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BottleneckMoving, Building, and Belonging in an African City$
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Caroline Melly

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226488875

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226489063.001.0001

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Telling Tales of Missing Men

Telling Tales of Missing Men

Chapter:
(p.131) Five Telling Tales of Missing Men
Source:
Bottleneck
Author(s):

Caroline Melly

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226489063.003.0006

This chapter focuses on the most tragic of Dakar’s bottlenecked flows: in 2006 alone, tens of thousands of clandestine migrants, the vast majority of whom were men, departed from West Africa’s shores aboard rickety fishing boats called pirogues, headed for “Europe”—despite the well-known fact that nearly all of these voyages ended in repatriation or death. Why participate in a voyage—one that required a steep financial investment—that was almost certain to end in failure and loss? At first glance, these doomed voyages may appear to be evidence of the state’s or neoliberalism’s failure or, seen from another perspective, as the epitome of entrepreneurial risk taking and casino capitalism. Taking a different approach, this chapter uses the concept of embouteillage to analyze the vibrant if volatile economies, identities, and programs that pirogue voyages produce. It pays specific attention to the lively rumor and storytelling conventions that publicly criticized and celebrated clandestine migration. These everyday efforts to come to terms with and manage “crisis,” this chapter argues, in fact query the utility of that term in the first place, drawing attention instead to the modes of self- and state-making made possible by these failed voyages.

Keywords:   clandestine migration, failure, entrepreneurialism, risk, crisis, rumor, storytelling, state, West Africa

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