Elites and modernity in Mozambique
This thesis examines the connections between ideologies of modernity and social power for three interrelated sets of elites in Mozambique. My research is based on 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork primarily, but not solely, among the now adult children of high-ranking members of Frelimo (Mozambican Liberation Front, the ruling party since independence) and those closely associated with the party in the capital city of Maputo. It examines how elites’ transforming relationship to the project of modernity has allowed them to survive periods of dramatic social change while maintaining power, although in a modified form. The thesis argues that “local” understandings of modernity held by dominant groups in Mozambique have created the wider political field that unifies elites and creates the parameters in which they operate. It allows them both to control the positions that underwrite their social power and to attempt to justify their positions of power. The thesis examines the source of elites’ social dominance and how it has been transformed over the generations. I also investigate how recent social, political and economic changes have created a growing backlash among social groups who were once Frelimo’s strongest supporters. The thesis argues that through the acquisition and monopolisation of “modern” skills, such as high levels of education, elites can survive contested legitimacy because there are few who seem capable of replacing them.