Risky Hearts: Nigerian Marketcraft in the Global South
Since the 1990s, bustling trade sites across Asia and the Middle East have seen an uptick of thousands of African merchant travelers. This dissertation traces how these manufacturing and commercial landscapes between Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have been transformed by the emergence of a key set of actors - a young, mobile mercantile generation from the massive petrostate of Nigeria. Drawn from 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork based primarily in the Nigerian megacity of Lagos, as well as the contemporary African trade sites of Dubai, Istanbul, and Guangzhou, the dissertation analyzes how such south-south mobilities have transformed the politics of commercial space and nationalist imaginaries, both transnationally and domestically. First, the dissertation argues that such far-flung commercial mobilities are underpinned by highly decentralized and monopoly-resistant transnational market formations in Nigeria that are defensive against corporate and non-black foreign actors. I employ the concept of marketcraft to highlight the centrality of processes of security and protection in market formation, which are shaped by the affective orientations, ethics, and historical contingencies of the actors and politics that form them. Second, the dissertation examines how Nigerian merchants engage with ethno-regional politics and neo-secessionism upon return and how transnational south-south diasporic formations have transformed Nigerian social imaginaries and discourses of postcolonial political and economic sovereignty.