Centre for African Studies (LUCAS)

Leeds University Centre for African Studies
c/o POLIS, Social Sciences Building, University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT

Tel: 0113 343 5069

LUCAS Schools Project coordinator

Richard Borowski

Dr Luisa Enria – The Politics of Work in a Post-Conflict State: Youth, Labour and Violence in Sierra Leone

Baines Wing SR, 2.16

Book Presentation: The Politics of Work in a Post-Conflict State: Youth, Labour and Violence in Sierra Leone

High youth unemployment is seen as a major issue across Africa and globally, not solely as a source of concern for economic development, but as a threat to social stability and a challenge to fragile peace. In countries emerging from civil war in particular, peacebuilders identify it as a key indicator for the livelihood for relapse. But what do we really know about how lack of work shapes political identities and motivates youth violence in the aftermath of war? Drawing on ethnographic engagement with young people making a living on the margins of the informal economy in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, in the wake of its civil war, the book moves beyond reductive portrayals of unemployed youth as ‘ticking bombs; to show how labour market experiences influence their political mobilisation. The book argues that violence is not inherent to unemployment, but that the impact of joblessness on political activism is mediated by social factors and the specific nature of the post-war political economy. For Freetown’s youth, exclusion from the labour market has significant implications for their social status, identities and relations, ultimately keeping them in exploitative patterns of dependence. This in turn shapes their political subjectivities and claims on the state, and structures the opportunities and constraints to their collective action.

Luisa Enria is a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Bath, where her research focuses on Sierra Leone and aims to produce ethnographic accounts of how people experience, engage with and resist development interventions in their daily lives. In 2016, she was awarded an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship for a project entitled States of Emergency: Citizenship in Crisis in Sierra Leone. Prior to joining Bath, Luisa was a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2015-16), for which she was based Northern Sierra Leone, exploring community experiences of Ebola and of new encounters with biomedicine. Her book, The Politics of Work in a Post-Conflict State: Youth, Labour and Violence in Sierra Leone is based on her doctoral work at the Oxford Department of International Development, completed in 2015.

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