Thomas Zuber

  • Fellowship year:2022-2023
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Africa
  • Dissertation Title: Assembling a West African Social State: Social workers, agricultural expertise, and the politics of redistribution in 20th century Burkina Faso
  • Assembling a West African Social State: Social workers, agricultural expertise, and the politics of redistribution in 20 th century Burkina Faso analyzes rural family political and social claims on agricultural and assistance programs in mid- to late-20 th century Burkina Faso. I argue that limited social welfare programs became important sites for state-building and for negotiating the relationship between public and private, state and the family. The status of social assistance programs generated sharp political and economic contestations about the stakes of redistribution. This is observed in anti-colonial protests in the 1950s, the popular protests in 1966, during the Sahelian drought and the brief Marxist experiment expanding social programs under Thomas Sankara. This dissertation draws on 18 months of research in Burkina Faso, Senegal, France, including oral histories with Burkinab√® social workers, and archival work at the National Archives of Burkina Faso, the Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, and personal archives of social workers. As successive government recognized the need for comprehensive social services, their fragmentary nature forced families to strategize about accessing them and utilizing them to promote their own models of the family.