The Making of Entrepreneurs in a West African Muslim Trade Diaspora
Dr. Paolo Gaibazzi
Endeavouring to shed light on the nexus between neoliberal globalisation and Islamic revivalism, this project investigates the legacy of one Muslim trade diaspora (the jula) in the Gambia river valley. Its objective is to understand how Islam inflects economic rationalities (and vice versa) by focusing on the entrepreneurial careers of today’s generation of young jula. In the past, these young businessmen would have ordinarily emigrated abroad. With this option obstructed by the restrictive immigration policies in desirable countries of destination, a number of them join transnational commercial firms created by migrant relatives or start new businesses in the Gambia. Far from simply constituting economic ties and activities, commercial and migrant networks have also spread new views and practices of Islam in Gambia’s business community and society. Religious and economic changes create novel challenges and complicate received meanings of work, money and travel in the day-to-day activity of these Muslim entrepreneurs. The project thus explores the specific discursive practices through which ‘entrepreneurship at home’ becomes lucid and viable as both a livelihood and a way of being Muslim in transnational Gambia.