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«academy reflects 1 Socio-Cultural Diversity of the African Middle Class The Case of Urban Kenya Dieter Neubert and Florian Stoll 14 Bayreuth African ...»

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Different approaches to the study of socio-cultural differentiation include, for instance, the analysis of specific subcultures as “scenes” (Hitzler et al. 2001), or the use of concepts such as “small lifeworlds” or “micro-milieus”. These are based on the work of Anne Honer and Ronald Hitzler in the 1980s (Honer 1985; Hitzler/Honer 1988), who began by using the term lifeworlds with reference to Berger/Luckmann (1966). In order to distinguish these more clearly from macro-milieus, we use the term “small lifeworld” (Rebstein/Schnettler 2014). Small lifeworlds are voluntarily chosen part-time lifeworlds or communal spheres that share common interests, meanings and behaviours (such as sports clubs, fitness studios, rabbit breeders’ associations, migrant organizations, political groups) (Soeffner/Zifonun 2008; Zifonun/Cindark 2004; Zifonun 2010). In contrast to macro-milieus, membership in a small lifeworld is limited to a specific time and space. Thus, people may belong to different small lifeworlds at the same time. A member of a fitness studio can also be a member of a migrant organization or a political group. The other members of the same fitness studio may belong to other small lifeworlds, such as a sports club or a particular subcultural scene. The special feature of this approach is that the different sociocultural orientations of individuals can be observed and analysed together. The fact that a person belongs to one small lifeworld says nothing about his or her other small lifeworlds. Different combinations of small lifeworlds are an expression of individuality, of people’s independence from bigger group structures in which all spheres of life are shared. The small lifeworlds approach thus differs from those milieu concepts which assume that all spheres of life are similar for the members of a particular milieu – or which do not consider this issue at all. Defenders of the small lifeworlds approach doubt whether it is useful or reasonable to divide a society into distinct and homogeneous milieus. In contrast to the macro-milieu method, this approach adopts the perspective of the subjects (subject-oriented approach).

These small lifeworlds can be studied empirically using qualitative ethnographic methods, with a relatively high level of ethnographic “accuracy”. Subjective views of the self can also play a role here. But this approach is not suitable for social structure analysis. Those researchers who use the 8 Socio-cultural diversity of the African middle classes concept of small lifeworlds sometimes also doubt whether social structure analysis along sociocultural differentiations is possible at all in view of the great variety of subjective orientations (e.g.

Hitzler/Honer 1984; Rebstein/Schnettler 2014, 55).

Despite all criticism, the description of social macro-milieus continues to be used as a method in market research. Its strength lies in its relatively high statistical accuracy and it offers a rough estimation of socio-cultural differentiation on a macro-level. In addition, the milieu categories are similar to everyday categories of socio-cultural differentiation, since they often clearly bring out typical features of lifestyles, even without a sociological analysis. A particular advantage of this macro-milieu approach is the avoidance of predetermined normative assumptions. It allows an open and unprejudiced, empirically based analysis of the socio-cultural differentiation of societies and it can add new milieus to do justice to changes that take place within societies. With all due caution, we will now ask to what extent the concept of macro-milieus can be used to examine socio-cultural differentiation in middle strata in the Global South. We will do this using the example of middle class in urban Kenya, especially in Nairobi.

2 Milieu analysis for Kenya

The question whether specific small lifeworlds exist in Kenya, or whether it is possible to analyse macro-milieus, can only be answered by empirical studies. During our fieldwork in Nairobi and other towns, we discovered a large number of small lifeworlds. These include, for example, sports studios (fitness or bodybuilding studios), nightclubs and discotheques, and human rights and women’s rights groups, but also religious groups – mainly involving women – and various selfhelp groups for income-generating activities or rotating savings and credit groups. All these small lifeworlds are tied to concrete times and places. Within each small lifeworld, certain values and activities relating to the common purpose are shared.

On the basis of the available data it is also possible to identify potential macro-milieus. These include a specific “young professionals” milieu, which has already been described in an impressive ethnography by Rachel Spronk (2012). In addition, we have found a group of conservative and religious milieus with various Christian backgrounds, and possibly also with Muslim or Hindu backgrounds, although this cannot be clearly decided on the basis of our research so far. We have also identified a neo-traditional milieu that is equally conservative but with different orientations.

Other milieus are liberal cosmopolitans, to which the above-mentioned human rights groups and other non-governmental organizations belong, an apolitical stability oriented pragmatic milieu, and a milieu of apolitical social climbers without any particular religious or neo-traditional affiliation.

This tentative list of milieus was created by using the milieu “building blocks” discussed in Flaig et al. (1993, 71). The criteria for the building blocks were adapted on the basis of our empirical findings to make them applicable to Kenya, and specific points were added that were relevant to Socio-cultural diversity of the African middle classes 9 Kenya or to other African countries south of the Sahara, including the category “space and places”.

This resulted in the following criteria for the milieu building blocks 8:

 Demography/social position: age, marital status, socialization (rural, urban), place of residence (rural, urban), education, occupation, languages used, social networks (ethnic, socio-economically homogeneous/heterogeneous).

 Space and places: important places and meeting places, current mobility profile (more in the home, more outside the home), spatial dimension of social networks including longdistance contacts (internet, telephone), urban-rural contacts, diaspora contacts, personal experience of migration and travel.

