Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Showing ‘heart’ while making money: negotiating proximity in a Ugandan marketplace

  • William Monteith
Abstract

African marketplaces have long been understood as ambivalent spaces; as sites of compliance and transgression, domination and resistance. This ambivalence comes into sharp focus in the urban marketplaces that have absorbed a large proportion of the African workforce over the past four decades. One the one hand, urban markets offer opportunities for the forging of new relationships, or ‘fictive kin’, beyond the confines of consanguinity and affinity. However, on the other hand, they are fiercely competitive places in which strangers skilfully intrude into one's life. Succeeding in the market therefore requires the striking of a skilful balance between accumulation and redistribution, disclosure and concealment. This article presents an analysis of the everyday interactions and exchanges facilitated by the movements of a waste picker in Nakasero market, the oldest marketplace in Kampala, Uganda. Amid the current emphasis on improvization and provisionality as key features of urban African life, it demonstrates the importance of long-standing cultural idioms, such as omutima (‘heart’), in providing structure and meaning to the interactions of urban African inhabitants.

On présente depuis longtemps les marchés africains comme des espaces ambivalents ; des lieux de conformité et de transgression, de domination et de résistance. Cette ambivalence apparaît nettement sur les marchés urbains qui ont absorbé une large proportion de la main-d’œuvre africaine ces quarante dernières années. D'un côté, les marchés urbains offrent des opportunités pour forger de nouvelles relations, ou liens de « parenté fictive », qui dépassent le cadre de la consanguinité et de l'affinité. Mais d'un autre côté, ce sont des lieux farouchement concurrentiels dans lesquels des étrangers s'immiscent habilement dans la vie d'autrui. Réussir au sein du marché exige donc de trouver un habile équilibre entre accumulation et redistribution, divulgation et dissimulation. Cet article présente une analyse des interactions et échanges courants facilités par les déplacements d'un ramasseur de déchets sur le marché de Nakasero, le plus vieux marché de Kampala (Ouganda). Alors que l'accent est mis actuellement sur l'improvisation et la provisionnalité en tant que principales caractéristiques de la vie urbaine africaine, l'article démontre l'importance des vieux idiomes culturels, comme omutima (« cœur »), lorsqu'il s'agit de fournir une structure et du sens aux interactions des habitants urbains africains.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Bähre, E. (2007) ‘Reluctant solidarity: death, urban poverty and neighbourly assistance in South Africa’, Ethnography 8 (1): 3359.
Baland, J.-M., Guirkinger, C. and Mali, C. (2011) ‘Pretending to be poor: borrowing to escape forced solidarity in Cameroon’, Economic Development and Cultural Change 60 (1): 116.
Bohannan, P. and Dalton, G. (1962) Markets in Africa. Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press.
Brennan, J. R. (2013) ‘Rents and entitlements: reassessing Africa's urban pasts and futures’, Afrika Focus 26 (1): 3749.
Clark, G. (1994) Onions Are My Husband: survival and accumulation by West African market women. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.
Davis, P. J. (2000) ‘On the sexuality of “town women” in Kampala’, Africa Today 47 (3): 2960.
De Boeck, F. and Plissart, F. (2004) Kinshasa: tales of the invisible city. Tervuren and Ludion: Royal Museum of Central Africa and Vlaams Architectuureninstituut Vai.
Englund, H. (1995) ‘Witchcraft, modernity and the person: the morality of accumulation in central Malawi’, Critique of Anthropology 16 (3): 257–79.
Epstein, A. L. (1967) ‘Urbanization and social change in Africa’, Current Anthropology 8 (4): 275–95.
Frankland, S. (2007) ‘No money, no life: surviving on the streets of Kampala’ in Staples, J. (ed.), Livelihoods at the Margins of the State. London: Left Coast Press.
