Alms and anonymity in Women’s lives and economies in Dakar
My ongoing work draws on the routines of women’s everyday life in Dakar — visiting relatives and going to market, talking and not talking, cooking and eating, getting into and staying out of trouble — and on media representations of life in Dakar as framed by local Wolof and francophone popular culture, news media, fiction, and drama. One of the everyday activities that I have focused on is the city’s large economy of small-scale alms giving, sarax. In these transactions, female householders give the equivalent of millions of US dollars annually in cash and grain to anonymous homeless boys. My studies of Dakar extend into larger circuits of information and exchange in which these practices are embedded, most notably international rice markets and supply chains.
I am currently developing a project on the first decade of Senegal’s implementation of new intellectual property and privacy legislation, in relationship to global flows of facial recognition and other biometric data. So far, this work focuses on Senegalese practice and law related the use of surveillance cameras and other means of capturing images of the face and other personally identifying information, setting these laws in the context of both Senegalese folk models of privacy and expanding global markets in personal information, particularly the rapid expansion of facial recognition technologies in private sector and governance projects worldwide.
A series of earlier projects address the ways in which American Evangelical Christianity, and US popular culture more broadly, frame “the real” truth about people’s intentions and states in an interior realm, legible in emotional states of the body. This set of concerns continues in some writing in progress, which discusses American Evangelical missionary projects in Dakar, Senegal.