Accepted Paper:

'We, the Congolese, we cannot trust each other': trust, norms and relations among traders in Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo  


Benjamin Rubbers (Université de Liège)

Paper short abstract:

This paper offers an analysis of how Congolese traders negotiate trust with peers, customers, and employees. It suggests that economic trust involves the negotiation of practical norms in the course of relationships underlain by different moral expectations.

Paper long abstract:

Congolese traders in Katanga claim that they cannot trust their peers, customers, and employees. Existing literature about traders in Africa does not enhance our understanding, as it tends to consider trust as depending on the degree of social knowledge. In the Congo, social proximity does not exclude suspicion, nor does social distance necessarily prevent trust. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper aims at developing a more detailed framework. It studies how Congolese traders negotiate two key norms for the building of economic trust - property and reciprocity - with non-relatives, distant relatives, and close relatives.

Panel W002
Markets, kinship and morality