In This Review

Congo-Paris: Transnational Traders on the Margins of the Law
Congo-Paris: Transnational Traders on the Margins of the Law
By Janet Macgaffey and Remy Bazenguissa-Ganga
Indiana University Press, 2000, 206 pp

This study by two experienced anthropologists examines the world of informal commerce between Europe and Africa, particularly as carried out by traders from Kinshasa and Brazzaville through their personal networks centered in Paris. Faced with disorder and economic breakdown in their home countries, these enterprising men and women have found ways to evade the normal rules of travel and exchange and to exploit opportunities to supply niche markets in Europe's immigrant communities. By recording and analyzing life histories, the authors show how traders construct and organize their businesses, build on relationships of trust with family, friends, and members of their ethnic groups, and ultimately develop identities that provide meaning, status, and zest in their precarious lives. A fascinating look at the underside of globalization and what the authors call the counter-hegemonic perspective of debrouillez-vous (fend for yourself) among those excluded from the world of "legitimate" commerce.