Working the System: A Political Ethnography of the New Angola
Cornell University Press, 2017
Working the System offers key insights into the politics of the everyday in twenty-first-century dominant party and neo-authoritarian regimes in Africa and elsewhere. Detailing the many ways ordinary Angolans fashion their relationships with the system—an emic notion of their current political and socioeconomic environment—Jon Schubert explores what it means and how it feels to be part of the contemporary Angolan polity.
Schubert finds that for many ordinary Angolans, the benefits of the post-conflict "New Angola," flush with oil wealth and in the midst of a construction boom, are few. The majority of the inhabitants of the capital, Luanda, struggle to make ends meet and live on under $2.00 per day. The "New Angola" as promoted by the ruling MPLA, Schubert contends, is an essentially urban, upwardly mobile, and aspirational project, premised on the acceptance of the regime’s political and economic dominance by its citizens. In the first ethnography of Angola to be published since the end of that country’s twenty-seven years of intermittent violent internal conflict in 2002, Schubert traces how Angolans may question and resist the system within an atmosphere of apparent compliance. Working the System will appeal to anthropologists and political scientists, urban sociologists, and scholars of African studies.