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Three stories about living without migration in Dakar: coming to terms with the contradictions of the moral economy.


This article focuses on life without migration in Dakar. In a context of scarcity of opportunities and the emergence of emigrants as new models of success, many who remain are seen as unsuccessful and are under a personal or social expectation to emigrate. This paper examines the unfolding of everyday life without migration. Through ethnographic description, it points to the coexistence in the capital city of changes and continuities in the moral economy, the scarcity of income-generating opportunities for men, and women's growing financial contribution. This article suggests that, for those of an age to support their families, these transformations often mean living with contradictions. To overcome these tensions, inventive strategies of 'demonstration' and 'concealment' are deployed to fit in with the moral economy. However, living without migration in Dakar is often easier when an alternative moral economy is adhered to.


Cet article traite de la vie a Dakar sans la migration. Dans un contexte de penurie d'emplois et simultanement d'emergence des emigres comme nouvelle figure de la reussite, ceux qui restent a Dakar sont souvent vus comme ne reussissant pas et se trouvent alors sous pression d'emigrer. Cet article examine le deroulement de la vie quotidienne menee, involontairement ou volontairement, sans la migration. A travers la description ethnographique, il met en evidence la coexistence, dans la capitale senegalaise, de changements et permanences de l'economie morale, du manque d'opportunity de travail pour les hommes, ainsi que de la contribution financiere croissante des femmes. L'article suggere que, pour ceux en age de soutenir leurs families, ces transformations impliquent souvent de vivre avec des contradictions. Pour s'adapter a l'economie morale et surmonter ces tensions, des strategies ingenieuses de << cacher/montrer >> sont deployees. Toutefois, vivre a Dakar sans la migration semble plus aise lorsque l'on adhere a une economic morale alternative.


In the Dakarois context of scarcity of opportunities and the emergence of emigrants as new models of success, many who remain find themselves under a personal or social expectation to emigrate without any realistic hope of meeting that expectation. This essay examines the unfolding of everyday life without migration. Through three portraits, I point to the coexistence in the capital city of changes and continuities in the moral economy, the scarcity of income-generating opportunities for men, and women's growing economic contribution. In today's mainstream moral economy, material wealth is paramount for status and a precondition for marriage. For those of an age to support their families, these transformations often mean living with contradictions. To overcome these tensions, inventive strategies of 'demonstration' and 'concealment' are deployed to fit in with the moral economy. Imagining building one's life in Dakar--that is, having reasons to stay--is, however, often easier when one adheres to an alternative moral economy where status is not defined primarily by (and marriage not conditional on) material wealth.

Over the last few decades, the Senegalese economy has been marked by significant shifts, in particular by drastic reforms of liberalization and privatization. World Bank and International Monetary Fund structural adjustment programmes from the mid-1980s onwards have involved the disengagement of the state from the groundnut economy, the liberalization of import trade, the privatization of state-owned industries and utility companies, as well as the devaluation of the CFA in 1994 (see, among many others, Mbodj 1993: 103-16; Thioub et al. 1998: 71-3). Economic liberalization has simultaneously represented a continued dependency of the local economy on external interests (see Amin 1973: 3-40; Cruise O'Brien 1979; Gerry 1979; Boone 1992).

One of the implications of these shifts for Dakarois has been a scarcity of income-generating opportunities. Indeed, with liberalization there has been a drastic shrinkage of sectors such as the state, industry and fisheries. This has meant a significant reduction of labour opportunities in the formal sector. For Dakarois men who have historically dominated the first economy (Diop 1965), making a living in town has become possible almost only through 'second economy' activities, in particular selling. Also, in this context and due to the broader economic uncertainty brought about by liberalization, women have increasingly contributed to household expenses (see, for example, Adjamagbo et al. 2004) and have also stored wealth (for example, Buggenhagen 2012).

Additionally, with neoliberal reforms and cultural globalization, emigrants have emerged as new models of success in Dakar. With the crisis and the weakening state, the fonksineer (civil servant) and ku jang ekool ('the one who has learnt at school') have been challenged, while others have made an opportunity out of the crisis (Banegas and Wamier 2001). Displaying a new ethos of practical knowledge and cunning, conveyed for instance in the bul faale ('don't worry/go forward') ideology of personal initiative and labour, they have challenged values such as 'patience' (mun), respect for family, caste and religious heritages, and the link between a diploma, social relations and success (Havard 2001). Traders, musicians, wrestlers and, importantly, emigrants have thus risen fast and visibly. To take the example of traders, due to the challenges associated with groundnut production, (1) many rural-dwellers came to town to work as street peddlers (bannabanna). Adopting a pragmatic lifestyle, (2) they became notable for starting with very little but ultimately acquiring their own stall at Dakar's central Sandaga market or becoming big businessmen registered at the Registre du Commerce (Ebin 1992; Ndiaye 1998; Sarr et al. 2004). Acting also in international commercial networks overseas, moodu moodu (migrant traders) have demonstrated as emigrants a 'vernacular cosmopolitanism' (Diouf 2000). Their success has been evidenced as much by their re-appropriation of trade in Senegal and their spatial occupation of Dakar--including through acquiring property (Ndiaye 1998; Sarr et al. 2004; Tall 2008: 55-7)-as by their celebration in popular music. These new emblems of success and, more broadly, cultural globalization have also conveyed a 'material culture of success' (Rowlands 1996), giving consumption a new importance for both women and men. Finally, emigrants have also become new models of success. With the crisis in town, since the 1990s urban men, and increasingly women (see, for example, Evers Rosander 2005), have taken the path of emigration. Emigrants' success has quickly been evidenced back in Dakar through their lavish spending, their construction of houses, and their acquisition of power within families, neighbourhoods and the political arena. In this context, a 'culture of migration' (Hahn and Klute 2007) has developed among those who have stayed behind. Indeed, besides economic factors, the imagery of migrants' success, and of migration more broadly (see, for example, Fouquet 2008), has significantly fed into aspirations to leave. Previously one option among several, under these conditions emigration has become the main model of success in the town, despite the increasing reality and awareness of 'unsuccessful' migrations. (3)

Lastly, concurrent with the dearth of job opportunities and the ascent of emigrants, leaving has become a growing challenge. Indeed, if the global neoliberal economy has favoured the circulation of goods, markets and ideas in and out of Senegal, people's mobility has also gradually been either eased or prevented in order to fit specific labour markets. Since the 2000s, the EU in particular has tightened its borders and externalized its control southwards to countries of origin such as Senegal. (4) Less favourable migration policies (along with economic and political conditions) in Europe have, since the 1990s, led Senegalese to diversify their destinations (Tall 2008) from mainly France to include places such as Italy, Spain, the US, the Gulf, Asia, recently Turkey, and other European countries or even Latin America. (5) Over the last few years, the tightening of EU borders and externalization of migration control have also forced people to find new itineraries to reach Europe, involving more dangerous routes (such as crossing the desert or traversing the sea in wooden boats) or long periods stuck in 'transit' countries (Bredeloup and Pliez 2005: 10). (6)

In this context, for those of an age to support their families, making a living is often a struggle. Simultaneously, they are compared with those abroad while not being able to leave themselves. This paper focuses on the unfolding of everyday life for those who grew up in Dakar and live involuntarily or voluntarily without migration. (7) I explore this diverse reality through three stories: those of Bineta, Abdoulaye and Moussa. These cases were selected because they represent diametrically opposed realities of exclusive 'choices' 'for' (Bineta) and 'against' (Abdoulaye and Moussa) migration. (8) Not every 'non-migrant' I met took such a radical position: migration is sometimes seen as something to aim for, an opportunity, or a more distant dream, but one that does not exclude imagining life locally as well. In fact, rather than being definite, these situations often represent people's imaginative and discursive efforts to position and present themselves within a range of both actual and hypothetical possibilities. Using cases at opposite ends of the spectrum, I attempt to illuminate both the contrasts between the desire to leave at all costs and the commitment to stay, and the key concepts required in order to understand intermediate positions. Following the three portraits, the paper closes with an analysis and theoretical discussion of life without migration.


