This essay identifies patterns in the organisation and character of social movements in Africa, drawing upon examples from sub-Saharan Africa and finding connections with the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings. It pays attention to historicising social movements, global linkages and the problem of sustaining change. Rather than defining social movements in an a priori manner, or generalising from definitions derived from the western societies, it explores their concrete meanings in Africa. Thus it aims to avoid both the ‘false negative’ of overlooking genuine African social movements and the ‘false positive’ of labelling movements in a misleading manner. It identifies constraints upon collective action in Africa, exploring the political dynamics which undermine the formation of durable and organised movements and limit their capacity to represent popular concerns.
de Waal, A.; Ibreck, R. Hybrid social movements in Africa. Journal of Contemporary African Studies (2013) 31 (2) 303-324. [DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2013.781320]