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WAGED ENTREPRENEURS, POLICED INFORMALITY: WORK, THE REGULATION OF SPACE AND THE ECONOMY OF THE ZIMBABWEAN–SOUTH AFRICAN BORDER

Abstract
ABSTRACT

Keen to show the fluidity of border areas, and the limits of state control, much anthropological scholarship on borders highlights arrangements, activities and opportunities that pass beneath the official radar. But while such a clandestine focus casts border dwellers as preoccupied with resisting state regulation, this article shows how Zimbabwean–South African border dwellers make the most of their location by being visible to state officials, as waged farm workers. They seek agricultural jobs as a foothold in building lucrative businesses. Moreover, waged farm workforces are hubs of border trade, as workers remit goods for resale as a response to the crisis at home in Zimbabwe. The article therefore questions the wider theoretical opposition between the creative entrepreneurship of the informal economy and the drudgery of formal employment. Formal and informal modes of livelihood constitute one another, intersect and are interdependent. This article unpacks the spatial and temporal articulations between waged work and other means of making ends meet. In so doing, it suggests fixating less on the border itself as a distinctive feature, replete with smugglers and murky goings-on, and appreciating the various meanings of work in borderland economies.

RÉSUMÉ

Dans un souci de montrer la fluidité des régions frontalières et les limites du contrôle de l’État, une grande partie des travaux anthropologiques consacrés aux frontières met en exergue les modalités, les activités et les opportunités qui échappent à la surveillance officielle. Or, alors que l'accent mis sur la clandestinité présente les frontaliers comme des personnes préoccupées à résister au contrôle de l’État, cet article montre comment les habitants de la zone frontalière entre le Zimbabwe et l'Afrique du Sud profitent de leur situation géographique en étant visibles au regard des agents publics, en tant que travailleurs agricoles salariés. Ils recherchent des emplois agricoles qui leur servent de tremplin au développement d'activités lucratives. De plus, la main-d’œuvre agricole salariée représente une plaque tournante pour le commerce frontalier, avec des ouvriers chargés de faire passer des marchandises destinées à la revente, en réponse à la crise qui frappe le Zimbabwe. L'article remet donc en cause l'opposition théorique plus large entre l'entrepreunariat créatif de l’économie informelle et la pénibilité de l'emploi formel. Les modes de subsistance formels et informels se constituent mutuellement, s'entrecroisent and sont interdépendants. Cet article met à jour les articulations spatiales et temporelles entre le travail salarié et d'autres moyens de joindre les deux bouts. Ce faisant, il suggère de moins se focaliser sur la frontière elle-même en tant qu’élément distinctif pullulant de contrebandiers et d'affaires louches, et d'apprécier les différentes significations du travail dans les économies des régions frontalières.

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Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
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