We Are Not Watchmen
An Ethnographic Field Report about Prestige and Politics amongst Private Security Guards in Lusaka, Zambia
Jakob Jakobsen June 2008 Department of Ethnography and Anthropology University of Aarhus, Denmark Supervisor: Lotte Meinert
“Here we sit stranded. Lost like soldiers in the bush. Don’t know where we are from. Don’t know where we are going.” (Michael, 36)
NB: All names in this report have been changed in order to ensure complete informant safety. Likewise, the front page photo is from another African country. Still, I must ask the reader to treat the disclosed information with uttermost care. A less specific report will be made available online. Thank you.
Chapter One: Introduction .............................................................................................................1 1.1 Outline of the Report............................................................................................................................1 Chapter Two: Preliminary Motivation.......................................................................................2 2.1 Snakes in Paradise.................................................................................................................................3 2.2 The Question............................................................................................................................................3 Chapter Three: Entering the Field...............................................................................................5 3.1 Training Camp ........................................................................................................................................6 3.2 Time Out of Mind ...................................................................................................................................8 3.3 Blue Shoe Recruiting .........................................................................................................................10 3.4 Dynamic Role Playing .......................................................................................................................11 3.5 Graduation.............................................................................................................................................13 3.6 Alpha Zone.............................................................................................................................................15 3.7 Partnerships .........................................................................................................................................15 3.8 Andrew, Bob, Charles and Dave....................................................................................................16 3.9 Words of Guarding.............................................................................................................................19 3.10 Guard Performances.......................................................................................................................19 3.11 Life Story Telling ..............................................................................................................................21 3.12 Talking Field Notes..........................................................................................................................24 3.13 Ethical Considerations...................................................................................................................25 3.14 Manoeuvring Guards ......................................................................................................................27 Chapter Four: Different Guards.................................................................................................28 4.1 Cultural Style Revisited....................................................................................................................29 4.2 Localism and Cosmopolitanism....................................................................................................33 4.3 Guard Orientations ............................................................................................................................34
4.4 Recurring Rioting ...............................................................................................................................39 4.5 Rates of Workforce Turnover........................................................................................................39 4.6 Resistance..............................................................................................................................................42 4.7 Styles of Politics...................................................................................................................................44 4.8 Four Styles of Guarding....................................................................................................................47 Chapter Five: Prestige and Politics ..........................................................................................48 5.1 Andrew: “So That It balances”.......................................................................................................49 5.2 Bob: “Could Have Been”...................................................................................................................53 5.3 Charles: “My Uniform Stinks” ........................................................................................................56 5.4 Moderate Self-Making.......................................................................................................................58 5.5 Workforce Politics..............................................................................................................................60 5.6 Alternative Guard Styles..................................................................................................................62 5.7 Radicalization.......................................................................................................................................63 Chapter Six: Conclusion................................................................................................................65
Figure One. Parade Attendance ................................................................................................................21 Figure Two. Seasonal Turnover................................................................................................................41
Notes ...................................................................................................................................................67 List of References ...........................................................................................................................71
