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Education advocates lament the “leaky pipeline” in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), whereby students—especially minorities and women—drop out of STEM at successive stages of the educational system. Defining empirical political science as a branch of STEM, this article proposes that undergraduate research in political science can help to patch this leaky pipeline and expand access to scientific skills and habits of mind. I elaborate on three rationales to support my claim: (1) political science is a relatively diverse field of STEM; (2) college primes students to think like (political) scientists; and (3) students often encounter political science research opportunities for the first time as undergraduates, presenting an opportunity for faculty to “catch” those who selected out of STEM after high school. I substantiate my arguments by drawing on enrollment data, archival documents, the theories of John Dewey, and testimonials from former undergraduate researchers. I also recommend ways for political science departments to provide a meaningful STEM education by enhancing research programs.
Scholars have long puzzled over strong nationalism in weak African states. Existing theories suggest that (a) incumbent leaders use nationalistic appeals to distract people from state weakness; or (b) citizens use nationalistic claims to exclude rival groups from accessing patronage and public goods. But what explains robust nationalism in places where politicians seldom visit and where the state under-provides resources, as is true across much of Africa? We propose a theory of familial nationalism, arguing that people profess attachment to a nation-family instead of to a nation-state under conditions where the family, and not the state, is the main lifeline. We substantiate it using surveys from the border between Niger and Burkina Faso, where an international court ruling allowed people to choose their citizenship, thus providing a test for nationalism in marginalised communities. We supplement the border data with surveys and focus groups from the capitals of both countries.
I revisit my motivating question, "What explains the timing and scale of Africa’s third wave of protests?" and summarize my answer: The third wave started when members of a new middle class launched opposition movements; it intensified when poor citizens joined protests for predominantly economic reasons. I discuss policy implications and recommend ways for the concepts of generals and foot soldiers of the revolution to advance future research on protests in Africa and beyond. The narrative of a Sub-Saharan African Spring appeals to policymakers in "the West" who hope citizens can safeguard young African democracies. However, donors hesitate to finance social movements for fear of destabilizing politics or even triggering a coup d’état. As a result, development policy is too risk averse, occurring mostly through states and their proxies. I recommend that donors be more open to supporting non-state agents of positive change such as protesters. This would be consistent with existing initiatives to empower grassroots actors, considering the high involvement of ordinary citizens in African social movements.
This chapter contains a micro-level analysis of generals of the revolution. I start by clarifying what it means to be a protest leader, thereby laying the conceptual groundwork for describing protest leadership trends in Senegal across waves. I show that contemporary Senegalese protest leaders are overwhelmingly middle-class and focus on constitutional democracy as opposed to economic issues. To evaluate the generalizability of my findings, I analyze original data on protest leaders’ public statements from across sub-Saharan Africa. Results indicate that Senegal represents a wider pattern of “prodemocracy” activism. Lastly, I study the success and failure of mobilization strategies in a trio of cases: Le Mouvement 23 Juin (The June 23rd Movement, or M23) and Y’en a Marre (Fed Up) from Senegal and the Ufungamano Initiative from Kenya. This comparison reveals that protests last longer when leaders strategically downplay their political motives and highlight populist messages. Data sources in this chapter include historical documents, secondary interviews, and original interviews that I conducted with protest leaders in Malawi in 2011, Senegal in 2015, and Burkina Faso and Niger in 2016.
The book opens with a description of the third wave of protests in sub-Saharan Africa and summarizes two common interpretations of those events: 1) that they were Arab Spring offshoots in defense of democracy; and 2) that they were bread riots in response to poverty. I explain why both interpretations are unsatisfying, and present my own argument based on cross-class coalitions. Because my argument challenges preconceptions of a classless Africa, I pause to reflect on the value of class analysis in the study of African politics. I then elaborate on the mechanisms driving cross-class coalitions of protesters—specifically, “generals of the revolution” and “foot soldiers of the revolution.” The final sections outline my epistemology, the plan of the book, and the universe of study.
I define what a protest wave is and reflect on the concept’s analytic value. I then highlight significant moments in all three African protest waves: the late colonial period from around 1940 to 1960, the uprisings leading to democratic transitions in the 1990s, and the most recent spike in unrest at the start of the twenty-first century. The last wave stands out in terms of the substantial involvement of poor people, which I elucidate in later chapters on protest leadership and participation. To avoid selecting on the dependent variable, Chapter 2 includes a section on the “missing wave” of protests in the 1970s and 1980s when popular grievances ran high but authoritarian controls resulted in fewer protests than scholars expected to see. Beyond narrating more than eighty years of African protests, I apply sociological theories to understand why certain moments in history become protest waves.
I use nationally representative Afrobarometer survey data from 31 countries to show that typical African protesters fit a different profile from typical protest leaders. Unlike generals, most foot soldiers are poor and motivated not by political grievances but rather by low expectations of upward mobility. For rank-and-file activists, challenging today’s institutions and power configurations is a way to secure a better economic tomorrow. This contrasts with middle-class activists seeking to express political ideologies or access state power. Objective measures of wellbeing, including poverty and employment status, have no measurable relationship with protest participation; neither do attitudes about the legitimacy of the incumbent regime. Corroborating other scholars’ findings, I also find that people are more likely to protest if they are embedded in community networks. My individual-level analysis cautions researchers against relying on event-level protest data coded from news reports. Journalists tend to mischaracterize African protests as democratic revolutions because generals, and not foot soldiers, serve as the spokespeople for social movements.
In Chapter 3 I take a macro approach to explaining the third wave. I identify two paradoxes: First, the uneven distribution of rising incomes in Africa over the past twenty years has allowed poverty to last amid impressive economic growth; and second, higher economic status has not ensured political empowerment for the new middle class. Using data on income, employment, and credit flows, I recount how new opportunities in the private sector freed a small middle class both from worries about daily survival and from the need to seek wealth from patronage. More and more Africans possess the resources, time, and political autonomy to start “post-materialist” social movements and defy incumbents who are reluctant to share power. Yet, the majority of Africans are struggling to get by and are not in a similar position to launch protests, despite dissatisfaction with their material conditions.