Urban enclaves and the middle class

Jason Sumich (University of Essex)
Julie Soleil Archambault (Concordia University)
Social Anthropology
Appleton Tower, Seminar Room 2.04
Session slots:
Wednesday 12 June, 8:45 - 10:30

Short abstract:

The growth of the urban middle class coincides with efforts to erect urban exclaves. This reconfiguration of urban spaces generates unexpected forms of connections and disconnections both across and within class boundaries. This panel explores the effects of such transformations in Africa.

Long abstract:

The growing visibility of the rising middle class on the urban landscape has also been coupled with an effort to erect contained spaces that are clearly separate and bounded—urban exclaves. The reconfiguration of urban spaces is generating unexpected forms of connections and disconnections both across and within class boundaries in well-established locales, as well as in emerging sites. What happens to the performative character of class "boundary work" when material boundaries are erected and policed? How is the supposed rise of the ´middle class´ transforming the urban landscape, with the growth of gated communities, shopping malls, restaurants and fitness centres? We welcome ethnographically informed papers that explore some of the different ways in which the middle class is both formed and expressed through connections and disruptions, from politics and economy, to wellness and self-making. We ask how the performance of middle-classness transform and intersects with other ways of inhabiting the city. How do these spatial practices (re)produce and/or subvert discourses of gender, class, race, ethnicity? How is class simultaneously shaped by the connections that these developments encourage and foster and the disruptions that they in turn also promote? What forms of sociality are emerging in these spaces, and how do these spaces shape the creation of alternative kinds of ethical subjectivities centred on class consciousness? We ask, how attention to these dynamics allows us to shed light on broader political, social, economic and ecological transformation underway across the continent.