Skip to main content

Agentive Capacities, Democratic Possibilities, and the Urban Poor: Rethinking Recent Popular Protests in West Africa

Abstract

This article revolves around the role of the urban poor or the “informal proletariat” in popular political protests in West Africa. It critically surveys instructive accounts of their participation in the 1990s movement for democracy in Lagos, youth politics in Dakar, and a recent insightful analysis of popular uprisings in various parts of the continent in the 2000s. Various aspirations for change anchor these accounts. Against this backdrop, I turn to everyday life and politics in zones of urban informality and juxtapose it to a discussion of the acclaimed Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku’s street performance towards the end of the Occupy Nigeria movement as a generative figure of protest. The scripts in which we read dispositions of the informal proletariat, their protest actions, relationship to state and power, and hopes for the coming community are central here. At stake I believe is our own ability to grasp agentive democratic possibilities for the future, which the protests and Atiku’s performance illuminate.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. The ground for this upsurge was laid in the months preceding the withdrawal of the state subsidy for fuel. Debates around the removal of the subsidy had been building up and it seemed imminent; protests too started to take shape. At this time, “Occupy Nigeria” movement as a convergence of dissenting youth and citizens’ associations began emerging particularly on social media. The movement exhorted its followers to forsake docility, to react to the state of governance in the country (much like the North Africans had done recently), and be ready to move and “occupy” state installations. Once the subsidy was removed, popular upsurge marked by fierce participation of the informal proletariat I discuss below followed. A powerful coalition of pro-democracy associations such as the Save Nigeria Group and labor unions intensified the movement but the coalition was short-lived. See Akor (2014) and Branch and Mampilly (2015: 100–110).

  2. While academic scholarship on the Occupy Nigeria movement is scant documentaries such as Chop Cassava: Documenting Nigeria’s Fuel Subsidy Protests archive its various moments in considerable detail. I would especially like to thank George Agbo for the insights and information about the movement he shared with me. Agbo analyzes the Occupy Nigeria movement in his ongoing doctoral project and thesis Photography, Facebook and Virtualisation of Resistance in Nigeria to be submitted to the Department of History, University of the Western Cape. On the role of social media in the movement also see Egbunike (2015) and Egbunike and Olorunnisola (2015).

  3. Any serious consideration of the informal economy in Nigeria and West Africa more broadly would also have to turn to colonial and pre-colonial history of large-scale social networks that are at the heart of this economy. These networks were a part of indigenous business systems in the pre-colonial era; they were disrupted and subsequently informalized under colonial rule. Informal traders turned to manufacturing and small-scale informal manufacturing enterprises became an important part of this economy especially from the 1980s. It has flourished in some periods but has also been negatively impacted by global economic trends, restructuring policies, and state neglect. Kate Meagher’s body of work on this economy in Nigeria is especially helpful (2007, 2009, 2010a, 2010b).

  4. See Roy 2011 for an insightful analysis of such accounts. In her work on the informal economy in Nigeria, Meagher notes how some accounts celebrate the vitality of its small-scale enterprises; others view them with considerable skepticism. Such enterprises then get read together with drug networks, internet, and other business frauds (2010: 5). See for instance the journalist Karl Maier’s 2000 book on Nigeria.

  5. See Laura Ahearn’s comprehensive and perceptive review of the concept of agency that she broadly defines as “the socioculturally mediated capacity to act” (2010: 28). As the senior anthropologist Talal Asad has pointed out, the term’s political iteration is especially associated with resistance, “history-making” and empowerment. Such associations that dominate public and academic discourse regard power as “external and repressive of the agent” that “subjects him or her" (2003). Agentive capacity is associated with overcoming power and opposing it. Drawing on Foucault’s reading of power (1980: 138), Asad questions such understandings of agency and instead formulates an understanding that emphasizes the self’s capacity to deploy power internally, remake oneself and hence its relationship to the outside world. This distinction will become particularly relevant in the latter part of this article. Also, see Saba Mahmood’s work on religious piety and women in Egypt for an ethnographic elaboration of this understanding of agency (2005).

