fieldwork in Mozambique's mining sector presented in this paper reveals, alternative imaginings of middle classness, based on technical competence, cosmopolitanism, and a certain kind of work ethics persist as afterlives of socialist technical assistance to the country's mining sector amongst the technocrats managing the sector today, under the condition of neoliberal capitalism. This paper then explores the tensions between the values of middle classness promoted by a sociopolitical project that has all but vanished today as a global emancipatory reference, and the contemporary economic and political realities of needing to promote a business-friendly climate, and the moral ambiguities this engenders.

panel P112
Engineering the Middle Classes: State Institutions, Wealth, and Aspirations of Citizenship