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Regional integration from “below” in West Africa

A study of transboundary town-twinning of Idiroko (Nigeria) and Igolo (Benin)

Olukayode A. Faleye

English abstract: This article examines the phenomenon of town-twinning between Idiroko (Nigeria) and Igolo (Benin). While transboundary town twinning is the integration of settlements across distinct state territories—an emerging pattern of borderland urban evolution—this seems to be a new impact of the colonially determined borders in West Africa. Despite the challenges posed by the partition of West African culture areas, town twinning has more recently turned into an established form of regional integration based on a “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” approach in the region. Using qualitative methodology based on descriptive analysis of oral interviews, government records, geographical data, as well as diverse literature, this paper uncovers the role of “borderlanders” in negotiating borders through increased non-state transnational sociospatial cooperation and networking. Apart from altering the traditional state-centric territoriality, this new development may entail broader economic and socio-political implications in the region.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo examina el hermanamiento de las ciudades de Idiroko (Nigeria) e Igolo (Benin). Mientras que el hermanamiento de ciudades transfronterizas es la integración de asentamientos más allá de los distintos territorios estatales—un patrón emergente en la evolución urbana de las regiones fronterizas—esto parece ser un nuevo impacto en las fronteras colonizadas en África Occidental. A pesar de los retos de la división cultural en África Occidental, el hermanamiento de ciudades se ha convertido recientemente en una forma de integración regional con enfoque “de abajo hacia arriba” más que “de arriba hacia abajo.” Empleando una metodología cualitativa basada en un análisis de entrevistas orales, archivos gubernamentales, datos geográficos y una literatura diversa, este artículo revela el rol de las regiones fronterizas en negociaciones transfronterizas de cooperación y de formación de redes socio-espaciales no estatales. Además de alterar la territorialidad tradicional centrada en el estado, este nuevo desarrollo puede generar implicaciones económicas y socio-políticas más amplias en la región.

French abstract: Cet article examine le phénomène des villes jumelles d’Idiroko (Nigéria) et d’Igloo (Bénin). Alors que les villes jumelles transfrontalières sont le résultat de l’intégration d’implantations au-delà de territoires étatiques distincts -un schéma émergeant d’évolution urbaine en région frontalière-, ce cas semble être un nouvel impact des frontières déterminées par la colonisation en Afrique de l’Est. Malgré les défi s posés par la partition des aires culturelles de l’Afrique de l’Est, les villes jumelles se sont converties plus récemment en une forme établie d’intégration régionale fondée sur une approche régionale de bas en haut plutôt que de haut en bas. À partir de l’’usage d’une méthodologie qualitative basée sur une analyse descriptive d’entretiens, d’archives gouvernementales, de données géographiques ainsi que sur une littérature diverse, cet article met à jour le rôle des régions frontalières dans la négociation des frontières à travers la coopération et la formation de réseaux socio-spatiaux trans nationaux non étatiques. En plus de modifier la territorialité traditionnelle centrée sur l’État, ce fait nouveau peut entraîner des implications économiques et socio-politiques plus larges dans la région.

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The Appropriation of Bicycles in West Africa

Pragmatic Approaches to Sustainability

Hans Peter Hahn

Bicycles have a wide range of functions and roles in West Africa. They have vital functions for everyday necessities, but they also constitute prestige objects. The appreciation of bicycles in Africa started very early, almost simultaneously with their diffusion as consumer goods in Europe. However, the adoption of bicycles followed a specific pathway, which is explained in this article within the conceptual framework of appropriation. Cultural appropriation highlights the significant modifications of bicycles in Africa and the abandonment of some functions like braking. In spite of the technical simplifications, modified bicycles are perceived as having higher value, by virtue of their fitness for the tough roads and their increased reliability. Appropriation results in a specific “Africanized“ bicycle, which makes possible a prolonged usage. This essay argues that the “Africanized“ bicycle constitutes a model of sustainability in matters of transport, one which is not sufficiently recognized in current debates about sustainable innovations.

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Theodore Randall

This article discusses the medically pluralistic character of malaria prevention and treatment-based health-seeking behaviour among the inhabitants of a predominantly Jola village in the Gambia, West Africa. Through the presentation of ethnographic data obtained between 2003 and 2004, the paper demonstrates that traditional health services - represented by traditional medical practitioners and medicinal plant usage - among the Jola appear as much, if not more accessible, available, affordable and acceptable than the biomedical services - represented by biomedical practitioners and antimalarial medication usage - provided by the Gambian government health system. This accessibility, availability, affordability and acceptability occur to the extent that many of the villagers suggest that traditional health services become incorporated into the Gambian government health system. The need to integrate traditional and biomedical services becomes especially relevant given the existence of traditional services within the context of biomedical hegemony and limited Jola accessibility, availability and affordability of biomedical services.

