Coming of Age in the Street: Looking at the Life Cycle through the Itineraries of Former Street Youth (Burkina Faso)
Muriel Champy (Aix-Marseille Université)
Paper short abstract:
The analysis of the tormented itineraries of young men in and out of the street in a life cycle perspective provides new insights on the nature of male adulthood and on the means to attain this status.
Paper long abstract:
In West Africa, mobility historically represents a possibility for young men to conquer autonomy and resources while dodging the rigidities of their native community. Contrasting with the usual analyses formulated in terms of victimhood, I have realized that the street children and youth in Burkina Faso also tend to place their street experience in the continuity with the mobility of their older counterparts who have chosen "adventure" as a shortcut to money and respectability. Looking at their tormented itineraries in and out of the street in a life cycle perspective thus provides original insights on the nature of male adulthood and on the means to attain this status. As they grow older, the erratic and deviant lifestyle of the street indeed becomes unilaterally condemned by society while the autonomy they achieved on the street is no longer sufficient to maintain their self-esteem. Since they can no longer play on the irresponsibility of childhood or on the normality of juvenile mobility, they usually start looking for a way out. It appears here that they cannot attain a respected status solely with the ephemeral money of the street but have to demonstrate the ability to provide for their lineage, to inscribe their "own name" in its genealogy and to guarantee the generational perpetuation. In particular, the analysis of the evolution of the monthly earnings and spending of several former street youth as well as their participation — or lack of — in the gift economy will help us identify some nodal points for the definition of social adulthood.
Coming of Age in a Time of Change: New Forms of Gendered Self-Accomplishment in (East) Africa and beyond