Social Movements in Africa

Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements book series (PSHSM)


Writing an overview about the history of social movements in Africa is mainly an exercise in producing whipped cream out of skimmed milk. Not only does Africa remain largely absent from social science research using a social movement perspective. Social movement theory largely focuses on social political movements in Europe, North and South America and tends to neglect the African continent, with the exception of South Africa. This article argues that social movements in Africa have been often discussed in the framework of ‘civil society’, a concept that recently lost much of its appeal to Africanists. It then presents the main questions that emerged from social movement approaches and discusses how the date we have on contemporary social movements in Africa relate to general debates in the field. The last part is devoted to labour movements in late colonial Africa, that have a lot to say to social movement approaches but were rarely discussed within this framework.


Civil Society Social Movement Trade Union Labour Movement Social Movement Theory 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of African StudiesHumboldt UniversityBerlinGermany

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