Werbner, “Political prayer and the dignity of labour”

Werbner, Pnina. 2016. Political prayer and the dignity of labour: Botswana’s workers’ movement. Anthropology Today 32(1): 14–18.

Abstract: The article draws on recent fieldwork to explore the intersection between class and Christian faith in the collective worldview of African labour unions in Botswana. Workers across different churches appeal to a Christian God whom they believe supports their struggle for dignity and a living wage. It is this axiomatic faith that underpins the spiritual interpretation of worker vocation and worker solidarity. Moreover, in Botswana, unlike in some neighbouring African countries, no contradiction is perceived between workers’ left-wing, socialist leanings and their Christian faith. Workers’ identities are equally intertwined in their affiliation to their churches and to the labour movement in Botswana. Above all, I argue, following E.P. Thompson and other historians of early British and American labour movements, that the sanctification of labour dignifies for manual workers their physical labour, despite their lack of formal education.