Accepted paper:

Liquid fakery: African traders, counterfeits and rhetorics in Rome

Authors:

Cristiana Panella (Royal Museum for Central Africa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the social organization of the counterfeits trade driven by Senegalese migrants in Rome. It engages new analysis on materiality by proposing the ‘communicating-vessels’ system as a methodological approach for analyzing interaction between objects, individuals and representations.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the social organization of informal and illegal networks of the counterfeits trade driven by Senegalese migrants set in a working-class neighborhood in Rome. Based on in-depth ethnographic evidence, it engages new analysis on materiality by proposing the 'communicating-vessels' system (C-VS) as a methodological approach for analyzing circulation and interaction between objects, individuals and representations. As being a cross-cutting tool, C-VS unveils interfaces between official and informal/illegal economies through market trajectories showing the extent to which (1) the diversification of the markets is a feature of informal/illegal trades (2) the informal/illegal practices which underlie the diverse trades are not 'deviant' entities but structural tools for producing official norms of legality, authenticity and properness. Secondly, it reveals that the triad 'legality', 'authenticity', 'properness' of a given final product and its consequentiality are directly proportional to the degree of opacity imbricated into the practices of its production stages. On the field, such a model results in multi-level symbolic and economic values, as, for instance, different scales of price and genuiness of the same 'fake' item following the different chains of social actors: big and petty wholesalers (Italians, Africans, Chinese), Senegalese street vendors, shop owners (Italians), Italian single buyers, tourists. In relation to these starting topics the paper proposes a landscape of scenarios making up the transnational circulation of commodities through an on-going confrontation between moral, aesthetic and economic value chains via heterogeneous stakeholders and markets.

panel P009
Emerging economic futures: the intersections of informality and formality [Anthropology of Economy Network]