A Snapshot of Happiness: Photo Albums, Respectability, and Economic Uncertainty in Muslim Senegal

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2014-02
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Cambridge University Press
Abstract
Young women who live in the improvised urban spaces on the outskirts of Senegal's capital city, Dakar, extemporize their respectability in a time of fiscal uncertainty through personal photography. The neighbourhood of Khar Yalla is an improvised, interconnected and multilayered space settled by families removed from the city centre during clean-up campaigns from the 1960s to the 1970s, by families escaping conflict in Casamance and Guinea-Bissau, and by recent rural migrants. As much as Khar Yalla is an improvised neighbourhood, it is also a space of improvisation. When women pose for, display, and pass around portraits of themselves at key moments in their social life, whether in the medium of social networking sites or photo albums, they reveal as much as they conceal the elements of individual and social life. They index their social networks and constitute their urban space not as peripheral, but as central to the lives and imaginations of their siblings and spouses who live abroad. Photographs actively shape and construct urban spaces, which are often loud, unruly and fraught spaces with vast inequalities and incommensurabilities. How women deal with economic and social disparity, within their own families, communities, and globally, is the subject of this article.
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Buggenhagen, Beth. 2014. A Snapshot of Happiness: Photo Albums, Respectability, and Economic Uncertainty in Muslim Senegal. Africa. 84 (1): 78-100.
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