Chapter One: Introduction For two weeks in the spring of 2007, I joined a training camp for private security guards in Lusaka, Zambia. Thereafter, I worked for three months as a residential night guard in one of Lusaka’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, Kabulonga. This is the field report reflecting purpose and findings of this engagement. More than four decades of economic upheaval since independence in 1964 have transformed Lusaka from a relatively prosperous capital by African standards into a more common Third World city with many of the attendant problems, including crime, housing shortages, unemployment, and disease. There is no escaping the difficulties that these conditions created following the economic breakdown that set in during the early 1970s. The process has its own agony being experienced differently according to one’s gender, age, class and more. These experiences, in turn, shape urbanism in its present Zambian form. This project focuses on the complexity of ordinary urban living in present Zambia by means of following some of the numerous Zambian workers who are just barely making it – and themselves – within an, in many cases, relatively new urban environment (Hansen 1997:5ff.). More specifically, this project intends to document experiences of urban labourers partaking in an expanding, increasingly globalized private security industry in Africa, including Zambia (Abrahamsen and Williams 2006, Avant 2006, Jayadev and Bowles 2006, Cock 2007). 1.1 Outline of the Report The report begins by clarifying motive, methodology and first impressions from the field. Regarding motive, the study reflects on the irony of trying to depict the perspective of troubled guards, being initiated as a result of somewhat pedantic worries of the anthropologist’s own security. Subsequently, there is a great deal of significance to the same anthropologist’s rising from the dregs of a training camp to real-life guarding in shiny black boots and uniform, an experience combined with collating life stories from working colleagues. This is, indeed, a grounded study. Following ethical considerations, the first section closes by highlighting the 1
dynamic social order observed so far, what might be termed “social navigation” (Vigh 2003, 2004) on behalf of guards. Next, following time and greater integration in the company, I suggest that relatively flexible demarcations of guard identities within the company tend to be articulated along the lines of two contrast continuums. Firstly, the guards tend to enact a style that is either mainly cosmopolitanist or localist. Secondly, as a result of dissatisfaction with work conditions, the guards tend to combine this style with either overt or covert workforce resistance. The resulting four styles of guarding constitute an “etic” categorization of guards (Harris 1979). Finally, it is my ambition to connect this picture to a wider Zambian reality as this is revealed by life stories. Life stories suggest that guard styles relate to an economic downturn calling for pragmatic self-making that in turn generates mainly covert forms of workforce opposition. Among other reasons, it is because of overall prestige and power in pragmatic self-making that workforce opposition displays a tendency towards mainly covert forms. Thereafter, inspired by Gupta’s (2001) critique of Scott, I suggest that there is probably more promise to overt opposition, however not necessarily in the current forms within the company. I close the chapter by suggesting that there is perhaps a change towards more overt workforce opposition underway.
Chapter Two: Preliminary Motivation1 Arriving in Lusaka Airport in August 2005 due to my wife’s employment at the Danish Embassy, I observed that I had not only reached a new continent, country and capital, but that I also now had a new identity. As I approached the queue of passengers waving their passports, airport staff came to escort me. They kept on calling me “sir.” When we had reached our new home, my son was awakened by the sound of an impatient car horn. The driver unrolled his window and a warm, subSaharan morning breeze wafted in... He honked again. From the back seat of a red and white flag-decorated Toyota Land Cruiser, I observed the wall surrounding 2
our new house. Behind a three meter wall topped with barbed wire, it clearly had to be quite spectacular. Outside the wall was Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, a country currently rated as number 165 out of 177 in terms of human development. An average Zambian was said to have a life expectancy of 41 years (UNDP 2008). Inside, were swaying mango, banana, orange, litchi and avocado trees. A swimming pool flirted with shimmering sun. This piece of Lusaka, indeed, was out of the ordinary. 2.1 Snakes in Paradise Looking a bit like Adam and Eve under that African sun, my wife and I had to get used to the modern cherubs provided. There was one during day time, and two during night time. Nowadays carrying neither wings nor spears but a company branded uniform, their first and foremost task was still in a sense the same as back then in Eden. Their task was to prevent inappropriate movements between two close, yet profoundly different worlds. As a down-to-earth aspect of this, they noted the date, time and number plate of every car crossing their border. Their round-the-clock presence at our premises mirrored a house equipped on the inside with panic buttons. In just about every room there was a discrete white button to press in case of some unforeseen emergency. When pressing the button a signal was sent to a special rapid response vehicle loaded with four to six armed guards2, who were supposed to reach your house in an instant. Windows and doors were protected behind rows of vertical metal bars, adding a prison-like appearance to the house. Inside this prison was a special zone that could be locked off separately, more commonly known as â€œsafe haven.â€? Inside the gates of such a fear-ridden world, it was difficult not to wonder whether you were in fact in danger. Just a little bit? From there it was just a small step to find our guards very interesting. 2.2 The Question Because of this new interest of mine, I came to catch about thirty sleeping guards within the following twelve months. Whenever, I left my bed during night time and worked my way through the padlocks, I found them sleeping. The few exemptions 3
were really rare. And they did not last for long... During the course of time, I became gradually more and more provoked and puzzled by this sleeping on duty. For one thing, guards at our residence appeared to have good working conditions. They had been provided with a small collection of books and games. They had been given a radio and a pocket TV. We served them supper every evening. Because of various Danida bonuses they received a higher salary than their colleagues. My wife and I topped up that salary. Also, I spent a lot of time with them. Being a foreigner, it was easy to go and ask them about this or that strange occurrence. Thus, they happened to teach me about many different matters. They told me about their national soccer team, not least about their star player Collins Mbesuma. They told me about their not quite so popular President Mwanawasa. Why, then, did they fall asleep â€“ knowing this would lead to termination of their employment? Why did they not try to capitalise on their relatively privileged work conditions? Why did they not, in short, reciprocate?
