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In February 1999 the tragic New York City police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed street vendor from Guinea, brought into focus the existence of West African merchants in urban America. In Money Has No Smell, Paul Stoller offers us a more complete portrait of the complex lives of West African immigrants like Diallo, a portrait based on years of research Stoller conduc In February 1999 the tragic New York City police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed street vendor from Guinea, brought into focus the existence of West African merchants in urban America. In Money Has No Smell, Paul Stoller offers us a more complete portrait of the complex lives of West African immigrants like Diallo, a portrait based on years of research Stoller conducted on the streets of New York City during the 1990s. Blending fascinating ethnographic description with incisive social analysis, Stoller shows how these savvy West African entrepreneurs have built cohesive and effective multinational trading networks, in part through selling a simulated Africa to African Americans. These and other networks set up by the traders, along with their faith as devout Muslims, help them cope with the formidable state regulations and personal challenges they face in America. As Stoller demonstrates, the stories of these West African traders illustrate and illuminate ongoing debates about globalization, the informal economy, and the changing nature of American communities.


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In February 1999 the tragic New York City police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed street vendor from Guinea, brought into focus the existence of West African merchants in urban America. In Money Has No Smell, Paul Stoller offers us a more complete portrait of the complex lives of West African immigrants like Diallo, a portrait based on years of research Stoller conduc In February 1999 the tragic New York City police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed street vendor from Guinea, brought into focus the existence of West African merchants in urban America. In Money Has No Smell, Paul Stoller offers us a more complete portrait of the complex lives of West African immigrants like Diallo, a portrait based on years of research Stoller conducted on the streets of New York City during the 1990s. Blending fascinating ethnographic description with incisive social analysis, Stoller shows how these savvy West African entrepreneurs have built cohesive and effective multinational trading networks, in part through selling a simulated Africa to African Americans. These and other networks set up by the traders, along with their faith as devout Muslims, help them cope with the formidable state regulations and personal challenges they face in America. As Stoller demonstrates, the stories of these West African traders illustrate and illuminate ongoing debates about globalization, the informal economy, and the changing nature of American communities.

30 review for Money Has No Smell: The Africanization of New York City

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Ledrew

    Well, I loved Paul Stoller's "In Sorcery's Shadow", and that ethnography was written a good ten years before this one... So, let's see if time has helped Stoller's pen and see if he can manage a perfect five this time... ... ... Or not. For fans of Sorcerys Shadow, this will be a real disappointment. It is the driest, most uninspired book I've ever read. It reads as a simple text book, with none of the flavor or zest of the previous text. Money Has No Smell tells he story of the Africanization of Ne Well, I loved Paul Stoller's "In Sorcery's Shadow", and that ethnography was written a good ten years before this one... So, let's see if time has helped Stoller's pen and see if he can manage a perfect five this time... ... ... Or not. For fans of Sorcerys Shadow, this will be a real disappointment. It is the driest, most uninspired book I've ever read. It reads as a simple text book, with none of the flavor or zest of the previous text. Money Has No Smell tells he story of the Africanization of New York City. Basically what that means is that it follows the lives of West African traders living on the streets as vendors in Harlem and the surrounding areas. While this sounds promising, what it becomes is simply the summarized events of many peoples lives. Heavy on the summary. One of the charms of Sorcerys Shadow was it's tendency to recount actual dialog within it's pages. This lead to people telling their stories in their own words, which made what would have been very dry very interesting. You get to know the people and care about them. That doesn't happen here. It drones on forever. You will find yourself reading pages and pages and forgetting what you read seconds later. It does have some wonderful data on Afrocentrism, and it's effect on the activities of the traders, historical figures like Malcolm X, and even the commercialization of events such as Kwanzaa. Sadly, most of the information presented could have been acquired on Wikipedia. And been more interesting. 1/5. Some might call that harsh. I mean, it IS what an ethnography. It is the way a scientific anthropological study should read... Not an excuse, especially following Stoller's previous offerings. A good text book should make you want to read. This fails to teach and fails to interest. Absolute fail.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amaha

    An anthropologist embeds himself in the community of West African "traders" (street vendors) operating in NY in the 1990's and documents their lives, businesses, relationships, and networks. This is one of the better social science works I've read about African immigrants in America, largely because of the depth and texture of observation. I thought some of the theoretical framework fell flat- I'm not sure there's any real value in using Baudrillard to explain how African vendors simulate Africa An anthropologist embeds himself in the community of West African "traders" (street vendors) operating in NY in the 1990's and documents their lives, businesses, relationships, and networks. This is one of the better social science works I've read about African immigrants in America, largely because of the depth and texture of observation. I thought some of the theoretical framework fell flat- I'm not sure there's any real value in using Baudrillard to explain how African vendors simulate African-ness for African-American customers or how selling knock-off apparel and bootleg videos works. Some of the descriptions of immigration law are wrong and probably would have been best omitted. And I thought Stoller forced the cultural continuity argument a bit: yes, many of the Fulani and Hausa vendors come from family traditions of trading and selling in African markets, but Stoller doesn't address the many street vendors who were middle-class professionals in Africa and have reinvented themselves in the US due to labor market conditions. And make no mistake, despite some of the cover blurbs, this is a book about street vendors, not African immigrants in general- there are, for example, virtually no women present. But that specificity is precisely what makes this book interesting and useful. The book's account of the fight in the 1990's between the vendors and Giuliani about shutting down the 125th Street "African market" and relocating it to 116th Street (where it is now), is an important piece of NY's urban history, as seen by some of its participants. And I really appreciated how Stoller depicted the intricacy of the family, personal, and business networks of West African vendors, demonstrating the complex transactions behind something as simple as a West African man selling shea butter or CDs on the street.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    A fascinating, but often repetitive account of West African merchants in New York City and the intersection of their home culture, language, customs, and religion with "American-ness." For Africa-philes, or anyone who has lived in West Africa (I have) or New York City (I haven't), this book is a good read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    I had to read this for a cultural anthropology class. It isnt the type of book I would read on my own, but it was interesting!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    for lovers of african culture...enjoy!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dovofthegalilee

    I was disappointed in this book. There could have been so much more but in the end it seemed that it just went into circles, small circles at that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    sukhman bains

  8. 4 out of 5

    Silvanna Virzi

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kate Thomas

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Bogic

  11. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Wells

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kenzie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ilana

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carmen Romero

  18. 4 out of 5

    A

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Sanjaya thedjoisworo

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy Neumeyer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anna R Bergdall

  24. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kara Mathews

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lucero

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachael Richardson

  29. 5 out of 5

    ted

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

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