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Boredom and Belonging in Niger


Boredom and Belonging in Niger

Niger most often comes into the public eye as an example of deprivation and insecurity. Urban centers have become concentrated areas of unemployment filled with young men trying, against all odds, to find jobs and fill their time with meaningful occupations. At the heart of Adeline Masquelier’s groundbreaking book is the fada—a space where men gather to escape boredom by talking, playing cards, listening to music, and drinking tea. As a place in which new forms of sociability and belonging are forged outside the unattainable arena of work, the fada has become an integral part of Niger’s urban landscape. By considering the fada as a site of experimentation, Masquelier offers a nuanced depiction of how young men in urban Niger engage in the quest for recognition and reinvent their own masculinity in the absence of conventional avenues to self-realization. In an era when fledgling and advanced economies alike are struggling to support meaningful forms of employment, this book offers a timely glimpse into how to create spaces of stability, respect, and creativity in the face of diminished opportunities and precarity.

264 pages | 15 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology


"Masquelier discusses Niger's fadas—informal gathering places where unemployed men gather to socialize and form new relationships and a sense of identity. Fadas are a consequence of widespread underemployment, and the author uses them to illuminate the life worlds of young Nigérien men. In seven thematic chapters, the author explores the existential value of tea making; of fashion, hip-hop, and religion; and of weight lifting and graffiti—all of which are part of the fada experience. But Masquelier's real subject is time, her thick descriptions of ritual, place, and process notwithstanding. Time is not so much passed as enlivened in the fadas: young men are simultaneously waiting and making their future together. A wonderful demonstration of ethnography and an admirable example of 'anthropology of the good'. . . will be valuable to scholars of Niger in particular and West Africa generally. Highly recommended. "


“This vivid and humanizing portrayal of young men’s lives in urban Niger challenges many assumptions about Islam, masculinity, and ‘stuck youth’ in Africa. Fada is a must-read for gender and African studies scholars, as well as those interested in aesthetics and emergent youth cultures in the global South.”

Marcia C. Inhorn, Yale University

“With Fada, Masquelier provides a sensitive, nuanced, and exhaustive understanding of the lived experience of young men and women in urban Niger. Masquelier’s unparalleled ethnographic appreciation of communities in Niger and her depth of experience allow her to capture the fadas as ‘dwelling’ in all their innovative and compelling forms. These are the ‘moral laboratories’ where solidarities are forged and tested, where sociality is offered up with tea and hip-hop, and where people are on the move even as they carefully wait for what the future holds.”

Brad Weiss, College of William & Mary

“A brilliant ethnographic and theoretical intervention graced by elegant writing. This book will captivate anyone with an interest in youth culture in demographically explosive, employment-challenged contemporary Africa. The fada where precarious youths congregate in the cities of Niger are social laboratories, at once sites of participatory politics and biting critique, of boredom and masculine conviviality, of hope and dreaming, of sartorial excess and Muslim piety. This is an immensely informative and pleasurable read.”

Charles Piot, Duke University

"Masquelier’s highly sophisticated ethnography skillfully weds vivid thick description of quotidian lived experience that highlights local voices with original theoretical in‐sights. The result is a complex, engaging monograph that is indispensable for understanding the ways by which urban youth navigate the challenges they face in the world’s poorest country with agency and dexterity, while simultaneously contributing important theorization of youth, gender, masculinity, identities, and the urban."


Table of Contents


One / Waiting for Tea
Two / The Writing on the Walls: Ma(r)king the Place of Youth
Three / Snapshots: Bringing (Invisible) Women into View
Four / Hip-Hop, Truth, and Islam
Five / Keeping Watch: Bodywork, Street Ethics, and Masculinity
Six / Dress and the Time of Youth
Seven / Zigzag Politics: Tea, Ballots, and Agency




Royal Anthropological Institute: Amaury Talbot Prize
Honorable Mention

African Studies Association: Best Book Award

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