Studies of articulations between large- and small-scale mining have overlooked the subterranean dimension of extraction and ignored how mining companies and artisanal miners cohabit in places with long histories of small-scale mining and are affected by their different capacities to access specific mineral deposits. Drawing on a study of two gold concessions in Ghana, this article focuses on three factors that influence modalities of governing access to gold in such sites: the stage of a mining operation, the local socio-political context, and the characteristics of the subterranean structure. We call the combination and interplay of these factors 'in-depth geopolitics'. The article shows how this interplay affects the strategies used by both large- and small-scale miners to work out arrangements of cohabitation and ways of governing access, control and maintenance to gold in spatial settings where both types of gold mining occur side by side. By tracing ethnographically the variations of 'in-depth geopolitics', this article critically engages with ideas of subterranean sovereignty, mining enclaves, state-company-community relations, and the socio-spatial characteristics of mining concessions.
This article traces the experiences of Angolan students who attended East German institutions of higher education between Angolan independence and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Based on oral histories collected in Luanda from twenty-one returned Angolan students in 2015, triangulated with archival material from Angola and the GDR, it argues that students negotiated between accommodation and resistance in their everyday life at the university and beyond. Conscious of the importance of academic success and adaptation to the East German learning culture, Angolan students drew a line when regulations infringed on their personal freedom and responded by engaging East German officials in discussion or simply by circumnavigating the rules. The life history of a female student illustrates how she negotiated between responsibility to formal learning and personal needs within a controlling society. When one considers the conditions of Angolan student life in East Germany as a whole, it becomes apparent that the East German notion of the model foreign student did not map onto the complexities of Angolan student lives. This article sheds light on the student migration of a generation of Angolan post-independence technocrats, many of whom studied in the former East during the Cold War. Through the eyes of Angolan educational migrants, we see the limits and possibilities of the lives of foreign students in the GDR.
To fight boredom, un(der)employed young men in Niger have joined fadas (youth clubs) where they listen to music, play card games and strike up new friendships – or nurture old ones. Membership in these organizations cuts across social divides, educational backgrounds and religious affiliations, affirming the spirit of egalitarianism and comradeship that drives these largely urban projects. At the fada, conversation routinely takes place around the making and sharing of tea, a ritual idle young men have come to value greatly as they struggle to fill their days with purpose and direction. Whereas elders largely condemn fadas as futile, self-indulgent, and occasionally criminal endeavours, samari (young men) defend their pastimes, claiming that they engage in meaningful activities. In this essay I explore the temporalities of teatime at the fada. Rather than focus on what is lost under conditions of crisis and privation, I consider instead what is produced, and in particular how value, exchange, and affect emerge in the context of daily routines at the fada. In the absence of other temporal markers punctuating daily life, the practice of preparing and consuming tea becomes a key happening, enabling samari to carve out meaningful temporalities and reconfigure their relation to the future. Pour combattre l'ennui, les jeunes nigériens sans emploi (ou en situation de sousemploi) s'impliquent dans des clubs de jeunesse (fadas) où ils jouent de la musique, jouent aux cartes et lient de nouvelles amitiés ou entretiennent d'anciennes. La composition des membres de ces organisations transcende les clivages sociaux, les parcours scolaires et les affiliations religieuses, affirmant l'esprit d'égalitarisme et de camaraderie qui anime ces projets essentiellement urbains. À la fada, la conversation s'engage ordinairement autour d'une tasse de thé, dont la préparation et la consommation en commun constituent un rituel fort apprécié de jeunes inactifs qui tentent de mettre du sens dans leur vie quotidienne. Face aux réprobations d'une majorité d'anciens qui voient dans les fadas une occupation futile, complaisante voire criminelle, les samari (jeunes hommes) défendent leur passe-temps en soutenant qu'ils s'adonnent à des activités utiles. Dans cet essai, l'auteur explore les temporalités du rituel du thé à la fada. Plutôt que de mettre en exergue les aspects pénalisants des conditions de crise et de privation, l'auteur s'intéresse à ce qui en sort, et notamment l'émergence des notions de valeur, d'échange et d'affect dans le contexte des activités quotidiennes à la fada. En l'absence d'autres repères de temps pour ponctuer la vie quotidienne, la pratique de la préparation et de la consommation de thé devient un événement important qui permet aux samari de créer des temporalités porteuses de sens et de reconfigurer leur rapport au futur.
