Accepted paper:

"We have to be very careful with these illiterate women": interrelationship between local authorities and market women in a Guinean city


Carole Ammann (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

In Guinea’s second-largest city Kankan many women are engaged in petty trade. This paper analyses how they interact – individually or collectively – with various representatives of the local authorities and thus shape local government’s practices.

Paper long abstract:

Not only politicians and so called big men but also ordinary women - through their daily actions - shape and reshape a nation state. This paper highlights this phenomenon in Muslim Kankan, known for its trading activities, where many households depend partly or even entirely on female commercial activities. In Guinea's second-largest city mainly poor and uneducated women are engaged in petty trade. Some women cultivate a vegetable garden while others prepare food or drinks and sell them in markets and from sidewalk stands. The majority of the female merchants just purchase different items at wholesale and sell them by the piece. Usually, these women spend the money they earn during the day on the evening meal, which makes them especially vulnerable to interventions by the local authorities, such as the closing of the city markets or the displacement of ambulant vendors. This contribution analyses the interaction between Kankan's market women and the local authorities represented by different actors such as the chief of the market, tax collectors, security agents, and various employees of the local government. How do market women as individuals and/or collective actors negotiate selling rights, market infrastructure, tax collection, and security-issues? The aim is to gain a better understanding of ordinary women's imageries of the Guinean state in times of political transformation and how this in consequence influences their interaction with the local authorities.

panel P107
Forms of government and everyday economic practices: ethnography and comparison