Burglar Bars, Kabulonga
Guard Room, Kabulonga
Chapter Three: Entering the Field In order to understand this behaviour, I embarked on a research methodology in line with the goal of anthropology presented by Malinowski, founder of British social anthropology. His famous “Argonauts of the Western Pacific” published in 1922 declares that, “The final goal (...) is to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realise his vision of his world” (1961:25). Following this goal, of course, my plan was not to make any “magical intrusion into their consciousness” (Geertz 2000:57). My plan was to gather readily observable expressions in terms of words and action, from where to draw some informed conclusions. Yet, I could not rely on a too detached research role. Divisions in terms of race, educational level, religion, wealth and more carried an all too obvious risk of guards getting affected by my presence, in turn making it very difficult to get in touch with their 5
common everyday activities, what I hoped to learn more about. More specifically, they might associate me with being either a manager or a client, someone posing either a change or threat. With this concern in mind, I asked for a meeting with the top managers of the company, where I was about to conduct my study3. Earlier, they had approved a written, more general project proposal. Now, I suggested actively working as a guard as method. I planned to sign up as a guard recruit. I anticipated that this method would help build the guards trust in me. Put differently, I hoped to be granted access to the world of guarding by the guards themselves. Besides building trust, thus hoping to improve my chances of accessing “the native’s point of view,” there was another potential advantage to this approach, relating to rules of human perception and communication. Attending closely to the world of guarding already at the stage of recruitment carried the promise of my being able to notice differences between the stage of recruitment, and actually guarding, thus being able, in the longer run, to comprehend and present the world of guarding itself better. Hastrup explains that it is by means of “exaggeration of differences that it is possible for anthropologists to write about another culture” (1989:15). Her point is that the anthropologist’s own world is by necessity always present when writing about another. In this case, I tried to enable a perspective based upon both my own world and the world of recruits. 3.1 Training Camp A rusty gate opens. An open jeep packed with people leaves the premises. As they pass us, the pale manager grabs his beard. “So, they are using the rapid response vehicle for football again,” he says. We enter. The air is clouded with sand that has been whirled up by the jeep that has just left. We drive through a narrow passage between two lines of scrap cars to which a number of vicious dogs are tied on a leash. The car stops in front of a low, run-down building. I open the car door and wrinkle my nose, being struck by an acrid smell. The smell comes from a pot over an open fire boiling with bones and fat, dog food under preparation. Am I really ready for this? 6
My question is answered at 5.45 am, the following morning, my debut day as a guard recruit. It comes to me whilst running like a madman close to collapse with a fellow guard recruit on my back up and down the narrow passage between the scrap cars and dogs. I am in excellent shape. I outrun by far the other recruits who are in turn rewarding me with many compliments. Yet, I am not exactly happy. Like waves from a stone in still water a sudden change of sentiment unfolds. I feel dizzy. I am struck by nausea to which I cannot succumb since we are already well into another round of sadistic exercises. We are lying in the sand doing press ups. We are jumping like frogs up and down. We look like crabs moving sideways. We touch our toes and back again. After yet another set of painful exercises we are told to follow the instructor into a straw thin strip between the small building and wall, from where we reach a ten to twelve meter wide sandy corridor squeezed in by walls topped with barbed wire reaching a height of at least five meters. The corridor connects a tarred road and a busy bar corner at the local market. At that point I know that I am not ready. After yet another round of dreadful frog jumps, I have to bend over and catch my breath. The world is swimming. I get up and stumble to the wall behind the other recruits who are still jumping up and down. I put my hand on the wall so as not to fall while vomiting. The sun is hot now. There is dust everywhere. I have been turned into tender dog food.