Fire outbreaks are common sources of anxiety and insecurity in informal settlements, but they can also provide new opportunities for claim making and governance of urban space. This article examines how a series of four fires in Accra, Ghana - three of which took place in its largest squatter settlement - offered new opportunities to experiment with governance, or a new way for residents and leaders to imagine and construct the future. Empirically, I document how, in the process of reconstruction, residents redrew property lines and reshaped social relations. They did this through the emergent political action I call building permanence, or a physical claim to the urban space one inhabits, as well as a new existential state of being and living in environs that will last and remain unharmed. The article offers a possible way towards achieving more secure tenure beyond formalization and infrastructure upgrades, and focuses attention on how institutions change in the context of daily life after a moment of crisis.
This article examines conspiracy theory as an integral part of political practice. In 2010, following a tumultuous year that included a military takeover and a junta-led massacre of civilians, the Republic of Guinea held what was widely considered to be the country's first democratic presidential election since independence in 1958. During this time, many Guineans regularly exchanged information about secret intrigues at the highest levels of politics. These popular reports of powerful figures conspiring to fix the election influenced people's talk and actions, contributing to an environment in which abstract suspicions crystallized in real, and sometimes violent, events. These events in turn heightened suspicions of high-level conspiracy and, among people who identified as ethnic Fule, reinforced the widespread conviction that they were being targeted. Focusing ethnographically on two episodes in which theories of conspiracy influenced how Guineans perceived and shaped the course of the 2010 elections, this article explores conspiracy theorizing as an emergent mode of politics that may have profound effects.
This article is an ethnographic investigation of the labours of making art and selling liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It locates these activities within a shared social world, centred on one of Bulawayo's major art galleries, and it demonstrates that artists and LPG dealers use similar strategies to respond to the political conditions of life in the city. This article frames these conditions as unpredictable, insofar as they change frequently and crystallize in unexpected forms, and it argues that both groups are attempting to act within these conditions and shape them into emergent assemblages. In adopting this term 'assemblage', which has been elaborated theoretically by Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and their many interlocutors, this article emphasizes both the mutability and the unpredictability of these formations. The artists who work in the gallery, for their part, make their art by assembling their chosen media. The processes by which they choose their media constitute assemblages as well, in that artists have to adapt their artistic visions to the materials that Zimbabwe's market can provide. Street dealers in gas also produce emergent assemblages against the backdrop of unpredictability. If they want to make natural gas available to consumers, dealers must shepherd their medium through an always emergent process of distribution. They participate in transnational networks of trade, but they also theorize innovative strategies of procurement, develop circuits of trust and loyalty, and conjure up visions of a predatory state. Like artists, they use their work to construct dynamic representations of the world around them. Artists may produce images, and dealers circulate gas, but this article shows that conceptualizing these practices in terms of 'assemblages' calls their commonalities into view. In doing so, it also demonstrates that these practices complicate easy distinctions between aesthetics, economics and politics.
This article is about two generations of women in south-western Chad - the baou dene and the mosso. It addresses the puzzle of how these groups of women are present in the everyday life of the region known as 'useful' Chad, while women as economic agents are absent from stories about the region and about successive schemes to make it profitable. The baou dene are wealthy farmers, but the last generation of these 'women who have a lot of things' is disappearing. Younger women are referred to as mosso, meaning 'to fall down'. They are more likely to make a living from small trade than from farming and their lives are defined by precarity. Drawing on a range of historical and contemporary sources, I show how the erasure of women happened in different ways over time. In the colonial era, administrators and travel writers were unable to imagine that women transformed forests into cotton fields. In this century, the idea that women farm just like men was disseminated by oil companies, facilitating land expropriation while drowning out stories of women's marginalization. The baou dene and the mosso are the products of specific historical processes and profit-making schemes, and the silences about women's places in them helped make profits, empire and 'useful' Chad possible.