The Rise of an African Middle Class

The Rise of an African Middle Class

Colonial Zimbabwe, 1898-1965
Michael O. West
Distribution: World
Publication date: 08/19/2002
Format: Paperback 14 b&w photos, 2 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21524-6
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Finalist, 2003 Herskovits Award

Offers an extremely sophisticated, nuanced view of the social and political construction of an African middle class in colonial Zimbabwe." —Elizabeth Schmidt

Tracing their quest for social recognition from the time of Cecil Rhodes to Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence, Michael O. West shows how some Africans were able to avail themselves of scarce educational and social opportunities in order to achieve some degree of upward mobility in a society that was hostile to their ambitions. Though relatively few in number and not rich by colonial standards, this comparatively better class of Africans challenged individual and social barriers imposed by colonialism to become the locus of protest against European domination. This extensive and original book opens new perspective into relations between colonizers and colonized in colonial Zimbabwe.

Author Bio

Michael O. West teaches in the Departments of Sociology and Africana Studies at Binghamton University. He is co-editor (with William G. Martin) of Out of One, Many Africas: Reconstructing the Study and Meaning of Africa. He has written widely on Zimbabwean and southern African history, and on the African diaspora.


“. . . a compelling portrait of a community seeking heroically to succeed 'inside the system' and choosing confrontation only when other options seemed exhausted . . . . African Studies Review . . . impeccable and original scholarship . . . .”
 — American Historical Review

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

Colonial and Postcolonial Place Names
Part 1. The Social Construction of the African Middle Class
1. Running Against the Wind: African Social Mobility and Identity in a Settler Colonial Society
2. Courting "Miss Education": The Love Affair with Social Mobility
3. The Quest for Bourgeois Domesticity: On Homemakers and Households
4. The Best of All Homes: Housing and Security of Tenure
Part 2. The Political Construction of the African Middle Class
5. A New Beginning: The Roots of African Politics, 1914-1933
6. Found and Lost: Toward an African Political Consensus, 1934-1948
7. Back Toward the Beginning: The Pursuit of Racial Partnership, 1949-1958
8. An Aborted Coronation: In Search of the Political Kingdom, 1955-1965