 Aims in life: basic values, identity, home (rural/urban), savings, investments, consumption, what is a “good life”, perspectives for old age, burial place.

 Work/performance: role of occupation (just a job or constitutive of identity), career orientation, work ethos, socio-economic mobility, attitude to education.

 Ideals and role models: elements of a “good life”, wishes, fantasies, role models, visions or plans for the future, fundamental value orientations, consumption and savings behaviour.

 Image of society: basic social principles, political and civil society engagement, satisfaction with political and social system, perception of social problems, bases/sources of trust.

 Family/partnership, gender roles: family values, gender roles, partnership, sexual morality.

 Leisure/communication: Leisure activities: family, nightclubs/dancing, events, reading, DVDs, sports (active, passive), general hedonism, Communication: role of the internet, IT social networks, newspapers, TV, radio.

 Everyday aesthetics: clothing, home, furnishings, equipment, hairstyle, body image, art, demonstrative consumption, status symbols.

The additions made can be illustrated by few examples. For Kenya and other African countries, which as a rule are multilingual, the languages used by people in their everyday lives are important, as well as the question of ethnically homogeneous or heterogeneous networks. The degree of a person’s attachment to their home village, together with the desire to grow old and be buried there, also proved to be important criteria for differentiating between milieus. This also These milieu building blocks are the first result of our research. They are very broad and not yet clearly distinguished.


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applies to the question of the sources of trust, which may be anchored in the family, the ethnic group, a region or an institution. There are clear differences in people’s conceptions of gender roles and sexual morality. In the area of leisure and communication, the important activities and forms of communication are often not the same as in Europe. For instance, an important marker is the consumption or rejection of alcohol, while typical European markers such as going to the theatre or choosing particular television programmes are not important.

3 Two examples: neo-traditional and religious Christian milieus

The way milieus may be distinguished from each other can be shown by taking the example of two conservative milieus. Although these two milieus overlap with regard to certain basic orientations, in this case some conservative values, it is also possible to identify distinct differences between them. They can be described by means of the above-named milieu building blocks. These two conservative macro-milieus agree especially on the importance of the family and share the same conservative ideas about gender roles or the refusal of homosexuality. But there is also a whole range of prominent differences between them.

In neo-traditional milieus, social networks are mainly based on a shared ethnic identity such as Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya or Kalenjin 9. In these networks a person’s place of origin and the local language are important. There is a collective orientation focused on ethnic belonging, which can potentially be bound up with a political micro-nationalism focused on a particular region of Kenya. This may also involve claiming specific ethnically legitimized land rights on the basis of ethnic settlement patterns in the region. This ethno-political orientation is an important component of visions of the future. Referring to tradition is a way of legitimizing conservative values. This includes a special reference to extended families and rules and rituals associated with marriage (such as payment of a bride price), which can be combined with Christian or Western practices (a “white wedding”).

Members of the same ethnic group have, at least nominally, a right to mutual aid, for instance with the financing of burials, including conveyance of the corpse to the home town or village. Leisure activities often take place within the ethnically homogeneous networks, and by no means exclude things like dancing and alcohol. Importance is attached to the maintenance of traditional customs or dances, and tendencies toward folklorization can be observed. This includes an affinity for “neo-African clothing” 10 and corresponding objects and symbols. Respected elders are important role models for men, and for both sex marital status and age determines the assignment of gender roles. Economic success in the rural environment and investment in the farm or in cattle are particularly important. As in Kenya generally, a high value is attached to education and getting a Because of the multi-ethnic population of Nairobi we find specific ethnic networks for nearly all Kenyan ethnic groups.

9 This is a term used to refer to garments made of batik cloth or wrappers (kangas) with “typically African” printed 10

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good job, but these are not core elements of the value system and are not pursued with the same degree of seriousness by all members of this milieu.

For members of the religious Christian milieu, the church community constitutes the main social network and is the chief point of reference in everyday life, in addition to the family. Contact with the extended family and with one’s place of origin is an individual matter and not part of the joint canon of values. Particularly in towns, there are also ethnically heterogeneous church communities. Even in ethnically homogeneous congregations, ethnic ties do not play an important role in everyday life apart from sharing a common language. Conservative values are legitimized by referring to the Bible and not to tradition. This includes, at least nominally, the acknowledged duty to help socially disadvantaged people regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation. While such help is often given to members of the congregation, the degree of willingness to help other socially disadvantaged people varies from group to group, despite general claims that this is an obligation. The ideal role model is a life that is pleasing to God, which means distancing oneself from leisure activities that are regarded as immoral and refusing to drink alcohol. Clothing must be modest and dignified in conformity with these moral ideas. Especially in protestant and fundamentalist groups, importance is attached to economic success, which brings to mind Max Weber’s reading of Protestantism (2001 [1920]) as the expression of a godly life. Many Kenyan Christians regard worldly success as a sign of God’s favour. Visions of the future are shaped by these religious ideas, together with religiously based career ambitions. Apart from having conservative values, Christian milieus do not represent any particular political orientation.

The two milieus described here show that despite common conservative values, there are distinct differences with regard to values and orientations and that different emphasis is laid on particular values and attitudes. The other milieus which were identified in the course of the fieldwork can be described in a similar way. These are: young professionals, social climbers, other conservative and religious milieus (Muslim, Hindu), the milieu of liberal cosmopolitans and an apolitical stability oriented pragmatic milieu.

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