What can we learn from studies of the professions in Africa?

By | 23rd July 2018

Professions and the Social Order: Some Lessons from Burkina Faso?
NATÉWINDÉ SAWADOGO, University of Ouaga II
ROBERT DINGWALL, Nottingham Trent University

Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie

Early View Article DOI: 10.1111/cars.12209

IT HAS LONG BEEN OBSERVED that the study of professions has been dominated by Anglo-American models, with their focus on a small group of legally licensed occupations (e.g., Rueschemeyer 1983). Attention has recently shifted, mainly through studies of European experience, to a wider examination of the social management of expert workers (Svensson and Evetts 2010; see also Gorman and Sandefur 2011). Very little has been written about developments in Africa and their implications for the way in which we might think about professions. This paper uses a case study of the medical profession in Burkina Faso to examine the constitution of a niche within the division of labor and its implications for the moral practice of work within it. Is “professional” behavior a property of the niche or of the actors within it? The first section introduces the conceptual framework and methods of the study. The second, third, and fourth sections describe the development of the niche for medical practice in Burkina Faso through the demand for, and supply of, legal, economic, and cultural resources. The fifth section examines the implications of this commercially structured situation for the practice of medicine in Burkina Faso, and the wider lessons for the sociology of the professions.

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