Dog, Training Camp 7
3.2 Time Out of Mind If one of those vicious dogs ate my field notes, with the exempt of beginning and end, anybody finding the leftover would be puzzled. The first and last notes from my time in training camp appear contradictory: The training consists of three components: Physical exercise, drill and classroom lessons. I do not know which part is the worst. To run, to turn left and right several hundred times in a row or to sit for hours in a dark classroom writing off words from the blackboard. I think it is awful. I am worn out physically and mentally. (Day 4) When we returned [from road run] we did not want to stop. We kept on moving our legs up and down, clapping our hands and singing out loud, while facing a wall in front of us. About a song later, the instructor, who had been running with us, told us to stop. We shared some sweaty hugs and high fives while cheering. Excellent! (Day 10) It was the daily, two to three hours of drill performed in the sandy corridor behind the training camp – to which was added about two to three hours of drill-like physical exercise, such as road running in singing columns – that changed my attitude4 – as predicted by historian and war veteran William McNeill. McNeill recalls how “marching aimlessly about on the drill field, swaggering in conformity with prescribed military postures, conscious only of keeping in step so as to make the next move correctly and in time somehow felt good” (1995:2). McNeill goes on to declare that “euphoric response to keeping in time is too deeply implanted in our genes to be exorcized for long. It remains the most powerful way to create and sustain a community” (ibid: 150). While proposing a somewhat peculiar biological explanation, McNeill does seem to be right in his description of the effects of drill – at least when it comes to my own experience. In my field notes describing my last days of training, there is a comparable pitch of bliss, if not outright euphoria: When we run and sing it is like dancing. When we do the drill it is like dancing. That dancing expresses community somehow. It makes us see past differences and feel connected following our sweaty bodies moving like one. Yes, it is boring. Yes, it is hard. Just great! (Day 11) 8
The other guard recruits appeared to have a related experience of drill. In the six semi-structured interviews, I conducted by means of a tape recorder sharing soft drinks and snacks at a nearby bakery’s quiet backyard, all interviewees talked very passionately about drill. I expected this passion to be the case. Recruits often practiced drill during break times. Ultimately, I was not as comfortable with drill as they were. The problem for me related to its contradiction with my 1980s upbringing, during which I had so many times lost my breath in bewilderment when reading about undergraduates constructing “waves” (Rhue 1988), obeying horrendous orders (Milgram 1974) or very physically mistreating each other (Zimbardo 1972). Now, I observed my own body craving mass behaviour, more specifically some kind of “orgiastic” fusion5 (Fromm 1956). I was betraying my childhood credo: Individuality.
