Thinking Sierra Leone and Building a New Middle Class: Political Expression and Political Values at the University of Makeni

  • David O’Kane
Part of the Frontiers of Globalization book series (FOG)


Higher education plays a major role in shaping the values that allow the ‘middle classes’ to play a political role in society, in addition to providing aspiring members of those classes with the skills and intellectual capital which allow them to enter the professions and economic sectors that define ‘middle classness’ (such as business, law, healthcare and education, and politics). Since the 1990s, a wave of private universities has transformed African higher education and has helped shape a new generation of Africa’s middle classes, by (for example) promoting new political paradigms of support for multi-party liberal democracy. This chapter examines the case of the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone’s first private university, where politics and political values found various forms of expression in the months preceding the Sierra Leonean presidential election of 2012. Complex relationships between the university’s internal culture and the country’s wider political situation shaped the selection and dissemination of political values on campus, in ways that imply the primacy of local conditions in shaping the political values, behaviours, and identities of African middle classes. Material, economic conditions make the emergence of classes possible; non-material factors shape the values of those classes in unpredictable, locally determined ways.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David O’Kane
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Social AnthropologyHalle/SaaleGermany

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