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Title: Youth, presence and agency: the case of Kigali's motari
Authors: Rollason, W
Keywords: Rwanda;anthropology of youth;social relations;agency
Issue Date: 2017
Citation: Journal of Youth Studies
Abstract: This paper concerns young men who drive motorcycle taxis in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Through an ethnographic account of the livelihoods of these motari, it seeks to account for their continued presence in a city whose authorities are openly hostile to their business, yet in which they remain a significant social force. I argue that it is not either by the exercise of ‘agency’ that motari achieve a social presence in Kigali, but through the social relations in which they are engaged. These relations immobilise them and effectively prevent them from mounting any concerted political challenge to hostile city authorities. However, I suggest that this lack of agency is one reason for their significance, since it makes them available as a resource for the schemes of others. I use this case study to argue for a rethinking of the notion of agency in the anthropology of youth. Rather than celebrating autonomous action or the creative, subversive play of the young, I propose instead a relational understanding in which the capacities and opportunities presented by groups of people in social relations grounds their social significance. It may be the very fact of young people’s domination that makes them socially significant.
ISSN: 1367-6261
Appears in Collections:Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Research Papers

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