Scrap Metal, Training Camp
3.3 Blue Shoe Recruiting One of the crucial side effects of the strong community spirit evolving among the guard recruits, not the least because of drill, was its great impact on my research role. Finally, I was no longer saluted “yes, sir.” I entered the ranks of recruits on fairly more equal terms: This morning, someone prodded my back. We were standing at attention outside the instructor’s scrutiny. Apparently, the distance between my toes could be more accurate. Thanks? (Day 3) Related, the two instructors began to treat me like a more normal recruit. Normal treatment included sanctions in case of improper marching, turning, mode of talk, appearance, saluting and much, much more. To be called “villager” constituted a standard verbal punishment. Sometimes, instructors found it necessary to put a tyre around a recruit’s neck, after which they would tell the recruit to run or jump a certain level. I was never subjected to this specific punishment. A few times, however, I became the object of other disciplinary initiatives: He [the instructor] stood in front of the group. He did not say a word. I hurried up through the narrow passage between the barking dogs and scrap and asked for permission to join the group. He did not answer. He told me to frog jump to the main gate and back again. After that, he told me to do twenty press ups. Now, I could join. (Day 9) At other times, I was just ridiculed: Today, I was selected from the group, being told to demonstrate how to march properly. Initially feeling very proud, I panicked. Suddenly, I could not remember how to march at all. The instructor shook his head. He said, I looked “like a bloody kangaroo”. (Day 5) What happened at this stage of field work was a transition in research role from someone seemingly associated with management or clients to a recruit of some kind, what might be termed “recruit novice” (Wadel 1991:34). Yet, there was still a very long way to go before entering the ranks of real recruits, as indicated, for 10
example, by the slightly different color of my shoes. They were dark blue instead of black. Hence, it was obvious to any insider that I was undergoing my training under some kind of special conditions. I learned this by change from a guard who had been able to follow my training from his location nearby. Since considerable time had elapsed since being recruited, I was surprised to learn about the apparent significance of this tiny detail. The incident suggested that there had probably been a much greater distance between me and the other recruits than I had first anticipated or desired. The disparity might be out into words by means of reference to Barthâ€™s distinction between role and status (1966:3). In terms of formal status, I was a guard recruit, however, in terms of role appearance, I was not. This was not only caused by me asking too many questions, which I of course did, but also by a great number of apparently insignificant details beyond my awareness, for example that my dark blue, instead of black shoes, had been noticed and analyzed. 3.4 Dynamic Role Playing The fact that I stood out was also apparent, whenever I opened my backpack to look for something to drink or eat. The great majority of guard recruits survived the ten hours and fifteen minutes of training by simply drinking tap water. Similarly, they could not afford the equivalent of thirty cents to catch a minibus either to or from training. Unlike me, they had to walk: Jakob: How long time does it take to walk the distance? George: It takes about three hours. Jakob: Three hours? George: Three hours, yes. Maybe two, if you are trotting. Jakob: Do you catch a minibus? Henry: I walk. There is nowhere to get the money. Jakob: There is no money? Henry: No money. Jakob: How long time does it take to walk the distance? Henry: About two hours and thirty minutes.
Given such grave conditions it was impossible to play the role of blue shoe recruit throughout a full day of training. Sometimes, I entered a role displaying clearer differences, for example when eventually supplying lunch for the group6. I also played the role of unionist. This role became predominant in the days following the death of a recruit’s four-year-old daughter. She had apparently died from TB. I was moved by this event. In order to help the recruit in view of this tragic event, I decided to review the employment contract, which we had been going through stage by stage in the classroom a few days before. In there it was stated that in the event of death of a spouse or child, an employee would be given a funeral grant of the equivalent of roughly fifteen dollars, one fifty kilo bag of corn flour and seven paid days off. Yet, the recruit in question was not provided with any of these benefits. Although also affected by the mourning father among us, the other recruits tried to ignore the issue. The company would never give such a grant anyway, they said. Their advice was to drop it. It was not easy for me to accept such a stance. I believed