Beyond remittance

Evading uselessness and seeking personhood in Fouta Djallon, Guinea

by Susanna Fioratta

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Remittance networks built through transnational migration have transformed local economies as well as social lives in many parts of the world. In this article, I examine the relationship between transnational migration and local business practices for ethnic Fulɓe people of the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea. Although some Fouta Djallon residents have withstood poverty with the help of remittances from migrant relatives, many migrants fail to earn money abroad. Although it seldom leads to economic success, migration remains a popular undertaking, especially for young men. Meanwhile, nonmigrants engage in small business projects that yield little or no income. Analyzing informants’ critiques of “uselessness,” I argue that both risky migration quests and seemingly irrational business practices are fueled by a common desire to achieve social personhood under adverse structural conditions. Apparent striving for success mitigates failure to send or earn money even while reproducing ideals of mobility and entrepreneurship in responsible personhood.