In Dakar, emigration was the aspiration of the town--an impossible dream or the only way in which the future could be envisaged. Some maintained a dispassionate attitude but were actively searching for a way out. These young men without a formal job were trying to generate an income from 'small business' (petit business), selling a pair of trainers or jeans from Morocco, or undertaking other fend-for-yourself activities (debrouille). But, in their neighbourhoods, few of them shared the perpetual movement of the young street peddlers from the countryside who made their way through the capital city's jammed roads carrying T-shirts, water, groundnuts, or plastic toys made in China. Many agreed that performing 'little' activities was shameful or degrading when one had grown up in Dakar. Street-selling, in particular, was avoided by many or kept discreet from other families, and especially from girlfriends who were thought not to want to date street peddlers. (9) However, rappers such as Daara-J had started to exhort youths to undertake activities of debrouille in order to survive, telling them that this was a positive thing to do, and some youths began to portray it more positively. Still, exactly how many families survived in town was often unknown in their neighbourhoods. Beyond the activity performed, there were feelings of shame in having to ask for help from parents, since support should have gone the other way. At the same time, there was resentment at parents' comments that their children did nothing and lacked ambition, and denunciation of parents' 'envy' (hee) and the pressure they placed on their children to go overseas. There were also bitter complaints against women's recent disregard for those without money. Thus, many young men felt that they had lost status in their community and were trying to leave by any means. But there were others, too, for whom emigration was the only way to foresee the future. Bineta was one of those.


In the morning, Bineta's street in the Grand Dakar neighbourhood would quickly wake from deep sleep into a burst of activity. Some women were cleaning in front of their house with a straw broom, others squeezed past with buckets of water from the local tap, a young man with his trolley was serving strong Cafe Touba with one hand and collecting his change with the other, a mature woman was selling sandwiches, a young street peddler carrying teeth-cleaning twigs on his shoulder threaded his way past, greetings were exchanged across the street and sheep also seemed to find it the best time to occupy the road. It was at this moment, 7.30 a.m., that Bineta left for work, walking energetically in the middle of the street and greeting people with good humour. Bineta would reappear only much later, when children were playing across the street, while some girls were having their hair plaited by their griotes on house porches, and young women and men were gathering in front of houses to chat and observe passersby. Early in the evening, Bineta would come down after her day of work with a nonchalant but calculated step. Her skin brightened by xeesal (10) and her smile revealing black-tattooed gums and contrastingly white teeth, she wore tight jeans and a mobile phone's earpiece was often hanging from her ear, highlighting the fancy gadget she owned. Bineta would cheerfully greet people in front of their houses, stopping off for conversation. With those she knew best, she would launch into long discussions and tease them pleasantly, often ending up with her walking away as she was still speaking.

Bineta was a 'child' of Grand Dakar; she was a Wolof who had grown up there like generations of her family before her. Some people in Grand Dakar knew of Bineta's exact genealogy: Bineta, when little, had been 'given' to an aunt who had never had children or married; (11) her natural mother lived some streets away--she was the one who roasted groundnuts on sand (kentu) in front of her house until late at night. Bineta had been to primary and secondary school in the neighbourhood. Just before reaching twenty, she had married a tailor from the region of Louga who had come to Dakar for work. The two had met in a fabric market where he worked in a large workshop. Bineta, who had been brought up in the Tijane tradition, had converted when she married to Muridism, her husband's brotherhood. (12) After marriage, however, Bineta had not moved to her husband's village and family, but had stayed in Grand Dakar, where she and her husband rented a room in a large building. Over these last few years, Bineta had been working in a restaurant in a nearby neighbourhood, which was why she left Grand Dakar at 7.30 a.m. Now in her thirties, Bineta had two children attending (state) school in the neighbourhood, exactly like she had.

For Bineta, to 'exist' in Dakar was, to some extent, to 'have'. Thus, displaying wealth and consuming were key. At weekends, Bineta often attended ceremonies. On her way there, in shiny embroidered and often new boubou and elaborate make-up, she made a little tour of or a detour via her neighbourhood. Later, she would come back to Grand Dakar with a professional photograph of herself all dressed up. When home, she would stick the picture up on the wall of her room, next to portraits of her taken at baptisms and weddings, and magazine fashion pictures. At ceremonies, Bineta freely gave money to griots. She approached them herself and joked with them before slipping a CFA 1,000 note in their hands. (13) Many women in Bineta's surroundings avoided the expenses involved in ceremonies and contact with griots. Bineta, however, was proud to be able to do this. In addition to attending ceremonies, Bineta made sure that her and her daughters' clothing and hairstyles were in line with the current fashion. In some cases, she also kept an eye on the Took' of those who could be associated with her. If Bineta and I had decided to visit someone she knew, she would ensure that my outfit was appropriate and optimal. Only then was she able to introduce me proudly as '[her] European' (sama tubaab). Bineta's ability to 'stay in the race' extended beyond the realms of clothing and ceremonies. For instance, if people were to have lunch at her home, she could spend up to CFA 5,000 at the market to have all the ingredients for a perfect rice and fish dish. Furthermore, Bineta often gave presents and was especially concerned with regularly taking something to her (adoptive) mother who had no income.

Some probably saw Bineta's ostentation and largesse with griots as irrational and would have almost certainly linked it to her ethnicity and/or her husband's caste origin, because Bineta was a Wolof and had married a caste (fieeno). (14) Bineta's husband came originally from a family of blacksmiths (tegg) and, although he did not work in the profession himself, their union had caused much controversy in Bineta's family, the members of which all saw themselves as being of 'noble' (geer) origin. However, others in the neighbourhood appreciated Bineta's behaviour, thinking that she acknowledged the traditional importance of griots in society, unlike those who now ignored them.

Bineta had also embraced consumerism, which she saw as an integral part of modernity. Consumerism was typically represented by the goods offered in the Chinese markets in Dakar. Bineta would often go there and come back with a few plastic dishes and gadgets; these goods were cheap, looked attractive and distinctive, and were easily replaceable if they broke. Bineta did not agree with those who despised these new products; (15) for her, the Chinese had brought affordable goods to Senegal. However, deep down, Bineta dreamed of a life where she would 'have' and would 'be' far beyond the Chinese market, but at the moment this was out of her reach.

