Janet Roitman: Africa Rising: Class or Finance

Janet Roitman (New School for Social Research) gave a seminar presentation on the 14th of November entitled “Africa Rising: Class or Finance?”

The big financial news out of Africa is “Africa Rising!” This exuberant expression refers to an “emerging middle class” that is the alleged harbinger of new era for the continent. Development economists debate the magnitude of the middle class in terms of income distributions while anthropologists lament the economists’ failure to consider class consciousness and group norms. What’s missing in their debate? This debate overlooks the ways in which “the middle class” has been posited as an actionable category of finance. Research on the development of new asset classes and international capital markets illustrates this point. And provokes a different question: Is the expanding middle class the result of a growth miracle under the shade of the baobab tree or the pragmatic development of new asset classes in the light of financial computer screens?