Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationColumbia U.
Grant numberGr. 9591
Approve DateApril 13, 2018
Project TitleDavies, Nile, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Becoming Natives: Place and the Politics of Belonging in Sierra Leone,' supervised by Dr. Rosalind Morris
NILE DAVIES, then a graduate student at Columbia University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2018 to aid research on “Becoming Natives: Place and the Politics of Belonging in Sierra Leone,” supervised by Dr. Rosalind Morris. Fieldwork and archival research conducted in the Western Area of Sierra Leone investigated the effects of speculative capital on the built environment through the political economy of land and the construction of vast mansions for the newly wealthy. The research sought to understand the conditions that facilitated an increasing concentration of esoteric wealth at the expanding urban frontier of Freetown, spurred by the false dawn of a transformative mineral “boom” and a rush of foreign loans, accompanied by prophesies of miraculous growth. Studying the layered material history of the region in the wake of rapid post-war reconstruction, the research shows how the experiences of migrant workers in the community of IMAT index the values and social relations that structure an administratively volatile and “disaster-prone” landscape. This landscape, the investigation finds, is host to a precarious class that subsists by its proximity to the capital of dangerous construction work, its attendant ecological harms and bodily burdens. Ethnographic attention towards the vernacular architectures of an ambiguous “development” reveals the effects of new money as it circulates through and refigures the city, presenting a crisis of relation between ends and means, and the anxieties of “community” – the moral problem space of yawning material disparities.