Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Making gains from industrial scrap: Small -scale production in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
by Linganzi, Vanessa, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2008, 514; 3336522
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines how producers in the capital city of Burkina Faso manage to generate gains in producing utilitarian goods from scrap materials. Aluminum-smelting, tinsmithing, and tire-workings are three modern trades that have developed with the rising import of scrap supplies and consumer goods from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Operating outside the circuits of development aid, NGOs, and microfinance programs, these producers have maintained their activities for over three decades despite the structural limitations of their economy, seizing every new commercial opportunity that the booming capital city offers.

This research combines several methodological tools to better capture how producers understand and generate gains. After mapping, surveying, and making an inventory of sixty workshops across the city, I selected four of them to carry out an intensive observation of their production, marketing, and accounting practices. I completed my observations with the collection of work histories and qualitative interviews about issues of wealth, success, and poverty. Finally, I realized a survey on the consumer population of aluminum ware.

After decades of studies of the informal sector that mostly presented a negative portrait of these activities, I suggested examining producers' practices and organizations in terms of gains. This concept enabled me to identify a whole range of positive outcomes that producers make from their activities beyond mere economic profit. If these activities are economically gainful and gain-oriented, they also produce other types of gains that operate with different scales of value (see Guyer 2004:20). Producers' economic motivations interweave with social ones, influencing the way they manage their time, space, relationships, and money. Yet, despite the fact that they do much better than making ends meet, producers often assess their situations negatively. They complain about their lack of money and means in general. They play down their ability to improve and place their hope in Westerners and going abroad. As decades of development programs have not proven very fruitful, I suggest that the challenge resides not in the means put in place but in people's conceptions about themselves and their situations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hansen, Karen T.
Commitee: Carruthers, Brucer G., Guyer, Jane I., Launay, Robert
School: Northwestern University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Burkina Faso, Gains, Informal sector, Ouagadougou, Scrap materials, Small-scale production, Values
Publication Number: 3336522
ISBN: 978-0-549-89927-3
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