Bineta, however, did not 'exist' effortlessly, nor outside relations of subordination. As a married (Muslim) woman, Bineta was officially supported by her husband. In practice, Bineta's husband was a tailor in someone else's workshop and the family lived in a single rented room in a three-bedroom flat shared with two (unrelated) families. The room was just large enough to contain a double bed, a small TV, a mechanical sewing machine, a chair and a mirror, and Bineta had to pay someone to bring up daily buckets of water from the local tap for cooking and baths. Money was a subject of regular arguments for the couple. Bineta, a head taller than her husband, would tell him off bitterly and at length. Bineta considered that her husband was unable to support her (and possibly also their family) and he did not appear to defend himself against this idea. Bineta's husband had once confirmed rumours that he was planning to take a second wife, but he confided that when he remarried he was going to leave his second wife with his parents back in his village, because having a wife in Dakar 'created problems and was expensive'. As far as men's contribution was concerned, the women's point of view among Bineta's peers was that 'one cannot trust men anymore'; many women put money aside and bought gold jewellery, arguing that 'we never know'.

Bineta worked in a restaurant kitchen. For this Monday-to-Saturday job, she earned a monthly salary of a little more than CFA 30,000, (16) from which she kept CFA 5,000 for her rotating credit association. After work, in the evenings and at weekends, when she was not visible in the neighbourhood, Bineta was busy buying things at the market or from individuals who offered special deals. She would then re-sell them in her network of contacts. In her (adoptive) mother's bedroom or at her workplace, Bineta often had a nice new object to show. She would then retrieve a pack from somewhere; on one day it was oranges and mandarins, on another embroidered Senegalese dresses, and the next Chinese nightdresses.

Bineta also occasionally sold more expensive pieces of high-quality batik and indigo-dyed damask fabric (cuub). This was not for her own benefit but for her aunt's, a wealthy professional woman who had bought impressive quantities of fabric in Mali. Bineta was often busy performing all sorts of jobs for her aunt, who had accommodated her in her house during her childhood (with her adoptive mother) and until her marriage, and to whom she also owed her job in the restaurant. Unlike her aunt, who was in a position to make large profits while moving very little, (17) Bineta was forced to be always on the move in order to generate some income.

Bineta was not satisfied with her life and saw her future somewhere other than Grand Dakar. She had decided to emigrate to Europe and, a few months before I met her, had started confidentially to undertake the necessary steps to obtain a visa. (18) Bineta had two cousins her age with whom she had been brought up and to whom she inevitably compared herself (her peers, nawle). They had emigrated to Europe a few years previously. One of them had recently returned and seemed to have done very well, and Bineta felt that she too could succeed in the same way. Bineta also frequently mentioned her desire to do something for her (adoptive) mother; this was not unrelated to an idea I had heard that 'parents have more respect for women who emigrate than for those who stay in Senegal'. Bineta encountered problems in finding someone who was ready to accommodate her in Spain or France--her cousin in France did not answer her phone calls--and getting a certificate of her salary without losing her job was tricky. But Bineta was confident. She was convinced that she could adapt to any situation and perform any job. She had 'nearly all the papers' required for a visa, and was now in touch with a man in the visa business who could potentially sort everything out. One day, Bineta came back to me with a visa form for Poland, where she had no contacts; she did not mind the inconvenience if it meant being able to emigrate to Europe. Nothing was going to hold her back from success.


Among those I met in Dakar, decisions to build one's future at home--as opposed to emigrating--were not common, particularly if one was young, male and without a good job. It was also acknowledged that convincing those with whom one lived of the 'wisdom' of such a choice was difficult. Abdoulaye and Moussa were among the few who would say that they had decided to stay.


When I first met Abdoulaye, the young man in his late twenties worked as a trainee in an office. Those who only knew Abdoulaye by sight, who saw him on his way to work in the Ouakam neighbourhood where he lived, would probably have guessed that Abdoulaye worked in an office. Early in the morning, the cheerful and imposing young man could be seen walking in the middle of the street with a confident step, carrying a black dossier and dressed in a Western shirt and pleated trousers. Fridays, of course, were exceptions and, on these days, he wore a large light-blue damask boubou and yellow slippers. Those who knew Abdoulaye personally would have described him as a very popular man. Abdoulaye was both humorous and serious, and made 'good use' of his strong sense of communal solidarity. Abdoulaye also did not mind being teased; for example, as the then presidential colours of his Friday attire had not escaped the notice of those around him, he was happy to be called, light-heartedly, 'Mr President'.

Abdoulaye's roots could be traced back to a village in the north of the country. From a Pel family, he had been bom and raised there with seven younger siblings. Abdoulaye's education had occupied a central place in his life, especially his university education. Abdoulaye had studied the humanities and had obtained undergraduate and postgraduate diplomas. He had also led an intensive political life at university. However, when searching later for a job, he had ceased his political activities. Abdoulaye's university experience had left him with many memories, and funny anecdotes about this period of his life remained a favourite subject of conversation. Abdoulaye had also kept his lively interest in political matters, discussing these enthusiastically with those around him. Although no longer belonging to any political party, he recognized that he related most to the one then in power. Abdoulaye had started a traineeship in an office on Dakar's Plateau a few months before I met him, and was simultaneously completing another postgraduate diploma. He enjoyed his work because it required him to liaise with a wide range of people, for which he felt he had a particular aptitude. Towards the end of his traineeship Abdoulaye was promoted. Although not given a proper salary or position, his post was stabilized and, from then on, he received more substantial allowances that just covered his rent, transport and meals. Many students, in contrast, went from one traineeship to the next, despairing of ever finding a remunerated job. Abdoulaye felt confident about his future. He believed that he could succeed in Senegal, and he did not intend to emigrate, (19) His ambition was to become an 'executive' (un cadre)', whether this was for a public or a private body was a secondary concern. Abdoulaye also planned a political career at the local level, and getting there, he once said, was merely a matter of 'well thought-through steps'. (20) Besides his plans for his career, Abdoulaye wanted to support his parents with his siblings' education, and he felt a duty to do that soon. Abdoulaye also aspired to more ostentatious pleasures, and he would remark on the number of imposing 4x4s on Dakar's concrete roads, noting that many wealthy businessmen and politicians owned one and that this was something he longed for too.

