Situational Accounts of Collectivity and Individuality Among Un(der)Employed University Graduates in Burkina Faso

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Maike BIRZLE, University of Basel, Switzerland
University graduates in Burkina Faso very often face great difficulties to enter the labor market and thus attain the social markers of adulthood. Moreover, they have to cope with high expectations by their families, as well as the individual disappointment they experience when their intended careers are inaccessible after graduation. Students and university graduates face uncertainty concerning the future; and their former image of being the country’s elite has changed into today’s image of them being potential troublemakers and future unemployed masses. This paper inquires the way their self-presentation as (a group of) graduates switches between collectivism and individualism by applying a narrative analysis approach. The empirical data consist of annually successive interviews I conducted with 30 informants over a period of three years. Most narrations refer to a collectivity of young graduates who deal with a lack of possibilities due to a labor market that is most often only accessible by helping relations. University graduates present themselves as abandoned by the government and despised by society. Nevertheless, there are further discursive threads woven in these narrations, which highlight individual agency that enables the narrators to overcome the blocked situation. On the one hand, there is a sort of habitual collectivity emerging when it comes to future imaginations, because graduates share the idea that their diploma has to pay off after all and underline the role they should play as intellectual elite. On the other hand, strategies for an amelioration of the situation are imagined on an individual level, rarely involving ideas of collective action.

This paper aims to explain which strategies of self-presentation and placing occur under which circumstances in graduates' life courses, in order to give an insight in ideas and implications of collectivity and individuality among Burkinabe university graduates.