  6. The category of Area Boys is usually associated with young men. At the same time, young women also participate in the life that various researchers describe. Indeed, Momoh tells us that young women and girls made up 32.1 % of the sample group of “Area Boys and girls” he and his colleagues studied (2003: 186). He describes their life trajectories and how they came to join the Area Boys. However, he only gives us a sketchy description of their life and activities, especially the nature of their political participation in popular politics. In his writing about the Area Boys, girls sometimes appear within parentheses or in small alphabets. The masculine nature of this world and the absence of a full-bodied account of the place of young women in it is thus signaled. I invoke this issue later in the article as well.

  7. See Honwana and De Boeck’s important edited collection (2005) and Abbink and Van Kassel’s edited volume with the telling title Vanguards or Vandals: Youth, Politics and Conflict in Africa (2005). In new research, Joschka Phillips, a doctoral candidate in the University of Basel, describes how youth gangs have been mobilized for protests by political parties in Conakry, Guinea, and contributed towards bringing down Lansana Conte’s government. Phillips suggests that if their economic condition and state of political alienation is not mitigated, then these gangs are likely to continue protesting even under the democratic dispensation (2013). Like Area Boys and Girls members of these youth gangs may be seen as a particular subset of the larger category of the informal proletariat.

  8. The repudiations underlying the Set/Setal movement are indeed manifold. As Diouf notes, “The (youth) revolt constituted a total refusal of the places assigned to youth not only by political power—first, single-party rule and then multiparty democracy—but also, and throughout the revolt by a tradition (of)…submission to elders….” (1996: 241). At the same time, it is important to note that religious traditions, especially Islam, both its syncretic and more fundamentalist aspects, have influenced various dimensions of the movement (Diouf 1996).

  9. In a key section on the attitude of the global north to democracy in Africa in his last publication (1996), the eminent political studies scholar Claude Ake outlines the ways in which liberal democracy has become “inimical” to the idea of popular power and has indeed become “less democratic” with its focus on rule of law rather than popular sovereignty. Ake especially mentions Western social sciences’ role in so limiting our understanding of democracy. In his words, “under the pretext of clarifying the meaning of democracy, Western social science has constantly redefined it, to the detriment of its democratic values” (1996: 130). Ake, a severe critic of the Nigerian military regime was killed in 1996 in a plane crash under suspicious circumstances.

  10. The term urban underclass has had a longstanding purchase in sociological literature on poverty, especially black urban poverty as well as in media descriptions of life in inner city USA. Scholarly definitions vary but some themes and terms recur; thus, the term has often been invoked to refer to poor, badly educated young men from their mid teens to late 20s who have either remained unemployed for long periods of time and/or become entrepreneurs or criminals in the urban underground economy. In some descriptions, it has also included poor childbearing teenage women. In a large number of writings, race has been a key referent and in others class; and while one set of scholars has focused on the cultural dimensions of life of the urban poor, others have focused on the structural conditions. For an overview of this scholarship as well as the media discourse on the urban underclass, see Marks (1991) and Katz ed. (1993).

  11. In the last few years, scholars writing about South Africa have especially found Chatterjee’s distinction and his discussion of political society relevant for their context. See for instance Bénit-Gbaffou and Oldfield (2011), Reddy (2010). Also see Neocosmos (2011) who draws on Chatterjee to posit the notion of “uncivil society” as something that more adequately captures the place of popular politics in the African setting.

  12. See for instance new research on public housing and the encounter between state authorities and local networks of power in Angola, which shows how state-society relations are being re-made everyday on the ground (Croese 2015). While the literature on welfare networks in South Africa is vast, state action, and its collaborations in the campaign against AIDS is one significant area where the workings of biopower are highlighted vividly. See for instance Robins, Steven (2010). On the politics of redistribution and welfare regimes in Zambia see Ferguson (2015). On the modalities of politics that new practices of redistribution have brought about, see von Schnitzler (2014).

