Fada: Boredom and Belonging in Niger (University of Chicago Press 2019) is a study of the kinds of experimentation and creative engagements that young men in the urban public spaces of Niger undertake when confronted with the precarity and boredom of unemployed adult life. “The sitting that kills the pants” as a reflection of the space of the fada seeks to present a counterpoint to the ‘crisis of youth’ that is widely discussed and regulated in the global south. Adeline Masquelier offers a compelling ethnography of the possibilities of the fada, a space where young men gather, faced with the anxiety of being ‘good at being a man’ (Herzfeld 1985). The fada becomes a productive site to establish regimes, friendships and alternate practices of self-realization through music and dance, drinking tea and making conversation, discussing and practicing romantic courtship, pursuing zigzag politics and cultivating sartorial choices. These solidarities and the possibilities which coalesce around it situate the fada with the resources to counteract the anxieties that the elderly have about the ‘inversion of the inter-generational contract’ (Roth 2008). It does so by providing a set of repertoires that make adulthood meaningful in the absence of employment and state support.
Adeline joins us for a conversation about her book on the history of the fada as a masculine-urban space, the study of ‘generation’ as an analytic for the study of kinship and change particularly in the study of so-called traditional societies in Africa and its bearings on the current field of ‘youth studies’, the possibilities of heterosexual love and romance imagined homosocialy and the practice of a visual language in ethnography.
Bhoomika Joshi is a doctoral student in the department of anthropology at Yale University.