Networked social movements in Africa? Assessing drivers, repertoires and actors in post-2011 African protests

Many scholars have conceptualized in the last years the wave of protests that has taken place since the Arab Spring. Probably, Manuel Castells’ concept of “Networked social movements” (2012) has been one of the most praised and discussed ideas. By this, Castells argues that, despite all these protests take place for locals reasons, they all share some common global features, such as: the leading role of an urban youth precariat, the use of social networks and innovative practices as new repertoires of social action, as well as the presence of underlying demands (social justice, protection of common goods, political transparency and accountability, democratic participation…)  that show a huge crisis of democratic representation. Nevertheless, in this global discussion about the pattern of the protests, Sub-Saharan African uprisings have been tremendously absent and overlooked. Likewise, authors as Branch and Mampilly (2015) have also challenged that this general framework might be applied to African protests, since, according to both authors, African protests are just a continuation of resilience and social-political action that characterizes the post-colonial history of many African societies. By analysing some relevant African protests (from Senegal 2012 to DRC 2016), the purpose of this paper is to discuss to what extent this kind of social mobilizations fits into Castells’ concept, which are the main limits and contradictions of this debate when reflecting on the African reality, which are, all in all, the most important aspects that might be characterising these mobilizations and that could, at the same time, nurture the debate about the global wave of protests since 2011.

Oscar Mateos . Blanquerna School of Communication and International Relations (Barcelona’s Ramon Llull University) .

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