Crafting New Modes of Inhabiting the Street: The Fadas of Urban Niger
Adeline Masquelier (Tulane University/Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies)
Paper short abstract:
This paper addresses the daily micropolitics through which spaces of citizenship are created in fadas, the tea-circles of unemployed young men in urban Niger. Rather than focusing on fadas as symptoms of urban dysfunctionality, I explore how young men deploy social immobility as an asset.
Paper long abstract:
This paper addresses the daily micropolitics through which spaces of belonging are elaborated in fadas, the tea-circles fashioned by unemployed young men in urban Niger. As a vernacular expression of sociality that charts new paths to recognition in the absence of conventional avenues to self-realization, the fadas make visible how disenfranchised young men lay claim to public space. At the fada young men spend a lot of time sitting, a practice dismissed by many as idleness. They keep watch while others sleep—and turn sitting into a form of labor—something they can do because they have nowhere to go. By deploying their social immobility as an asset—a mode of alertness to nocturnal threats—they insert themselves into the shifting landscape of crime prevention. Sitting, rather than betraying structural liminality, becomes part of an informal apparatus of nighttime surveillance and a tactical expression of civic engagement. It exemplifies the "makeshift, adaptive pulse of the city" (Simone and Pieterse 2017). By discussing the fada through the lens of security and civism, I call attention to a social experiment under way in a part of the world long considered irrelevant to the centers of power and capitalist production. For the conditions to which the fada is a response—persistently high unemployment, intensifying informalization, etc.—are no longer specific to the Global South but are, in fact, increasingly relevant to what is happening in the Global North.
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