The Making of an African Working Class

The Making of an African Working Class : Politics, Law, and Cultural Protest in the Manual Workers' Union of Botswana

By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 2 business days
When will my order arrive?


It is now 50 years since E.P. Thompson published his classic, The Making of the English Working Class. The Making of an African Working Class follows Thompson in exploring the formation of working class identity among low-paid African workers. In arguing for a radical public anthropology of worker identity, the book seeks to analyse the cultural, legal, ideological and experiential dimensions of labour activism often neglected in other labour studies.

Pnina Werbner shows that by fusing cosmopolitan and local popular cultural forms of protest, unionists have created a distinctive, vernacular way of being a worker in Botswana: one that does not deny workers' roots at home or in the countryside, while being cognisant of a wider world of cosmopolitan labour rights. The assertion of working class dignity, honour and respect, Pnina argues, is a powerful motivating force for manual workers.

Against legal-sceptical approaches, The Making of an African Working Class argues that in challenging the government - their employer - in court, manual workers' protests and mobilisation are deeply embedded in ethics, social justice and the law.
show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 150 x 230 x 25.4mm | 657.71g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745334962
  • 9780745334967

Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. The Dignity of Labour: Women, Agency and Leadership

3. A Labour Elite? Strategising Women and the Spectre of Unemployment

4. The Kgotla ya Babereki (`Court' of the Workers): The Union as Public Forum

5. Legitimate Expections: Ethics and Labour Justice in the 1991 Strike

6. The Politics of `Infiltration': Factionalism and Party Politics

7. This Land is Our Land: The 2005 Manual Workers Union Grand Tour of Botswana

8. Solidarity Forever: Mobilising the Botswana Trade Union Movement in Prayer and Protest

9. Winning Against the Odds: Speaking Truth to Power and Dilemmas of Charismatic Leadership

10. The `Mother of All Strikes': Vernacular Cosmopolitanism and Popular Culture, 2011

11. The Political and Moral Economy of the Strike

12. Conclusion: Legal Mobilisation, Political Protest and Cosmopolitan Virtue

Concluding Remarks: Class Identity, Dignity and the Agency of Labour in Botswana


show more

Review quote

'[A] masterful ethnography ... Werbner has produced a theoretically sophisticated and thoroughly researched account of the uneven rise of

working-class consciousness and activism in Botswana' -- American Ethnologist 'Shows how dignity, justice and morality underlay the resurgence of the Manual Workers' Union. A formidable achievement' -- Professor Robin Cohen, Department of International Development, University of Oxford
show more

About Pnina Werbner

Pnina Werbner is Professor Emerita of Social Anthropology, Keele University. She is the author of The Making of an African Working Class (Pluto, 2014), The Manchester Migration Trilogy - The Migration Process (2002), Imagined Diasporas (2002) and Pilgrims of Love (2003).
show more