Geschiere, P. (1997) The Modernity of Witchcraft: politics and the occult in postcolonial Africa. Charlottesville VA: University of Virginia Press.
Gluckman, M. (1956) Custom and Conflict in Africa. London: Blackwell Publishers.
Gluckman, M. (1971) ‘Tribalism, ruralism and urbanism in South and Central Africa’ in Turner, V. (ed.), Colonialism in Africa 1870–1960. Vol. 3: Profiles of change: African society and colonial rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grimm, M., Hartwig, R. and Lay, J. (2013) ‘Does forced solidarity hamper investment in small and micro enterprises?’ IZA Discussion Paper 7229. Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
Guyer, J. I. (1993) ‘Wealth in people and self-realization in equatorial Africa’, Man 28 (2): 243–65.
Guyer, J. I. (2011) ‘Describing urban “no man's land” in Africa’, Africa 81 (3): 474–92.
Hanson, H. E. (2003) Landed Obligation: the practice of power in Buganda. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.
Jones, J. L. (2010) ‘“Nothing is straight in Zimbabwe”: the rise of the kukiya-kiya economy 2000–2008’, Journal of Southern African Studies 36 (2): 285–99.
Kapchan, D. (1996) Gender on the Market: Moroccan women and the revoicing of tradition. Philadelphia PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Mayer, P. (1971) Townsmen or Tribesmen: conservatism and the process of urbanization in a South African city. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mbembe, A. and Roitman, J. (1995) ‘Figures of the subject in times of crisis’, Public Culture 7 (2): 323–52.
Monteith, W. (2017a) ‘Showing “heart” through ethnography: ethical entanglements in a Ugandan marketplace’, CITY 21 (2): 178–89.
Monteith, W. (2017b) ‘Markets and monarchs: indigenous urbanism in postcolonial Kampala’, Settler Colonial Studies, pp. 119 [online].
Musisi, N. (1995) ‘Buganda women's night market activities’ in Ekechi, F. K. and House-Midamba, B. (eds), African Market Women and Economic Power. Westport CT: Greenwood Press.
Naliwaiko, A. (1990) ‘The bag boys: Nakasero market boys’. MISR Occasional Paper 8. Kampala: Makerere Institute of Social Research.
Nuttall, S. and Mbembe, A. (2008) Johannesburg: the elusive metropolis. Johannesburg and Durham NC: Witwatersrand University Press and Duke University Press.
Owusu-Sekyere, E. (2014) ‘Scavenging for wealth or death? Exploring the health risk associated with waste scavenging in Kumasi, Ghana’, Ghana Journal of Geography 6: 6380.
Pietilä, T. (2007) Gossip, Markets, and Gender: how dialogue constructs moral value in post-socialist Kilimanjaro. Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Scherz, C. (2014) Having People, Having Heart: charity, sustainable development and problems of dependence in central Uganda. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.
Simone, A. (2004a) For the City yet to Come: changing African life in four cities. Durham NC: Duke University Press.
Simone, A. (2004b) ‘People as infrastructure: intersecting fragments in Johannesburg’, Public Culture 16 (3): 407–29.
Singer, S., Amorós, E. and Moska, D. (2015) Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: 2014 global report. London: Global Entrepreneurship Research Association (GERA).
Southall, A. and Gutkind, P. (1957) ‘Townsmen in the making: Kampala and its suburbs’. East African Studies 9. Kampala: East African Institute of Social Research.
Teppo, A. (2015) ‘Moral communities in African cities’, Anthropology Southern Africa 38 (3–4): 284–9.
UN-Habitat (2010) Solid Waste Management in the World's Cities. London and Washington DC: Earthscan for United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
Weiss, B. (2002) ‘Thug realism: inhabiting fantasy in urban Tanzania’, Cultural Anthropology 17 (1): 93124.
Wirth, L. (1938) ‘Urbanism as a way of life’, American Journal of Sociology 44 (1): 124.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 25 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 205 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 23rd March 2018 - 23rd April 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.