In the Ouakam neighbourhood, Abdoulaye appeared as someone who might be successful. Because of his outlook and daily schedule, Abdoulaye was even called a 'boss'. Abdoulaye once explained to me that his neighbours knew he 'work[ed] in an office, and that there [was] a computer on [his] desk'. Sometimes, he continued, when shaking his hand they told him he had 'woman's hands' because they were very 'soft'. Abdoulaye certainly did not mind being called a 'boss', and such remarks acknowledged his status as someone not doing manual work. However, he knew very well that these were also cunning ways to suggest that he had a good job and therefore was in a position to help others. Indeed, Abdoulaye was often welcomed back from work in the neighbourhood with words such as 'Where is my gift?' (Ana sama charitel) or 'Are you getting by?' (Yengi goorgoorlif!). He would just reply: 'I do my best' (Mangi goor-goorlu rek). However, this image in the neighbourhood could not be sustained in front of everyone. To his friends who asked him for money, Abdoulaye would say 'I am not working, I am learning/studying,' (21) and he would be careful not to have too much credit on his mobile phone as people tended to borrow it. To his family back home, which he was not yet supporting, Abdoulaye had explained that he did not have a proper job and was only 'learning'. Admitting he was paid would have meant-as he put it--'I became, so I am, so I have to [support my family].' (22) Abdoulaye's material reality ultimately came back to his (small) living allowance. Every morning, he left for work on a shaking car rapide. Every night, he came back to the basic room--at CFA 30,000 a month--he shared with a friend in a large building accommodating several families. For their evening meals, Abdoulaye and his friend paid a woman in the same building who cooked food. For his lunches Abdoulaye bought filling food for CFA 500, while many of his colleagues spent CFA 1,000 to 2,500 on their own meals. Occasionally, Abdoulaye had discreetly complemented his small income, as did many full-time office workers who, more or less overtly, performed additional income-generating activities or 'petty services' in their workplace for wealthier colleagues. (23)

As for his position on the matrimonial market, Abdoulaye had a long-term girlfriend and they had already talked about marriage. Nonetheless, he felt that it was too early to commit. Abdoulaye reckoned that nowadays a man had to show that he could provide and meet the new standards of the Dakarois lifestyle. Once, talking about his marriage prospects, he summarized social expectations: 'Now, in town, you need to live, you need a house, you need, you need, you need, you need ... to go to the supermarket!' (24) However, unlike many young men, Abdoulaye was not bitter about the fact that marriage now resonated more with money than love. (25) For him, women were just being realistic, and he aimed to meet these new standards, arguing that 'one has to keep in step'. (26) Abdoulaye remained optimistic about marriage. If women's mothers now judged a boyfriend by his ability to provide, they also asked where he worked; what counted was not just the money the young man made, but also the 'kind of work' he performed, which--he underlined--was a matter of 'prestige'.

Around Abdoulaye, among both female and male students and graduates, migration was very much an aspiration: university subjects had often been chosen for their potential use in Europe (27) and applications were made to European universities and for visas. Abdoulaye, however, was neither planning on leaving nor envious of those who had left and had visibly succeeded. There was the fact that he had not grown up with the idea of emigrating; where he came from, next to the Senegal River, was a place where, until recently, people were more likely to immigrate to, to work as navetaan in agriculture. (28) Also, some of his friends (students in France) complained about their situation and regularly asked him about opportunities in Senegal, which for him indicated that they wanted to return.

Finally, there were his diplomas. As he once exclaimed, he was meant to succeed in Senegal 'after twenty-five years of [his] life at school!' (29) He would say about the youths ready to risk their lives to emigrate that 'they know they have no chance', adding that 'only those who have a certain level of education can afford to stay' and that '[w]hen you are very educated, you have hope'. (30) At other times, however, Abdoulaye would acknowledge that '[t]he fact you have a bac+5 does not mean you will succeed', (31) or he would refer to the social pressure to emigrate. One day, Abdoulaye analysed his situation:
   In the region where I come from, we gave a lot of importance to
   diplomas. This was the reference: one says that someone has x
   number of diplomas. We valued these things a lot. But then you see
   that elsewhere [i.e. in Dakar] this is not the reference.
   Elsewhere, it is that someone is a migrant; this is the reference.

Still, Abdoulaye would usually convince himself of the intrinsic value of diplomas --or maybe he was just making a virtue out of necessity, given the distance separating him from informal networks. He once explained:
   What we say is 'Diplome biyaqu', the diploma does not go rotten,
   does not go bad ... It is better to have diplomas and be unemployed
   than to have no diploma and be unemployed. ... If you do not have
   someone to help you enter the informal networks, that's bad. (33)

Thus, Abdoulaye seemed caught in the old model of success based on performance at school, but simultaneously his belief in this model boosted his rise in Senegal and comforted him with the idea that he could succeed without migrating.


Moussa was a Qur'anic teacher in his thirties, divorced and a father of three. He lived and worked in suburban Pikine, in a lively and crowded but also deprived area, where the lack of drains caused houses to subside and the sandy streets to be covered with large puddles of green stagnant water until the dry season. Moussa could often be seen there walking lightly and discreetly, dressed in simple and inexpensive materials. With an easy smile and calm temperament, he would greet people with a wave of the hand and would speak in a low voice if he stopped. Moussa lived with his parents and some of his siblings in the family home, a simple and traditionally built house with three or four separate rooms and a sandy courtyard in the middle. Their house had no upper level and the floor was untiled, but it stood firm and had not sunk into the wet ground, unlike many in the neighbourhood. Moussa's room was by far the most amply furnished. It was also testimony to the married life he had led until recently: a newlywed's ideal bedroom, it was filled with new-looking carved wooden furniture and contained a television, a stereo, an electric fan, a portable gas burner to prepare tea, a cool box for ice and a suitcase. Whenever I would pop by, Moussa's room invariably looked organized and tidy, from his suit wrapped in a plastic bag and hanging on the wall to the decorative tissue-paper flowers sitting on the cupboard next to a framed sepia photograph of his father.

Moussa defined himself as a Pel and Wolof Tijane Muslim, and located his origins in the north-west of the country. Moussa was bom after three sisters, and before three other siblings. When Moussa was a child, his father held a stable and good job in a large company; however, Moussa had been given by his parents to a Tijane marabout to be educated. Thus, Moussa had been a child disciple (taalibe), which, besides religious teaching, had involved living in basic conditions and begging for food. Later, Moussa pursued extensive religious studies in Arabic and French, and occasionally travelled within West Africa. Reaching adulthood, Moussa had become a Qur'anic teacher and involved himself in many local development initiatives. When I met him, he was directing and teaching in an 'alternative school' and was active in several initiatives for widening access to education. (34) At home, Moussa supported his parents--covering the daily household spending and the cost of electricity, water and his parents' clothing. Moussa made a living partly from school fees, but this income was unreliable as parents were not always able or willing to pay, and sometimes they themselves asked for financial help. His income was complemented by gifts received for his religious role in the neighbourhood, transport fees paid to him to attend meetings (he would walk instead), and occasional remittances from his younger sister and friends in Europe.

Moussa presented his work as a Qur'anic teacher and his commitment to children's broader education as a religious vocation. It was, he would state, his 'destiny' to educate children and develop the local area, and this had been his conviction since childhood. In his opinion, children should have been going to school instead of being on the streets. Where he lived, there was only one French school and few parents could afford it, hence for him the importance of alternative schools like his-which did not teach just religion but also French and mathematics. Moussa was proud of his work and would regularly show me that success rates in local alternative schools like his were higher than in the French school. Moussa was well known for his involvement in the community. However, he thought many parents did not consider the Qur'anic school favourably or appreciate his work, which was demonstrated by them not dressing their children as well for the Qur'anic school as they did for the French school.