  13. Branch and Mampilly recall that while Fanon used the Marxian category of the lumpenproletariat, he also noted its offensive connotations and emphasized the importance of widening and rethinking its meaning (2015: 19). Sociologist and a key figure of the British new left, Peter Worsley made a similar turn to the urban underclass together with and/or in lieu of the lumpenproletariat in his 1972 article on “Frantz Fanon and the Lumpenproletariat.” Worsley used the terms underclass as well as subproletariat as he described a context where postcolonial locations across the world ranging from Lima to Calcutta to Saigon, Cairo, and apartheid era Johannesburg of the 1960s and 1970s presented a different yet similar spectacle of rapid urban expansion, influx from rural areas, and emergence of a group that is not absorbed in the industrial work force but does not become a recognizable proletariat. Worsley thus saw the subproletariat and the urban underclass as a “people in process” that, as Fanon noted, carried a “revolutionary potential” (1972: 211).

  14. See note 5 for my discussion of Talal Asad’s work and another understanding of agency.

  15. Opposition leaders’ simple gesture of walking to work as a form of protest galvanized many sections of Ugandan society who came together in different urban centers, especially Kampala, to perform this dissenting gesture. Under conditions of high unemployment, inequality, infrastructural and social service disintegration, as well as police coercion and state corruption that have been especially palpable in urban areas, members of political society took to the streets with opposition figures. Dramatic battles between political society and the police ensued (Branch and Mampilly 2015: 121–131).

  16. In recent work on the politics of the urban poor in South Africa as a Fanonian practice, Nigel Gibson (2011), and Richard Pithouse (2003) have discussed the nature of universal humanism in Fanon’s writings. Their reflections also have an affinity with Ato Sekyi-Otu’s (1996) reading of universalism in Fanon that Scott too discusses briefly. In this article, I am not seeking to obtain the most authentic interpretation of Fanon or debating whether he may be regarded as a universalist or not. My key concern here is about the internal differences within political society that are occluded in many discussions, which draw on the alienation-realization paradigm of resistance. Those who are so occluded include women, sexual and other minorities, and all those who do not take palpably aggressive adversarial positions against the state. Here, I am informed by Scott’s worry that “the Fanonian story underwrites too much—or gives too much space to—the normalized centrality of a specific identity, even though an identity argued to have suffered particular injuries under colonial domination…. the Fanonian story licenses too unreflexive an idea of an essential native subject” (1999: 204–05).

  17. I am especially indebted to a recent edited volume on popular agency of informal workers in the continent (Lindell 2010).

  18. Meagher illustrates the workings of the clientlist logic among associations of informal manufacturers in Nigeria (2009). At the same time, as Lindell notes in her overview of politics of the informal in various parts of the continent, “there are other forms of political engagement and other kinds of association, linkage and alliance in which regular people in the informal economy engage and which cannot be captured by the vertical clientlist and criminal network” (2010: 16).

  19. See Boampong (2010) and Brown and Lyons (2010) for analyses of ways in which contemporary labor recruitment practices and informal networks are mapped onto and evoke “traditional” structures and idioms. At the same time as, once again, Lindell (2010) remind us, not only are identities of those living and working in the informal world divided along multiple subject positions but new research also highlights formation of ‘inclusive’ rather than ‘particularistic’ identities as regional associations of informal workers and traders emerge and internationalist networks of informals become more active (p. 14). On these topics, see other essays in the collection especially those by Nchito and Hansen, and Mitullah (2010).

