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Hustling Is Not Stealing

Stories of an African Bar Girl

While living in West Africa in the 1970s, John Chernoff recorded the stories of “Hawa,” a spirited and brilliant but uneducated woman whose insistence on being respected and treated fairly propelled her, ironically, into a life of marginality and luck as an “ashawo,” or bar girl. Rejecting traditional marriage options and cut off from family support, she is like many women in Africa who come to depend on the help they receive from one another, from boyfriends, and from the men they meet in bars and nightclubs. Refusing to see herself as a victim, Hawa embraces the freedom her lifestyle permits and seeks the broadest experience available to her.

In Hustling Is Not Stealing and its follow-up, Exchange Is Not Robbery, a chronicle of exploitation is transformed by verbal art into an ebullient comedy.  In Hustling Is Not Stealing, Hawa is a playful warrior struggling against circumstances in Ghana and Togo. In Exchange Is Not Robbery, Hawa returns to her native Burkina Faso, where she achieves greater control over her life but faces new difficulties. As a woman making sacrifices to live independently, Hawa sees her own situation become more complex as she confronts an atmosphere in Burkina Faso that is in some ways more challenging than the one she left behind, and the moral ambiguities of her life begin to intensify.

Combining elements of folklore and memoir, Hawa’s stories portray the diverse social landscape of West Africa. Individually the anecdotes can be funny, shocking, or poignant; assembled together they offer a sweeping critical and satirical vision.

496 pages | 2 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2003

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology

Table of Contents

Excerpt from "Junior Wife"
Preamble: Stories and Their Critics
Africa: The End of the Earth Where the World Began
The Politico-economic Techno-philosophical Socio-historical Global-Developmental Backdrop
The View from Ground Level
Cities as the Heavens of This Earth
Commodity Traders
Digression on the End of the World
Ethnography to the Second Power
The Brer Rabbit School of Feminism
Procedures to Protect Identities
A Note on the Text

Part 1: Into the Life
1. Not Bad as Such
Like a Letter
The Village of Don’t-Go-There
More Aunts
A Brief Adolescence
Junior Wife
2. The Life
Paradise Hotel
Cheap Money
The Price of Tea
Janet’s Baby
The Problem of Being Small
Married without a Ring
Reflections: After the First Year as Ashawo
3. Problems of Self-Empowerment
Repaying Rough with Rough
The Lebanese Twins
Deviant Sex
Really Deviant Sex
What No Girl Says
Butterfly Wings
The Man with Four Noses
Case Histories

Part 2: With the British in a Provincial Capital
4. The Chief of Bagabaga
Nigel’s Courtship
The Two Wives of the Chief of Bagabaga
Jack Toronto
Roads Not Taken
5. Fucking English People
William and Abena
Reflections: Property and Family
Power Show for Cigarettes
Nigel’s Mouth
A Beating among Friends

Part 3: Into the Life Again
6. Avoiding the Life
A Ghanaian Boyfriend
Reflections: An Independent Life
7. With Jacqueline
Into the Life Again
At Podo’s House
The Turkey-Tail Man
8. A Bad Sickness
The Treatment
Love and the Banana

Part 4: Juju
9. The Sheer Ubiquity of It
Issahaku’s Medicine
Christmas for a Juju
The Keta Girls and the Seaman
10. Witches
Babies as Strangers
The Witchcraft of the Senior Mother
Belief in Witches
Befriending a Witch
Interlude: A Special Child
Befriending a Witch (Conclusion)
Revenge of a Bedwetter
11. Child of the God
A Wonderful Man
Pennies in the Hair
Interlude: Village Playtime
Return to the Village
From Frying Pan to Fire
Reckoning with the God
12. Black Power
Calling the Lost People
The Master of the Dwarves
Showing the Power

Part 5: The Life in Togo
13. A Fast Boy
The Rich Biafran
Frankie and Antonio
Frankie’s Game
14. A Nice Prison in Togo
Django and the Fucking Germans
Interlude: The Maidservant’s Tale
Louky’s Problem
Prisoners for the Lions
If All the Prisons Were like This
Fish from the Sea in Vaginas
15. I Remember Mama
The Trouble with Three Friends
Quarreling in Secret
Killer Girls from Ghana


Society for Humanistic Anthropology: Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing

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