that I had a voice, hence had to use it somehow. In effect, I soon found myself engaged in a long and relatively intense negotiation with the training camp manager. One of the big stumbling blocks was the question of when exactly a contract signed by two parties was binding. The training camp manager suggested that the contract first had to be registered in the company’s computer, yet agreed to obtain clarification from the HR manager. Two days later, the matter was resolved. The recruit was provided with his entitled benefits. Moreover, the company demonstrated its condolences by sending two of its representatives to the baby daughter’s funeral7. Recruits, in general, were devout Christians. A recruit eating corn porridge with the right hand might well begin to eagerly gesticulate with the left – suddenly close to solving, how God can be three, yet one. Around the perimeter of the lunch eating circle, the first bibles would soon be opened to provide solid evidence of this or that conclusion. The camp was full of devoted Christians:
Jakob: Where would you like to be deployed? Richard: I cannot choose. Only God can. God is going to make use of one of our instructors to deploy me at this or that location. Jakob: So, you do not have any preferences? Richard: It is not up to me to decide. Who am I to say, “I don’t want this place, this place is dirt, this place is not good.” Only God can do that. Jakob: What church do you go to? Richard: Church? Jakob: Yes. Richard: Pentecostal Holiness. Jakob: Where? Richard: In Kanyama District. Jakob: So, you are a very religious man? Richard: I am, yes. And that is why, Mr. Jakob, it is not easy to choose my own assignment. If God wants to put me somewhere, how is it possible for me to choose otherwise? God knows, where he will put me. Following my Christian upbringing and personal beliefs, I could relate quite easily to this dimension. I had no problem participating in the daily prayer. Also, I tried to contribute to the ongoing theological debates8. So, who was I in the training camp? My role was placed somewhere in between the two extremes described by Eriksen – the role of clown and the role of expert researcher (1997:27f.). Neither was I considered and treated as outright silly nor as someone who needed to be accorded excessive respect. I wore a different, less extreme set of caps, including that of the blue shoe recruit, wealthy foreigner, unionist and Christian9. 3.5 Graduation We had been told by the training camp instructors that we could expect to spend up to four weeks in camp before being deployed, depending on our performance. On my twelfth day of continuous training – weekends off did not exist – I was asked to go and meet the chief commander of Delta Zone. From there I went and guarded a nearby internet cafe. The following day a recruit was expected to return to camp. If his or her10 test deployment had worked out well, he or she would soon be given a permanent location. I asked for a reprieve from that programme. Being in dire need of a break, as well as needing time to prepare an interview guide, I took advantage of 13
being now granted the privilege of some time off. Two days later, I returned to camp, where I conducted eight semi-structured interviews. Two instructors explained their methods of training, state of recruits and company in general. Six recruits told me about their reasons and experiences of being recruits, as well as of their expectations of future guarding. I intended to accomplish very flexible interviews11. Meanwhile, I graduated. The training camp manager told me that I had been promoted to the field itself, more specifically Alpha Zone.
Guard Room, Training Camp
3.6 Alpha Zone The company had no trucks for transporting guards to and from work; hence it failed to meet the standards of other security companies. In effect, guards had to be grouped geographically. The guards connected to the Alpha Zone, one of six company zones, came from Kalingalinga, Helen Kaunda, Mutendere and Kalikiliki compounds12. Following post-colonial Lusaka’s urban design, described by Hansen (1997:1ff.), they had to walk about five kilometres to reach the centre of Alpha Zone activities, the Alpha Zone Headquarters in Kabulonga. The Alpha Zone Headquarters was a dark room of about five square metres packed with two large desks. It was located in a rundown shopping complex with virtually no customers. The shopping complex was surrounded by a metal fence topped with barbed wire. When looking through that fence from the outside, from one of the main streets in Kabulonga, by-passers could glimpse a roundabout within an open horse shoe. An impressive tree marked its centre. Around the tree was sand, a handful of grass here and there and timber scattered all over. Nobody cared about the timber. It was just there. This was the site of the mandatory Alpha Zone parade planned to take place exactly from 16.30 to 17.00. “The guys need some time to go and get themselves positioned properly [before 18.00], but not so much that they could be tempted to go home and drink,” the Alpha Zone chief commander explained. “They drink too much,” the assistant commander added. I could not help but notice the smell of alcohol on his breath. He was drunk. 