- Class Formation and Inequality Structures in Contemporary African Migration: Evidence from Ghana by John A. Arthur
In Class Formation and Inequality Structures in Contemporary African Migration: Evidence from Ghana, John A. Arthur attempts to insert class and inequality narratives into post-colonial African migration and Diaspora scholarship using Ghanaian experiences. He looks at how the class dynamic plays out in the countries of origination and also in the various destinations or host countries. The book is an interesting one; and as the author himself indicates, it is one that will “hopefully open up a discussion and illuminate the inter-connections between African class structures, social inequalities, and migration” (p. xi). Grounding his thesis in the assertions of Bahr et al. (2002), Arthur argues that “South-North migration is principally driven by the concept of inequality in varied forms, especially the disparate distribution of goods and services, or lack of access to structural opportunities” (p. xi).
In the book, which has seven chapters, the author asserts that although a good number of books deal with the sociological and non-sociological factors involved in defining the nature, content, and outcomes of African migration, none devotes attention to how post-colonial class and constructions have been influential. Arthur’s discussion of various theories and general data pertaining to migration is [End Page 203] impressive; the book is equally very strong on what Arthur refers to as the layers of social class formations in Ghana pointing out that decades of planned and unplanned biases in the distribution of economic and cultural opportunities have created permanent social, cultural, and economic disparities among regions impacting social mobility widening and aggravating nascent social class differentials in the country. The author proffers quite a brilliant description of the lives of immigrant Ghanaian underclass and professionals in the United States.
Arthur’s anticipation of his work “opening up discussions” will certainly be met. Although he does not fully discuss the element of class intricacies and nuances in Africa, he makes several passing references to that effect. For instance, he states that “my attempt to bring a sociological praxis to unravel the relationship between class and migration was made even more difficult by the intricate systems of class structures operating simultaneously in variegated forms in Ghana, and by extension in other places in Africa” (p. xv). Also, he states, “the outcomes of the subjective and objective connotations that class sentiments may evoke in social structural settings are often very difficult to understand not only cross-culturally but even within the same geographically bounded entity such as the nation-state” (p. 14). This hybrid, nuanced, or complex nature of the class element in migration could have been referred as a caveat in the author’s thesis. Again, Arthur rightly points out that growing up he was more conscious (as might be the same for the majority of Ghanaians) about ethnic, class, gender, religious, and other cultural differences and identities than about class. To what extent have these other apparently stronger and visible facets changed; and to what extent do [End Page 204] they, in varying degrees, still compete with the class dynamic?
Among some of Arthur’s interesting observations that are likely to generate discussions is his idea of class trajectories and directions of migratory aspirations. Expatiating on this dynamic, he infers directly from experiences of his mates noting that those who did not gain university admission decided to “match their class background to other destinations in Africa, Eastern Europe, or the Middle East, and those who made it to the university focused their attention and desire [on] America or Europe” (p. xi). It is, however, common knowledge that for both educated and less educated African migrants, as it is for most migrants globally, the Western world, especially the United States, is largely preferred. It is also instructive to point out that an equally good number of educated Africans do migrate to other African countries, especially South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Again, to the extent that the Ghanaian migration terrain is to some degree influenced by...