Moussa's decision to devote himself fully to his community's development had led him to decide to build his life in Senegal, rather than to emigrate. Moussa's formula was that 'wherever you are, God is with you', meaning that what could be achieved in one place could be achieved in another if one had 'faith' and 'courage'. He would say that some had become (CFA) billionaires in Senegal without emigrating, adding, however, that all he wanted was to support himself. Moussa was at odds with many new values in Dakar and would regularly denounce materialism, ostentation in hardship, emigrants' lack of time to educate their children, failing migrants, and the sometimes multiple relationships of the wives of migrants. Years before, Moussa had been given the opportunity by his uncle in Italy to emigrate. However, convinced of his decision to stay, he had declined and his younger sister had left instead. Others--including people engaged in associations developing the country and teachers he knew--also said that they had decided to remain, but often they had ultimately emigrated when given the chance.

Moussa's resolution to stay and his local involvement were not understood by all, and nor were they without consequences for his position in the community. First, Moussa's choice had had fatal consequences for his conjugal life. His wife thought that he did not earn enough. This led her one day to ask him to emigrate, causing tension in the relationship. Moussa later admitted that, on that particular day, he had regretted not having gone to Europe, but he had then told himself: 'No, this is my destiny. I will continue to stay here.' Another time, his wife had suggested he become a taxi driver, which was more profitable than education. Eventually, she had asked for a divorce. Moussa thought his wife would have preferred to marry an emigrant, and that her parents had played a role in her leaving the household. He suspected that his wife's mother wanted to remarry her to someone in Europe. Since the divorce, although Moussa had been pressed by his own family to remarry and had been introduced to several women, he had declined all proposals, telling his father that he would take his time and even marry a 'shaven-headed Christian woman' if he loved her, (35) thus showing that only his feelings would matter. Moussa knew only too well that, given the difference between the dowries offered by an emigrant and a man living in Dakar, it was not going to be easy for him to find a new wife. For women to give their hand to someone like him was, he said, 'like [putting their hand into] fire'. He explained further: 'A guy like me, next to [an emigrant], he can't make ends meet, he has nothing, then ... you are not going to put your hand there! It is a bit risky to give your hand to someone who is here, who works here.' (36)

Moussa's parents understood his choice and did not press him to leave. However, in the neighbourhood, Moussa's decision was widely known and provoked mixed feelings. Some would say to him: 'Really, your choice ... it is very difficult, but really you have to stick at it. Do not change your mind. We need people like you to rebuild our society.' (37) His younger brothers understood him but would tell him kindly: 'Man, you are crazy. Us, we want something. You, you do not want anything, but us, we want something.' (38) Others would confront Moussa more seriously: 'What about you? Don't you want to emigrate? Stay here with all the problems and one day, you will know.' (39) Moussa knew that some of his detractors said that 'he does not want anything', 'he does not want to succeed' or 'this man thinks that he is smarter than us' (the last comment was because some thought he had made money when his school had once been helped by a small European charity). (40) Moussa also said, in relation to a man who wanted to leave: 'He considers me a fool, but I also consider him a fool.' (41) Moussa knew another man who, like himself, had decided to stay. He was the first of seven brothers, all of whom were in Europe. According to Moussa, this man was spoken to by his own mother in these terms: 'You, you do not want anything in life, you are a fool, that's the way you are.' (42) Moussa was quite sure of his decision, but he recalled that he once felt challenged. A woman told him: 'You do many things, you help people too much. You like to help but you have nothing. Can't you go to Europe to work?' Moussa then felt the need to 'have something', and wondered whether perhaps this woman was right; as when his wife left, he momentarily regretted his choice, but he quickly swept this idea away and said to himself: 'No, she is not right!'

Moussa felt most challenged in his choice on occasions when money had to be spent. Typically, when someone at home had to be rushed to hospital, he could not afford it so an emigrant in the family would step in, giving CFA 50,000 or 100,000. Someone would then often make a comment in front of him, such as 'That is the result of going to Europe! This is the result of the emigrants! This one is a good child!', (43) and such comments would upset him.

Therefore, Moussa--in addition to being seen as 'having nothing'--was considered by some as irrational, lacking ambition (to help his family), inactive and destitute; in short, rather than helping the community, he was instead seen by some as failing to help others. Still, despite his social status being somewhat undermined by these comments in the neighbourhood, Moussa remained relatively confident in his choice. He saw his future in his locality, pursuing his religious and educational mission. For him, it was poverty that had led to people's changed priorities, and this was exactly what he was working against.


These three portraits show that life without migration is often an ambivalent experience. I argue that this can be better understood in the light of today's local moral economy and its contradictions. Living without migration involves overcoming these tensions, including through multiple strategies in order to fit in with today's mainstream moral economy, or to demonstrate an alternative morality.

In today's Dakar, social status is increasingly defined primarily by material and visible wealth. In the decades following independence, material wealth was already an indicator of success (see, for example, Diop 1965; Le Cour Grandmaison 1972) and a criterion in marriage decisions (Thore 1964; Diop 1985: 79). However, social status (and marriage--see Le Cour Grandmaison 1971: 212) was mainly established through the ideal of the civil servant, together with criteria such as rank, birth and religion, ethics and 'community spirit'. Material wealth was important, for instance to meet needs, buy clothes, give to others and acquire dependants, save and invest, as well as to acquire consumer goods. Still, despite the increasing quest for enrichment, the way in which economic resources were acquired was important, and being a civil servant was valued above all other activities. Today, however, material wealth is paramount in the definition of success. Material achievement has become more important than criteria such as moral qualities (like Moussa's) or the type of income-generating activity performed (typically employment based on diplomas, like Abdoulaye's). Men's income even represents the primary criterion in marriage (and divorce) decisions. Economic resources now dominate to the extent that, without a stable income from the man, marriage is nearly impossible. In this way, the ideal of the civil servant and of diplomas--which, until recently, largely oriented alliances--is being challenged.

Material wealth is central to the definition of status and marriage for my research informants because it allows for the acquisition of prestige and is part of economic strategies as well as being a medium for crafting social relations. To start with, wealth is increasingly considered an end in itself. Ostentatious consumption, including the display of purchase power (taking a taxi instead of the car rapide, for example), enhances individual reputation or prestige. It demonstrates global connections and advances in fashion when it involves imported goods such as electronics, clothing and cosmetics (as in Bineta's story). Similarly, shopping at the costly (French) supermarket in Dakar (see Abdoulaye) is emblematic of an opulent and westernized lifestyle. Ostentatious consumption is considered to be a source of prestige by young women and men in particular.

