Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Peter Uvin


As there is no definition for the term “middle class” in development studies literature, academics create ad hoc and/or arbitrary definitions. Authors may define the middle class themselves according to the purpose of their analysis, clarify that no singular definition exists, and assert that a singular definition need not matter. Other authors may not define the middle class at all, leaving readers to infer its conceptualization. This thesis proposes that, despite ad hoc, arbitrary, and implied definitions for the middle class, academics across disciplines conceptualize the middle class using three approaches with transdisciplinary application: the vulnerability, capability, and aspirations approaches. To showcase these approaches, this thesis analyzes semantics of works about the middle classes of Sub-Saharan Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Ghana. In sum, there may be agreement yet.