Fada: Boredom and Belonging in Niger

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

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.
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About the author

Adeline Masquelier is professor of anthropology at Tulane University. She is coeditor of Critical Terms for the Study of Africa, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
May 17, 2019
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9780226624488
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / General
Social Science / Developing & Emerging Countries
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Bori, in the Mawri society of Niger, are mischievous and invisible beings that populate the bush. Bori is also the practice of taming these wild forces in the context of possession ceremonies. In Prayer Has Spoiled Everything Adeline Masquelier offers an account of how this phenomenon intervenes—sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically—in human lives, providing a constantly renewed source of meaning for Mawri peasants confronted with cultural contradictions and socio-economic marginalization.
To explore the role of bori possession in local definitions of history, power, and identity, Masquelier spent a total of two years in Niger, focusing on the diverse ways in which spirit mediums share, transform, and contest a rapidly changing reality, threatened by Muslim hegemony and financial hardship. She explains how the spread of Islam has provoked irreversible change in the area and how prayer—a conspicuous element of daily life that has become virtually synonymous with Islamic practice in this region of west Africa—has thus become equated with the loss of tradition. By focusing on some of the creative and complex ways that bori at once competes with and borrows from Islam, Masquelier reveals how possession nonetheless remains deeply embedded in Mawri culture, representing more than simple resistance to Islam, patriarchy, or the state. Despite a widening gap between former ways of life and the contradictions of the present, it maintains its place as a feature of daily life in which villagers participate with varying degrees of enthusiasm and approval.
Specialists in African studies, in the anthropology of religion, and in the historical transformations of colonial and postcolonial societies will welcome this study.
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