Besides its relevance for prestige, material acquisition forms part of economic strategies. Indeed, it is essential to be able to--or to allow kin to--sustain and financially help parents, wives, parents-in-law (for men) and other kin with cash or goods in kind; answer requests for money; and accommodate and sustain dependants in one's house. In the past, material wealth, including money, was already important to satisfy needs (such as food) and pay taxes. However, many in Dakar agree that, with economic uncertainty, parents and even parents-in-law count more on adult children for meeting their livelihood needs than before. For many, economic resources are therefore still for sharing and redistributing, rather than for individual accumulation. Yet, in practice, wealth is stored in case of future need, for example through the acquisition and exchange of material goods and money. Gold jewellery was purchased by Bineta's peers, and cloth and money exchanged (as gifts) within women's networks (including at family ceremonies). (44) Such practices typically allow for saving and isolate wealth from consumption and requests for money (Mustafa 1998). (45) Recently, exchange practices of goods and money have intensified, particularly within women's networks (Buggenhagen 2012). Converting money into forms of wealth that hold value rather than circulating cash (Guyer 1995)- that is, transforming liquidity into 'illiquidity' (Shipton 1995)-remains crucial for storing wealth, as it was in the past. And in this context, cloth, gold and imported goods are still forms of wealth that hold value. But nowadays there are moral masculine discourses on the legitimacy of this use of material wealth, which is thought to go against community redistribution. (46)

Additionally, material wealth is considered, to borrow from Guyer (2004: 70), a 'medium for a relational life'; that is, 'wealth in things' (including money) is still very much used to acquire dependants and thus status. Indeed, material wealth is essential to be able to--or to allow others to--sustain kin; answer requests for money; accommodate and sustain dependants in one's house (as mentioned earlier); ostentatiously display expensive goods and clothing (sanse); and make gifts to others at family ceremonies, among other things. These practices show prosperity, generosity and 'wealth in people' (Guyer 1993), including the strength of one's networks (Heath 1992; Buggenhagen 2012). These qualities in turn testify to adult children's success and their mothers' 'good work' (liggeyu ndey) in their household (Dial 2008: 44-54, 80-2), they honour parents (because adult children 'give back' to them), and they show that husbands provide for their wives (Heath 1992). Demonstrations of prosperity and generosity also have the practical effect of attracting new dependants (such as Abdoulaye's neighbours). Importantly, the display of these two defining features of the 'noble' caste (re)affirms caste inequalities (Irvine 1974; Buggenhagen 2012). Finally, qualities such as generosity and dressing well increase religious merit.

How should material wealth be acquired? Ideally through migration, but leaving is challenging. Wealth is also associated with marriage to a migrant. Indeed, marriage itself has become part of economic strategies, as have intimate relations (Nyamnjoh 2005), with practices such as mbaraan becoming more common than before. (47) Both the dowry and the remittances that come with marriage to a migrant have become increasingly necessary to meet social obligations and daily needs in Senegalese households (Buggenhagen 2001; 2012: 126). Under these circumstances, parents recently appear to have gained a new importance in marriage decisions (as in the departure of Moussa's wife). (48) Tall and Tandian (2010: 5) argue that today more attention is given to migrants' financial means than to their social origins, suggesting that even caste endogamy--which remained strong over time-can be challenged. Both women and men also invest in social relations other than marriage in order to acquire wealth, and convert such relations into financial networks (Mustafa 1998: 75-127). (49) Social relations are still crucial in accessing productive resources (see Berry 1989; 1993: 169-80), including goods for second-economy activities (MacGaffey 1991: 30-4), although there is now masculine criticism of women's use of social relations. (50)

How can an income be generated legitimately without migration or marriage to a migrant? Despite economic success being increasingly crucial for my informants, they still refer to non-economic criteria. Although the reality of practices differs, wealth is thought to be acquired through specific income-generating activities rather than through just any means available. Typically, despite no longer being the main indicator of status, formal employment (understood as stable and well paid) for men continues to be favoured over the accumulation of multiple 'fend-for-yourself' activities. For instance, overt involvement in petty trading and manual activities (such as cleaning) in Dakar is considered 'dishonouring' by some (see the text before Bineta's story). Selling is also belittled as being the realm of foreigners, women and rural-dwellers. These perceptions are not completely separable from caste hierarchy: manual (often physical) work and petty trade (involving haggling and movement) potentially challenge geer 'honour'. (51) In addition, Dakarois men face the 'trader's dilemma' between accumulating and sharing (see Evers 1994 on South-East Asia). (52) Finally, the status of petty trade has been low during much of the twentieth century (Amin 1969: 26), and urban Dakarois men have identified with French education and formal employment. (53) Only in the last decades have many traded again and sometimes become successful. With the ascent of traders and the encouragement of rappers in their role as educators (Niang 2006; Moulard-Kouka 2008: 342-5), prejudice against selling has diminished. Still, for Dakarois men, petty trading too visibly perhaps means acknowledging new hierarchies, while discourses on 'honour' and the denigration of manual activities and petty trade may allow for the maintenance of old hierarchies (in particular based on caste, rural versus urban origin, and ethnicity).

Besides the ideal of formal and stable employment for men, discourses on respectable ways of acquiring wealth include references to married women's 'work'. Despite the reality of practices (that is, women's contribution to household expenses), for many the financial support of wives by husbands and women's independent budgets (which mean they can use their income for their own undertakings, rather than for household expenses) remain important. Also, women's status is still very much defined by their behaviour in the household, rather than by their economic work. This includes showing abnegation and submission within the household. Thus, for married women such as Bineta, undertaking many income-generating activities too visibly potentially challenges their husbands' ability to provide and thus their authority. As Adjamagbo et al. (2004) put it, for women, being publicly seen as earning to support the household means 'working' rather than 'working well' (i.e. within the household). These discourses on the role of married women can similarly be seen as ways of maintaining old gender hierarchies.

In summary, with economic uncertainty, migration and cultural globalization, there have been both transformations and continuities in the local moral economy. For many of an age to support their families, the combination of the above features of the moral economy, the scarcity of income-generating opportunities for men, and women's growing economic contribution involve living with contradictions. Such tensions are illustrated in, for example: many youths' repugnance to sell but their material necessity to do so; women's financial contribution to the household, but their frequent lack of public recognition; aspirations to acquire and display wealth but simultaneous livelihood hardship; the will to succeed through education and a prestigious job together with the awareness that one's salary has become the primary indicator of success; and educational and religious involvement for the community, but lack of recognition for this form of non-monetary contribution.

Individually, these contradictions can be resolved to some extent through the deployment of multiple and subtle practical and discursive strategies. Such strategies include the 'demonstration' that one fits within the moral economy, or within an alternative morality, and the 'concealment' of that which is at odds with the moral economy. These practices take the shape of, for instance: discreetly undertaking multiple minor 'fend-for-yourself' and selling activities; demonstrating wealth through clothing and disguising livelihood hardships (as practised by Bineta); demonstrating one's retention of a prestigious job and potential wealth (Abdoulaye); reasserting one's moral and religious integrity (Moussa), and so on. Camouflage also includes the discreet combination and diversification of activities in both the first and second economies, and strategies to save money without appearing selfish. The latter implies, for example, avoiding the 'liquidity' of unnecessary credit on a mobile phone, or using verbal strategies to avoid demands for money.

To some extent these strategies allow tensions to be overcome, but there is often the realization that the small profits obtained are not worth the efforts deployed. Keeping status in the family and in the neighbourhood often remains a challenge. So is accessing (and sometimes staying in) marriage, which is still crucial for men and women to enter adulthood (Le Cour Grandmaison 1971; Dial 2008: 42-44). Migration is thus strongly aspired to, sometimes at a risk to one's life. In fact, imagining building one's life in Dakar, having reasons to stay, seems easier when an alternative moral economy is adhered to; that is, a moral economy where success is not equated with material wealth and marriage is not conditional on the latter. Moussa, whose outlook is in some ways close to that of the older moral economy, occupies a position locally that is somewhat on the fringe. His and Abdoulaye's convictions that it is possible to succeed at home appear to be supported by their embedding in larger communities (in Senegalese and West African religious and charitable networks, and in a village in the north of the country, respectively), where success is defined primarily by neither migration nor economic success, unlike in their Dakarois settings. Still, as I suggest in the conclusion, the notion of alternative moral economies can also be associated with new religious ideals in Dakar, ideals that break with those of both past and present. These ideals are also supported from the outside and, at the same time, are not completely marginal in the city.


