In this article I explore the contemporary relevance of Émile Durkheim's classic theory of anomie with respect to both the discipline of social anthropology and the study of politics in Africa. I take as a case study present-day, post-war Angola, where an activist mobilisation (the Revolutionary Movement) has engaged in what I call ‘anomic diagnostics’ in opposing the country's current regime. Through a political reading of Durkheim's theory, I suggest that, while the French author situates anomie and suicide as cause and consequence respectively within a conservative view of society, Angolan activists instead see anomie as the starting point for a progressive political proposition productive of rupture.
Ruy Llera Blanes, who received his PhD from the University of Lisbon in 2007, is Senior Lecturer at the School of Global Studies of the University of Gothenburg. His current research site is Angola, where he is working on the topics of religion, mobility (diasporas, transnationalism, the Atlantic), politics (leadership, charisma, repression, resistance), temporalities (historicity, memory, heritage, expectations), and knowledge. He is the author of A Prophetic Trajectory (2014) and also coeditor of The Social Life of Spirits (2013). He is also editor of the journal Religion and Society: Advances in Research.