  20. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari, Thoburn (2002) elaborates the politics of the minor that is inflected by multiple social relations and refuses or is unable to claim a clearly delineated coherent identity. This is the politics that Thoburn reads into the proletariat as a conceptual category that remains under elaborated in Marx. Comparing the world of the informal to Thoburn’s understanding of the proletariat is outside the scope of this essay; however, it is important to note that while Thoburn sees minorness as an aspect of the proletariat, I see its possibilities in the world of the informal and articulated through Atiku’s performance. The postcolonial studies scholar Leela Gandhi (2011, 2014) also turns to Deleuze and Guattari and their book on Kafka and minor literature (1986) to elaborate the political possibilities generated from the position of the minor. In her words, “Minor-ness…or a commitment to remaining-small, consists in practices of reterritorialisation that are simply discontinuous with the telos of dominance, in other words, immune to the inducements of either hegemony or canonicity” (2011: 35).

  21. Various strands of scholarship on “African Arts” describe Egungun as the tradition of masquerades that has been prevalent especially among the Oyo Yoruba where layers of cloth and other costumes are adorned to conceal the identity of the performer. See especially the special volume of the journal African Arts on Egungun (Drewal 1978). Atiku’s ensemble of cloth and movements resemble the Egungun, its movements and practice of concealment. It is also notable that he called his performance “Nigerian Fetish.” In a conversation, Atiku explained that he was seeking to reference the disparaging ways in which African ritual and religious forms have been described on the global stage; furthermore, he was looking to rework that term to now make an intervention in the modern political public space (Personal communiqué, October 18, 2015).

  22. For instance Atiku’s performance may also be seen in the light of Hauka spirit possession rituals in Niger and their close relationship to political power. See Stoller (1995).

  23. Ajay Skaria’s discussion of Gandhi’s satyagraha and forms of non-sovereign political action (2011, 2014) enable my reading of Atiku here.

References

  • Abbink, J., & van Kassel, I. (Eds.). (2005). Vanguard or vandals: youth, politics and conflict in Africa. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ahearn, L. M. (2010). Agency and language. In J. Verschueren, J.-O. Ostman, & J. Japsers (Eds.), Society and language use: handbook of pragmatics (pp. 28–48). Philadelphia: John Benjamins Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Ake, C. (1991). Rethinking African democracy. Journal of Democracy, 2(1), 32–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ake, C. (1996). Democracy and development in Africa. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Akor, C. (2014). From subalterns to independent actors? Youth, social media and the fuel subsidy protests of January 2012 in Nigeria. Unpublished Paper.

  • Asad, T. (2003). Formations of the secular: Christianity, Islam, modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barker, J. (2009). Negara beling: street-level authority in an Indonesian slum. In J. Barker & G. van Klinken (Eds.), State of authority: The state in society in Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bayat, A. (1997). Un-civil society: the politics of the ‘informal people’. Third World Quarterly, 18(1), 53–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bénit-Gbaffou, C., & Oldfield, S. (2011). Accessing the state: everyday practices and politics in cities of the south. Journal of Asian & African Studies, 46(5), 445–452.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Branch, A., & Mampilly, Z. (2015). Africa uprising: popular protest and political change. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, A. (Ed.). (2006). Contested space: street trading, public space and livelihood in developing cities. Rugby: ITDG Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burton, A. (2005). African underclass: urbanization, crime and colonial order in Dar es Salam. OH: Ohio University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chatterjee, P. (2004). Politics of the governed: popular politics in most of the world. New York: Columbia University.

  • Cooper, F. (1996). Decolonization and African society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, F. (2002). Africa since 1940: the past of the present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Croese, S. (2015). Inside the government, but outside the law: residents’ committees, public authority and twilight governance in post-war angola. Journal of Southern African Studies, 41(2), 405–417.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, M. (2004). Planet of slums. New Left Review, 26, 5–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1986). Kafka: towards a minor literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Diouf, M. (1996). Urban youth and Senegalese politics 1988-1994. Public Culture, 8, 225–249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diouf, M. (2003). Engaging postcolonial cultures: African youth and public space. Public Culture, 46(2), 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Draper, H. (1972). The concept of the ‘lumpenproletariat’ in Marx and Engels. Economy and Society, 2285–312.

