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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Economic runaways: patronage, poverty and the pursuit of 'freedom' on Sierra Leone's maritime frontier
Author:Diggins, Jennifer
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute (ISSN 0001-9720)
Geographic term:Sierra Leone
labour relations
rural areas
External link:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0001972014001041
Abstract:As a result of the autopsy of Sierra Leone's civil war, we have become familiar with a rather dystopian vision of 'traditional' economic life in that region. Combatants often described their family villages as spaces where profound inequalities were hidden within households; where labour exploitation was woven through kinship relations. This article follows several young men who fled conditions of bonded labour in their rural homes: not to join the war but to seek a new life in the commercial fishing economy. Elsewhere across the postcolonial world, there is a rich ethnographic literature illustrating that people on the fringes of the global capitalist order respond with profound unease as their economic lives become ever more strongly regulated by impersonal market forces. Less often acknowledged is the possibility that, for some people, in some contexts, severing social relations might be exactly what they want, and that therein lies the greatest appeal of an economic life characterized by market transactions. For the young men described in this article, commercial fishing appeared to offer a level of personal 'freedom' unimaginable within the patron-client structures of village life. However, most find themselves drawn rapidly back into new forms of extractive relationships. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French [Journal abstract]