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The Right to the Remainder: Gleaning in the Fuel Economies of East Africa’s Northern Corridor

By Amiel Bize

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Cite As:
Bize, Amiel. 2020. “The Right to the Remainder: Gleaning in the Fuel Economies of East Africa’s Northern Corridor”. Cultural Anthropology 35 (3):462–486. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca35.3.05.

Abstract

This article argues for the importance of the remainder as a key concept in economic transactions at the edges of liberalized market economies. It tracks the East African roadside trade in siphoned fuel, where lorry drivers sell “leftover” fuel to dealers who then resell it to rural hinterlands. Rather than seeing this exchange as illicit, drivers and dealers viewed themselves as legitimately trading residual bits of a commodity. They constructed their right to sell fuel, and their understanding of profit, around the idea of the remainder, rather than around concepts of income, price, or even usefulness. Here, I analyze the remainder as a widely recognized concept of valuation. Drawing on accounts of the practice of gleaning (an ancient ethic of redistribution organized around harvest leftovers) and examining in detail the calculative practices and metaphors used both by drivers and fuel dealers, I demonstrate the centrality of the remainder to popular economies in East Africa today. Roadside exchanges, I argue, reveal established practices of distribution and entitlement that both practically and conceptually challenge liberal common sense around smooth flow, equal exchange, and price-based markets.

Muhtasari

Nakala hii inaangazia salio au baki kama moja ya dhana msingi katika uchumi za pembeni mwa soko huria. Hususan inaangazia soko la mafuta ya kufyonzwa. Uchumi huu unatekelezwa kando ya barabara kuu za Afrika ya Mashariki. Unahusisha madereva wa lori za masafa marefu kuuza mafuta ‚yaliyobakia‘ kwa wafanyabiashara ambao nao huyachuuza mapembezoni. Madereva na wafanyabiashara hawa hukana uharamu wa kazi hii na kuitambua kama biashara halali ya mabaki. Wahusika hawa hueleza haki yao ya kuuza mafuta haya kwa kupitia dhana ya salio. Hawatumii dhana maarufu kama mapato, bei au hata manufaa. Hapa, ninachambua salio kama mbinu mbadala ya kufumbua swala la thamani. Ninaandika nikifuatilia masimulizi ya kitendo cha kubuga (utaratibu wa kale wa usambazaji mali uliohimiza matajiri kubakisha masazo baada ya mavuno kwa manufaa ya wasiojiweza). Ninanuia kukagua kwa undani istiari za kibiashara pamoja na taratibu za kukokotoa zinazotumiwa na wanaoendeleza biashara hii. Kwa njia hii, ninakusudia kufafanua umuhimu wa salio katika shughuli za uchumi usio rasmi. Napendekeza kuwa biashara ya kando ya barabara hubainisha desturi mbadala za usambazaji wa mali pamoja na mbinu bunifu za kuwasilisha madai ya kimali. Kama dhana na pia kwa matumizi ya kila siku, desturi hizi zinakaidi matarajio ya itikadi ya soko huria, kwa mfano mtiririko huru wa utajiri, mabadilishano sawia, na masoko yanayozingatia bei kwa utambuzi wa thamani.

Keywords

value; remainders; gleaning; illicit economies; moral economy; thamani; salio; kubuga; biashara (haramu/halali)