  • Draper, H. (1977). Toward a theory of the proletariat. In H. Draper (Ed.), (pp. 149-167) NYU Press.

  • Drewal, H. J. (1978). The arts of Egungun among Yoruba people. African Arts 11(3), 18-19+97-98.

  • Egbunike, N. (2015). Framing the #Occupy Nigeria protests in newspapers and social media. Library Journal.

  • Egbunike, N., & Olurunnisola, A. (2015). Social media and the #Occupy Nigeria protests: igniting or damping a Harmattan storm. Journal of African Media Studies, 7(2), 141–164.

  • Fanon, F. (1963). Wretched of the earth. New York: Grove.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferguson, J. (2015). Give a man a fish: reflections on the new politics of distribution. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge. Brighton: Harvester Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gandhi, L. (2011). The pauper’s gift: postcolonial theory and the new democratic dispensation. Public Culture, 23(1), 27–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gandhi, L. (2014). The common cause: postcolonial ethics and the practice of democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Hansen, K. T., & Vaa, M. (Eds.). (2004). Reconsidering informality: perspectives from Africa. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, P. (1988). Utopia and the lumpenproletariat: Marx’s reasoning in ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’. The Review of Politics, 50(3), 445–465.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hirst, P. Q. (1972). Marx and Engels on law, crime and morality. Economy and Society, 1(1), 28–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Honwana, A., & De Boek, F. (2005). Makers and breakers: children and youth in Africa. Oxford: James Currey.

    Google Scholar 

  • House, W. J. (1984). Nairobi’s informal sector: dynamic entrepreneurs or surplus labor? Economic Development and Cultural Change, 32(2), 277–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katz, M. B. (Ed.). (1993). The ‘underclass’ debate: a view from history. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lindell, I. (2010). Introduction: The changing politics of informality—collective organizing, alliances and styles of engagement. In I. Lindell (Ed.), Africa’s informal workers: Collective agency, alliances and transnational organizing. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacGaffey, J., & Bazenguissa-Ganga, R. (2000). Congo-Paris: transnational traders on the margins of law. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mahmood, S. (2005). Politics of piety: the Islamic revival and the feminist subject. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maier, K. (2000). This house has fallen: Nigeria in crisis. London: Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marks, C. (1991). The urban underclass. Annual Review of Sociology, 17, 445–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marx, K. (1994). The eighteenth brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. International Publishers.

  • Marx, K. & Engels, F. (1989). Collected works, vol. 6. International Publishers.

  • Meagher, K. (2007). Hijacking civil society: the inside story of the Bakassi Boys vigilante group of south-eastern Nigeria. Journal of Modern African Studies, 45(1), 89–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meagher, K. (2009). The informalization of belonging: Igbo informal enterprise and cohesion from below. Africa Development, 34(1), 31–46.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meagher, K. (2010a). The politics of vulnerability: Exit, voice and capture in three Nigerian informal clusters. In I. Lindell (Ed.), Africa’s informal workers: Collective agency, alliances and transnational organizing. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meagher, K. (2010b). Identity economics: social networks and the informal economy in Nigeria. Woodbridge: James Currey.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mehlman, J. (1977). Revolution and repetition: Marx/Hugo/Balzac. London: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mitullah, W. V. (2010). Informal workers in Kenya and transnational organizing: Networking and leveraging resources. In I. Lindell (Ed.), Africa’s informal workers: Collective agency, alliances and transnational organizing. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Momoh, A. (2000). Youth culture and Area Boys in Lagos. In J. Attahiru (Ed.), Identity politics and identity transformation under structural adjustment in Nigeria. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute and Centre for Research and Documentation, Kano.

    Google Scholar 

  • Momoh, A. (2003). The political dimension of urban youth crisis: the case of the Area Boys in Lagos. In Fourchand, L. and Albert, I. O. (Eds.), Security, crime and segregation in West African cities since the 19 th century. Karthala.

