Research in Africa has focused on urban rising middle classes or surviving lower classes. This panel wishes to enlighten stories of African working class(es) in a rural perspective, to initiate a collective reflection both on its subjectivity and its relationship to globalized labor struggles.
Since the 1980s, research on "classes" in Africa has focused on the rise of a middle class or the impoverishment of the lower classes, leaving aside a central theme of the 1960-1970s: the working class(es). This can be explained by the fact that Marxist theories have been challenged in the social sciences, emphasizing instead people's agency and individual initiatives. The underdevelopment of industrialization in most African countries was not conducive either. Since the failed structural adjustment policies, the neoliberal turn of Africa and the World Bank's injunctions, the situation of African workers has come to the fore again in academic and development circles, based on studies about mining or natural resources exploitation or on urban and domestic labor. Yet, the rural working classes are often left out. This panel wishes to reflect upon African working classes in a rural and agrarian perspective that goes beyond previous academic case-studies by considering cash crops plantations (tea, coffee, rice, sisal, etc.) and processing factories. « Stories of a Rural African Working Class » will initiate a collective reflection on how the working class struggles against exploitative companies and multinationals, repressive and developmental governments, and authoritarian or ambiguous trade union leaders. Those stories will also give an insight on how rural workers engage with their subjective social status and perception of « oneself », tackling a sense of belonging (or not) to an African working class anchored in a rural context, understood here in its specificities and its relationship to globalized labor struggles.