This chapter introduces the reader to the profound cultural paradox at the heart of this book: that mobility—particularly transnational migration—is both a cherished collective value and an increasingly restricted and impossible goal for the majority of Dakar’s residents. Beginning with the anthropologist’s story of “arrival” in the field, the introduction considers the urban embouteillage as a tangible expression of this paradox and as a critical indigenous framework for making sense of its contradictory effects on urban life and policy. The chapter does three things: It familiarizes the reader with the concept of the bottleneck and its everyday uses. It reflects on the challenges and opportunities offered by ethnographic research in this volatile context. It elaborates the bottleneck as an instance and site of infrastructural overload; a gendered experience of citizenship; an everyday bureaucratic reality after structural adjustment; and a critical vantage point for writing about Africa’s worldliness.
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