Many in Dakar have come to favour economic success over non-economic achievement, notably in the context of the free-market economy and cultural globalization. Nowadays, material wealth is so important in the definition of success that it even informs marriage decisions. However, some features of the older moral economy continue to be relevant. Material wealth matters for social status (rather than for economic accumulation only) and is still supposed to benefit kin (rather than the individual). Also, some of the older morality of income generation still counts. In this context, criteria such as 'wealth in people' and caste remain key. So, the increased value ascribed to economic achievement has not meant the complete adoption of the commodity economy (see Bloch and Parry 1989). This, together with the dearth of income-generating opportunities for men and women's growing economic contribution, leads to contradictions. To surmount these tensions, people deploy skilful practices of display and concealment. To a certain degree, these allow them to live in a way that is simultaneously coherent with earlier categories of thought, new values and material reality.

But imagining building one's life in Dakar often seems easier when an alternative moral economy is adhered to. In other societies that have suddenly been integrated or further integrated into the market economy, religion and other forms of thought have played an agentive role. This was demonstrated by Jehovah's Witnesses' ethics in Zambia (Long 1968), Zionist Christian cults in South Africa (Comaroff 1985), superstitions such as the 'devil contracts' and 'baptism of the bill' in Colombia (Taussig 1980), and the Kenyan Luo 'bitter money' concept (Shipton 1989). Such popular responses might be associated with the growing success of reformist Islamic movements in Senegal in the past fifteen years. (54) Focused on urban youth, these religious movements with their moralization of urban life, promotion of wealth management such as dowry reduction, and individualist ethics (see, for example, Augis 2009; Samson 2009) similarly appear to re-establish coherence in people's lives and allow them to overcome the recent transformations in Dakarois society.

doi: 10.1017/S0001972015000042


I would like to thank those I have met in Dakar for their generosity in sharing their stories with me. To protect their privacy, all names have been changed. I would also like to thank Johan Pottier and Parvathi Raman at SOAS for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. I am also grateful for feedback received at the SOAS Anthropology Post-fieldwork Seminar, as well as the helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers and editor. Any errors of fact or interpretation are my own.


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(1) The agricultural crisis can be traced back to the 1970s, which were marked by the end of French subsidies, an exacerbation of debts owed by peasants, droughts and impoverished soils. It later worsened with the failure of structural adjustment programmes and the CFA devaluation.

(2) The association between rural street-sellers (baol-baol) and craftiness is reflected in the Wolof expression baol-baol la (this is a cunning person).

(3) 'Unsuccessful' refers to migrations ending in repatriation or where migrants have difficulty in sending remittances owing to the tightening of anti-immigration laws and the economic crisis in Europe over the last decade.

(4) The 'externalization' of EU migration control to Senegal has comprised the Frontex coastal surveillance mechanism, as well as measures to 'manage' migrations to European countries.

(5) Similarly, conditions in countries such as Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon and the Congos forced Senegalese migrants to turn to new destinations in the 1980s and 1990s.

(6) Countries where many migrants have been forced to stay for long periods include Mauritania, Morocco and, until recently, Libya.

(7) This paper is based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Dakar involving sustained contact with people living 'without migration', participant observation and numerous informal conversations. Inspired by interpretive anthropological perspectives, the research method used aimed to convey social actors' complex lived and felt experiences as a basis for anthropological analysis.

(8) As will be seen below, plans to leave at all costs (like Bineta's) are very common in Dakar, while decisions to build one's life in Dakar (like Moussa's) are very rare.

(9) There were many activities other than selling that some considered shameful to be seen doing. These included activities seen as menial or involving obvious physical effort: for example, carrying things on the head, carrying heavy loads, carrying coal, pushing carts of bread or barrows of oranges, lifting bags of onions, rice or potatoes, working as a dock worker (seen as the job of the Susu), working in the fields, dealing with dirt such as working as a housemaid (seen as the job of Sereer women) or unblocking sewage, and selling water or coconuts in the street. When I was in Dakar, many of these activities were undertaken by Pel people from Guinea.

(10) Xeesal is a cosmetic product that lightens the skin.

(11) Bineta was to remain the only child of this aunt.

(12) The Tijaniyya and the Muridiyya, with the numerically smaller Quadiriyya and Layene, are the main Islamic Sufi brotherhoods in Senegal.

(13) CFA 1,000 (then approximately 1.20 [pounds sterling]) is a relatively small amount compared with what many women I met gave to griots.

(14) Caste is a word used by geer ('nobles', or rather non-artisans) to designate a neeno (artisan or griot). In the Wolof caste hierarchy, the geer caste is superior to the neeno castes.

(15) There was, for instance, criticism of Chinese shoes. In fact, recently Senegalese cobblers have encountered serious difficulties competing with the Chinese market, to the extent that many cobblers now sell Chinese plastic shoes next to their leather shoes, or just shoes made in China.

(16) This figure could obviously not be checked; however, it is a realistic basic salary.

(17) Immobility of the body and restraint are linked to geer caste status in Senegal and thus have a positive connotation, as opposed to excessive movement and speech (which are associated with neeno) (Irvine 1974: 145-82).

(18) Her husband was also unaware of her plans.

(19) This did not mean, however, that Abdoulaye was claiming publicly that he was never going to emigrate.

(20) '... des etapes bien reflechies.'

(21) 'Je ne travaille pas, j'apprends.'

(22) 'Je suis devenu, done je suis, done je dois.'

(23) 'Petty services' for colleagues included, for instance, shopping, posting mail, obtaining information and buying electronics.

(24) 'Maintenant en ville, Ufaut que tu vives, ilfaut une maison, ilfaut, ilfaut, ilfaut, ilfaut ... que tu allies au supermarche!'

(25) However, the association of marriage and 'love' was largely part of a narrative, as previously marriage was arranged.

(26) 'Il faut suivre la cadence.'

(27) For example, English and marketing were seen as subjects that increased emigration opportunities (whether for studies or work).

(28) The navetaan (navetanes) were the seasonal migrants working on groundnut fields.

(29) '... apres avoir passe 25 ans de ma vie ci l'ecole!'

(30) 'Ils savent qu 'ils sont disqualifies.' 'Seals ceux qui ont an certain niveau d'instruction peuvent se permettre de rester. Quand tu es tres instruit, tu as de l'espoir.'

(31) 'Ce n 'est pas parce que tu as un bac+5 que tu vas reussir.' A 'bac+5' is roughly equivalent to education up to master's level; it refers to the French baccalaureat followed by five years of university studies.