  • Myers, G. (2011). African cities: alternative visions of urban theory and practice. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Neocosmos, M. (2011). Transition, human rights and violence: re-thinking a liberal political relationship in the African post-colony. Interface: A Journal for and About Social Movements, 3(2), 359–99.

    Google Scholar 

  • Omitoogun, W. (1994). The Area Boys of Lagos: A study of organized street violence. In A. O. Albert (Ed.), Urban management and urban violence in Africa. Ibadan: IFRA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Phillips, J. (2013). Ambivalent rage: youth gangs and urban protest in Conakry, Guinea. Paris: L’Harmattan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Portes, A., & Hoffman, K. (2003). Latin American class structures: their composition and change during the neoliberal era. Latin American Research Review, 38(1), 41–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reddy, T. (2010). ANC decline, social mobilization and political society: understanding South Africa’s evolving political culture. Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies, 37(2), 185–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robins, Steven. (2010). From revolution to rights: social movements, NGOs, and popular politics in South Africa. Berlin: Boye 6.

  • Roy, A. (2011). Slumdog cities: rethinking subaltern urbanism. International Journal of Urban & Regional Research, 35(2), 223–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanyal, K., & Bhattacharyya, R. (2009). Beyond the factory: globalisation, informalisation of production and the new locations of labour. Economic and Political Weekly, 44(22), 35–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, D. (1999). Refashioning futures: criticism after postcoloniality. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Skaria, A. (2011). Relinquishing republican democracy: Gandhi’s Ramrajya. Postcolonial Studies, 14(2), 203–229.

    Google Scholar 

  • Skaria, A. (2014). Gandhi’s radical conservativism. Seminar, 662, 30–35.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stallybrass, P. (1990). Marx and heterogeneity: thinking the lumpenproletariat. Public Culture, 69–95.

  • Stoller, P. (1995). Embodying colonial memories: spirit possession, power and the Hauka in West Africa. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thoburn, N. (2002). Difference in Marx: the lumpenproletariat and the proletarian unnamable. Economy and Society, 31(3), 434–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • von Schnitzler, A. (2014). Performing dignity: human rights, citizenship, and the techno-politics of law in South Africa. American Ethnologist, 41(2), 336–350.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wamba-dia-Wamba, E. (1993). Democracy, multipartyism and emancipative politics in Africa: the case of Zaire. Africa Development/Afrique Et Développement, 18(4), 95–118.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wamba-dia-Wamba, E. (1994). Africa in search of a new mode of politics. In U. Himmelstrand et al. (Eds.), African perspectives on development: Controversies, dilemmas and openings (pp. 249–262). New York: St. Martins Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Worsley, P. (1972). Fanon and the lumpenproletariat. The Socialist Register, 9, 193–223.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Jelili Atiku for generously conversing with me and sharing valuable insights about ‘Nigerian Fetish,’ and life and politics in West Africa. Inputs from George Agbo, Thomas Asher, Paolo Israel, Nicky Rousseau, Leslie Witz, and conversations emerging from the African Critical Inquiry Program sponsored Other Universals project have especially helped me think through issues raised in this article. Editors of the special issue, Alf Nielsen and Srila Roy, gave critical constructive suggestions and time to improve the piece. I sincerely thank all of them, the anonymous reviewers, Okechukwu Nwafor for contacts, and Ida Susser and Patricia Hayes for invitations to present versions of this paper at the City University of New York, and the University of the Western Cape. A special note of gratitude to Suren Pillay—for everything, plus the title.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ruchi Chaturvedi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Chaturvedi, R. Agentive Capacities, Democratic Possibilities, and the Urban Poor: Rethinking Recent Popular Protests in West Africa. Int J Polit Cult Soc 29, 307–325 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-016-9222-x

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-016-9222-x

Keywords

  • Informal proletariat
  • Popular protest
  • Agency
  • Democratic possibilities
  • West Africa
  • Jelili Atiku