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Coastal Sierra Leone
Materiality and the Unseen in Maritime West Africa

$99.99 (C)

Part of The International African Library

  • Date Published: August 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108471169

$ 99.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Against the backdrop of a threadbare post-war state and a global marine ecology in treacherous decline, Jennifer Diggins offers a dynamic account of post-war Sierra Leone, through the examination of a precarious frontier economy and those who depend on it. The book traces how understandings of intimacy, interdependence, and exploitation have been shaped through a history of indentured labour, violence, and gendered migration; and how these relationships are being renegotiated once more in a context of deepening economic uncertainty. At its core, this is about the material substance of human relationships. One can go a long way towards mapping the town's shifting networks of friendship, love, and obligation simply by watching the vast daily traffic in gifts of fish exchanging hands on the wharf. However, these mundane social and economic strategies are often inflected through a cultural dynamic of 'secrecy', and a shared sense of the unseen forces understood to inhabit the material world.

    • A contemporary ethnographic study of everyday life in coastal Sierra Leone, accessible to a non-specialist audience
    • Offers a fresh, richly illustrated perspective on many key themes, such as gender, kinship, material culture, war, and poverty
    • Provides a contemporary complement to an older regional literature exploring the role of 'secrecy', and 'the invisible' in everyday material life
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Jennifer Diggins’s Coastal Sierra Leone is a brilliant, compelling, ethnographically rich account of the intersection of morality and economy in a busy fishing community. Beautifully written, the book offers riveting stories of everyday struggles to survive in a place of ecological depletion, state neglect, and uncertain economic and social change. Yet as much as Diggins’s account evokes empathy for her interlocutors, Coastal Sierra Leone is equally noteworthy for the author’s unflinching attention to the underbelly of social life in this maritime community. At once sensitive to people’s hardships and attuned to the moral hazards of making a living and a life in such precarious circumstances, Diggins neither romanticizes nor pathologizes her subjects. I strongly recommend reading it all. I couldn’t put it down.' Daniel Jordan Smith, American Ethnologist

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108471169
    • length: 248 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.53kg
    • contains: 11 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    A note on translations
    List of abbreviations
    1. Introduction
    2. Context, history, methods
    3. Economic runaways
    4. Plantain island sirens
    5. Potato rope families
    6. Occult economies and hidden topographies
    7. Material words
    8. Conclusion

  • Author

    Jennifer Diggins, Oxford Brookes University
    Jennifer Diggins is a Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University. Her ethnographic research focuses on fishing communities in coastal Sierra Leone, exploring how intimate social relationships have been shaped through histories of migration and economic change, and asks how fishermen and women struggle to navigate precarious livelihoods through contexts of extreme poverty, insecurity, and environmental decline.

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