Karl Norberg (2018 Cohort)

About me: I was born in Estonia some years after the fall of the Soviet Union. After high school, I studied English Literature & Philosophy for a year but having developed an interest in Marxist political economy, I decided to move to London to study Development & African Studies at SOAS. During my bachelor’s I worked in the service industry and became active in the Labour Party and the trade union movement. During this time, I also had an internship with the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from which I gained valuable experience with social research but also became disillusioned with the current framework of development cooperation practiced by states and NGOs. I believe my background and political beliefs account for my interest in the working class and 20th century socialism.

I will be researching working class formation in Tanzania during the socialist Ujamaa (1967-1985) and the postsocialist neoliberal (1985-…) eras. Based on a Marxist political economy framework, this research aims to provide a comparative historical approach to understanding class experience and its relationship to class formation. By studying the economic and political-cultural factors which impact class formation, this research aims to evaluate the (dis)continuities between the two eras, in order to understand the condition, role and potential of the working class under neoliberalism.

This research will be based on fieldwork which consists of semi-structured interviews with political agents; archival research of state, NGO, and political party reports; and a media survey of state and popular media, focusing on periodicals produced by social movements.

The difference my research makes: This research hopes to address the imbalance within postsocialist studies which has extensively concentrated on Europe by arguing for a focus on peripheral postsocialism, which acknowledges the historical legacy of colonialism and the distinctive experiences of socialism in the Global South. Furthermore, it aims to contribute to already existing class-based research by focusing on the structural processes of working class formation. More fundamentally, the research is concerned with understanding the working class as an actor in the fall of socialism and in resistance to neoliberalism.

Supervisors: Professor Alfredo Saad-Filho

Location: Department of Development Studies at SOAS, University of London

Pathway: International Development

Email: 629086@soas.ac.uk