(32) 'Dans la region d'ou je viens, nous on accordait beaucoup d'importance aux diplomes. C'etait ca la reference: il faut dire qu 'un tel a tant de diplomes. On comptait beaucoup sur ces histoires-la. Mais la tu vois que ailleurs [i.e. a Dakar], c 'est pas la reference. Ailleurs, c 'est qu 'un tel est migrant; c 'est ca la reference.'

(33) C'est ce qu 'on dit: << Diplome bi yaqu >>, les diplomes, cela ne se gate pas, cela ne pourrit pas ... II est mieux d'avoir des diplomes et de chomer que de ne pas avoir de diplomes et de chomer. Si tu n'as pas quelqu'un quipent t'aider a integrer les filieres de l'informel, ca c'est gate.'

(34) Moussa used the expression 'alternative school' to refer to his Qur'anic school where teaching included religion as well as core subjects.

(35) In addition to marriage with a Christian woman being considered unfavourable, women who shave their heads (and do not cover them) are perceived negatively by many men. Showing a shaved scalp is sometimes seen as contrary to religious ideals (as the woman's head is not covered, whether by a veil or hair). It is also sometimes perceived as the uncovering of another part of the woman's body and therefore as a lack of modesty and morality. As well as showing too much of the female body, women who shave their heads are also sometimes accused of encroaching further into the male domain with this practice, and therefore of having a suspect femininity or sexual orientation.

(36) 'Pour elles, c'est du feu.' 'Quand le gars il est comme moi, il est a cote [de l'emigre], il n'arrive pas a joindre les deux bouts, il n'a rien, done ... tu ne vas pas mettre ta main la-bas. C'est un peu risque de donner ta main a une personae qui est la, qui travaille ici.'

(37) 'Vraiment ton choix ... c'est tres difficile, mais vraiment il faut tenir. Il ne faut pas changer d'idee. Il nous faut des gens comme toi pour reconstruire notre societe.'

(38) 'Toi grand, tu es un fou. Nous, nous voulons quelque chose. Toi, tu ne veux rien, mais nous nous voulons quelque chose.'

(39) 'Mais toi, tu ne veux pas alter emigrer? Reste ici avec les problemes. Un jour, tu sauras.'

(40) Moussa reported these sayings about him as: 'Il ne veut rien'; 'Bugul tekki'; 'Ce gars, il veut etre plus malin que nous.'

(41) 'Il me voit comme un fou, mais moi aussi je le vois comme un fou.'

(42) 'Toi, tu ne veux rien dans la vie, tu es un imbecile, tu es comme ca.'

(43) 'Voila, voila le resultat d'aller en Europe! Voila le resultat des emigres! Celui-la, c'est un bon enfant!'

(44) Another example is the acquisition of houses by migrants.

(45) These acquisitions and exchanges also allow for building capital (e.g. in the event of divorce or for trade) and accessing credit, creating debts among others (in case help needs to be requested in the future) as well as investing (see Buggenhagen 2012). Moreover, displaying goods ostentatiously potentially attracts clients for trade and thus helps to generate resources.

(46) Practices criticized for going against the imperative of community redistribution include: the exchange of cloth and money within women's networks; women's entrepreneurship; the purchase of houses by migrants to accumulate rent; and the accommodation by some families of strangers (as opposed to kin) who are willing to pay rent. Women and migrant men are not the only ones to store wealth (or to invest in conspicuous consumption). However, they seem to be the main targets of (often young and jobless) men's criticism that they do not redistribute wealth or that they 'waste' resources. This is potentially related to the fact that women and migrant men with these practices challenge established hierarchies, together with the fact that young jobless men often do not have access (or the access they wish) to such resources.

(47) Mbaraan is a term used to describe a woman's intimate relationship--often in addition to a regular partner--with a wealthy (usually older) man in exchange for gifts and money.

(48) At least up until the 1950s, marriage was the result of a parental choice within the family, caste and ethnic group. In the following decades, with schooling and urbanization, marriage increasingly became less ruled by familial and ethnic endogamy and often became an individual decision. Today, however, parents again have a say in marriage decisions. For instance, alliances are sometimes voluntarily delayed by senior women (the main beneficiaries of the dowry) to heighten the stakes and increase enrichment.

(49) For instance, for many office workers like Abdoulaye, salaried employment represents contacts for second-economy activities. For Bineta, women's networks and family ceremonies provide a petty trading clientele, and her kin sometimes provide access to jobs.

(50) These criticisms cannot be separated from women's ability to generate wealth, as well as many men's difficulty in doing so.

(51) 'Honour' (kerse) has indeed been a defining feature of geer caste identity and claimed superiority over neeno. And to show 'honour', minimal physical effort and moderate public use of speech (Irvine 1974: 182) have been key. In contrast, the extensive and public use of speech/the tongue (lammin) is traditionally associated by geer with lower castes and a lack of 'dignity'. Additionally, work involving dirt, such as cleaning latrines, has sometimes continued to be performed by descendants of slaves (Irvine 1974: 73; Klein 2005: 832).

(52) Indeed, my informants' aversion is to selling 'at home' (as opposed to overseas), where relatives can 'see'. In the non-market economy, the trader faces a quandary between losing cash by helping kin and accumulating capital but losing morality. This dilemma is particularly relevant for the geer who also traditionally acquires 'honour' through generosity. Diop (1992: 45-6) reports that in the early 1990s in the groundnut basin, farmers from superior groups with livelihood difficulties employed middlemen to sell cattle and agricultural products as they were not willing to perform this activity themselves. In history, the 'trader's dilemma' has often been resolved through the creation of a 'distance' with buying communities (Evers 1994), typically through migration, the formation of separate religious orders (see, for example, Cohen 2004), or petty trade (with profits too small for accumulation).

(53) Petty trade has traditionally been the realm of women, who sold the family's surplus production (of fish, food crops or crafts) (Le Cour Grandmaison 1972: 150-1). The denigration of male petty trading can also be better understood in a historical context. Local traders, who in the mid-nineteenth century were prosperous and enjoyed a high status, were marginalized by French firms and the policies of the colonial and postcolonial governments, and eventually reconverted into the colonial administration (Amin 1969; Boone 1992: 47). Early urbanized and French-schooled Lebu and Wolof Dakarois also increasingly occupied salaried jobs, upon which they based their prestige and dominant position over other ethnic groups (see, for example, Diop 1965). From the 1920s to the 1960s, petty trade was despised (and associated with failure at French school) and abandoned to male neeno (Diop 1981: 100; Ndiaye 1998) along with other ethnic groups (including Tukulor migrants), foreigners (Moors and Lebano-Syrians, for example) and local women. Ames (1962: 46) notes that, in the 1940s in the Gambia's rural regions where he worked, the Wolof petty traders were mainly descendants of slaves or blacksmiths. And even among Tukulor migrants in Dakar in the 1950s, peddling (and craftwork) was undertaken only when salaried employment had not been found (Diop 1965: 87).

(54) These movements are supported transnationally by the global Islamic world, including organizations in the Gulf countries. At the same time, the movements are well established locally; for example, their early manifestations in Dakar date back to the 1930s (Augis 2009: 214), and today they attract a fairly significant number of adepts.

ANNE-LINE RODRIGUEZ is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Email:
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Author:Rodriguez, Anne-Line
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6SENE
Date:May 1, 2015
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