Accepted paper:

Navigating the transit: Nocturnal practices of waiting truck drivers in Burkina Faso


Édith Nabos (University of Leipzig)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the nocturnal practices of waiting truck drivers in transit in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. Suddenly motionless, they employ various tactics to use their ephemeral stay to their own ends, both socio-economically and sexually, particularly through the appropriation of the night.

Paper long abstract:

Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso: The night falls and in the darkness of the city hundreds of trucks are parked along paved roads and the international parking lot. Small groups of apprentices guarding the trucks gather around pots of tea, while the drivers navigate the urban night. On the road to Abidjan, Lomé or Accra, truck drivers must go through and often stop for hours or days at this prominent dry port located at the crossroad of the major paths that connect landlocked Burkina Faso to Niger, Mali and the coastal countries Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo. This paper asks: How do long-distance drivers spend the night during more or less ephemeral stops?

Very mobile and flexible transnational actors, drivers must continuously negotiate along the way and face administrative obligations, breakdowns and pressure from proprietors and clients. Burdensome bureaucracy and delays during loading and unloading result in transitory immobility, during which drivers get involved in small side business activities, satisfy sexual desires, or relax with some alcohol and sleep. I argue that transnational transient drivers own great spatial and social knowledge and build affective networks to grasp local opportunities.

This paper in based on ethnographic research and interviews conducted with truck drivers and sex workers in Bobo-Dioulasso during 2018-19.

panel Anth21
Making a living on & off the road - trucking and the politics of movement and stoppage in Africa