Accepted paper:

"Taramo, where winning is easy": work and self in Namibia's fortunational capitalism


Mattia Fumanti (University of St Andrews)

Paper short abstract:

Recent debates on Africans’ engagement with and understanding of neo-liberal capitalism stress their radical difference from those in the West. Instead this paper by stressing both interconnection and difference aims to explore emergent ideas of work and self in Namibia’s fortunational capitalism.

Paper long abstract:

The much rehearsed concepts of 'occult economy' and 'millennial capitalism' have characterized Africans' experiences and practices of neoliberalism as radically different from those in the West. In response to this characterization I want to argue instead for an understanding of Africans' engagement with neoliberal capitalism as neither radically different nor totally encompassing. Here I privilege an analysis that focuses on the complex articulation of difference in an interconnected world via an exploration of the relationship between fortune and capitalism, and between work and self. In particular I am interested in the ways in which the emergent emphasis on contingency and play, fate and luck in neoliberal discourses and practices, contribute to the (re)-making of ideas of work and self, and their relationship, in Africa, and elsewhere. My ethnographic evidence comes from fieldwork conducted amongst young people living in Windhoek, Namibia's capital. Ambitious and enterprising these youth have transformed their knowledge of IT and the media into an online and TV competition called Taramo Live. In the course of this paper I will reveal how this youth in responding to the emergence and consolidation of 'Fortunational Capitalism' (Festa 2007) in Namibia articulate ideas of work and self through the constant creation, performance and imagination of their own biographies. In exploring work and self within emerging idioms of fortune my argument aims to bring the fore a more nuanced understanding of African's engagement with neoliberal capitalism in the context of rapid socio-economic transformations.

panel P42
Difference in an interconnected world