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Engaging Anthropology in an Ebola Outbreak

Case Studies from West Africa

Emilie Venables and Umberto Pellecchia

The articles in this special issue demonstrate, through ethnographic fieldwork and observations, how anthropologists and the methodological tools of their discipline became a means of understanding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during 2014 and 2015. The examples, from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, show how anthropologists were involved in the Ebola outbreak at different points during the crisis and the contributions their work made. Discussing issues including health promotion, gender, quarantine and Ebola survivors, the authors show the diverse roles played by anthropologists and the different ways in which they made use of the tools of their discipline. The case studies draw upon the ethical, methodological and logistical challenges of conducting fieldwork during a crisis such as this one and offer reflections upon the role of anthropology in this context.

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Doing bizness

Migrant smuggling and everyday life in the Maghreb

Line Richter

Drawing on extensive fieldwork among Malian migrants and connection men, this article investigates the sociality of facilitating migrant journeys and illegal border crossings in the Maghreb. Dominant discourses portray smugglers as participating in highly organized networks of unscrupulous people taking advantage of innocent migrants. I counter such narratives by zooming in on West African migrants involved in the facilitation of illegal border crossings. This bizness consists of ensembles of temporary practices and relations embedded in everyday life with linkages to historical and regional practices of brokering and hosting. This perspective invites us to move conceptually from focusing on different (stereo) types of smugglers to considering smuggling practices; to make sense of the phenomenon, we need to pay less attention to fixed social positions and more to the transient social poses adopted by those involved.

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Understanding Experiences and Decisions in Situations of Enduring Hardship in Africa

Mirjam de Bruijn and Jonna Both

The enduring experience of hardship, in the form of layers of various crises, can become deeply ingrained in a society, and people can come to act and react under these conditions as if they lead a normal life. This process is explored through the analytical concept of duress, which contains three elements: enduring and accumulating layers of hardship over time, the normalization of this hardship, and a form of deeply constrained agency. We argue that decisions made in duress have a significant impact on the social and political structures of society. This concept of duress is used as a lens to understand the lives of individual people and societies in Central and West Africa that have a long history of ecological, political, and social conflicts and crises.

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Degrees of Permeability

Confinement, Power and Resistance in Freetown's Central Prison

Luisa T. Schneider

This article deconstructs a binary that has arisen between prisons as, on the one hand, ‘total institutions’ of exclusion and, on the other, ‘carceral continuums’ that incorporate marginalized urban livelihoods. The experiences of four inmates at Pademba Road, Freetown’s male prison – which accommodates inmates with sentences from one year to life – illustrate that prisons belong in neither camp. Instead, inmates’ unique responses to their imprisonment show that both a prison’s continuity and its exclusionary mechanism are situational and gendered as crime, social standing, capital and agency coalesce. Following Michel de Certeau’s examination of people’s reappropriations of culture in everyday life, this article analyses how inmates’ tactics to reinforce and bend prison walls work to either strengthen or undermine the carceral system’s strategies and influence the prison’s permeability. Inmates’ embodied experiences allow for a nuanced understanding of the inside/outside relationship of imprisonment and of the space between mobility and stasis, subjugation, embrace and resistance.

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The Death Throes of Sacrificed Chicken

Triggering Critical Reflexive Stances on Ritual Action in Togo

Marie Daugey

This article aims to shed light on a divination episode, which most blood sacrifices begin with in many West African societies, by examining how this ritual practice is carried out among the Kabye of northern Togo and by analyzing it in relation to

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Aro Velmet and Rachel Kantrowitz

Richard C. Parks, Medical Imperialism in French North Africa: Regenerating the Jewish Community of Colonial Tunis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017).

Harry Gamble, Contesting French West Africa: Battles over Schools and the Colonial Order, 1900–1950 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press: 2017).

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Jennifer Heuer From the Salon to the Schoolroom: Educating Bourgeois Girls in Nineteenth-Century France by Rebecca Rogers

Owen White Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the Twentieth Century by Gregory Mann

Muriel Darmon Le Lien social by Pierre Bouvier Alec G. Hargreaves

Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France by Jonathan Laurence and Justin Vaïsse