3.7 Partnerships Thus welcomed by the Alpha Zone chief commander and assistant, I embarked on actual night guarding. Every afternoon around 16.00, I put on my uniform, packed some warm clothes and food, a book and something to drink, grabbed my bike and rushed to the Alpha Zone Headquarter. After yet another round of mandatory, strikingly sluggish marching, turning, saluting and so forth compared to drill in the training camp, I asked a residential night guard13 if I might join him14 at his location. From 18.00 to 06.00, we would be guarding together. Each partnership lasted two to four nights15. 15
3.8 Andrew, Bob, Charles and Dave16 Andrew was my first guarding partner. His location was very close to the Alpha Zone Headquarters. This was a rather busy location in that it contained not only a private home but also a small guest house. We had to open and close the gate about ten times every evening. The four shifts, I spent with Andrew included a shared supper with the chief commander or one of his two assistants depending on their rotation. Andrew was the cook. He used an old pot placed on a spiral of burning metal connected to the wall plug. He fed the boiling water with a stream of white corn flour. The resulting porridge – nshima – was served with a relish made of boiled tomato and onion cut into bits placed on a piece of cardboard on the ground between us. There was another treat at Andrew’s. He had access to a TV. It was placed in the living room in the guest house. Sometimes Andrew entered, turned on the TV and left again. Through the window, he could now watch the news, a certain soap opera, sport events and more. An event of great importance, while I was there, was the Champions League soccer final. The long awaited rematch between AC Milan and Liverpool did not just draw the attention of the assistant commander, Andrew and me. In addition, two other guards abandoned their locations. Andrew and I did not sleep in the guard room17. We did not want to run the risk of being found there during the so-called “awkward hours” from 24.00 to 04.00, the time of burglaries. If that happened, we would most likely “be put in a sack and killed,” Andrew explained18. The guard room next door, from where we could barely glimpse our own, provided a safer spot. This room was placed in a corner and was surrounded by tall bushes. Moreover, it was equipped with a safeguarding ladder in the form of a slashed off branch put up against the wall. In addition, we were now three guards working together. This was a good place to rest. Bob, another fellow guard, protected an old couple who was always at home, when Bob arrived. Because they never left the house during night time, there was no gate to open and close. Moreover, two watch dogs patrolled the garden. As can be gathered, Bob did not need to move much during a shift. 16
The first time Bob moved was when the kitchen door was opened and one of the clients called his name. Bob went to the kitchen and got his usual cup of tea and sandwich. He received this through a locked bar door in front of the kitchen, almost as if his clients were afraid of him. The second time Bob moved was some time after midnight. Around this time, he put down his Book of Mormons and found some blankets on a nearby pile of clothes and made himself a bed. From underneath a rusty Toyota Corolla, a convenient shelter against blood-sucking mosquitoes, the sound of a snoring Bob began to spread. He resurrected towards the morning. Bob did not have a guard room. He had been given a white plastic chair in the garage behind the cars. This was his base. At approximately 05.30, Bob would kneel down in front of that chair and thank his Lord and Saviour. The standard term used by guards referring to female clients was “madam,” a term hardly ever used by Charles. When talking about the woman whose house, he guarded, he preferred to use her first name, Beatrice. His surprisingly detailed of Beatrice included links to her British parents, her children who had left home, and their children. For example, Charles claimed to know why the oldest son broke up with his British fiancée. Charles believed that he had good reason to be proud of his performance since so many guards before him – even one of the commanders – had failed to make Beatrice happy. The commander had been fired because of sleeping on duty, something Beatrice did not tolerate at all. Charles was afraid of burglars. Hence, he never left the guard room without first turning on the light. “When I am in the guard house, I turn the light off, when I leave the guard house, I turn it on,” he explained. The point of this procedure was to make burglars go and look for him in the guard room. As a result of their noisemaking, he would have time to react, whatever that meant. Meanwhile, he liked to sleep in a soft garden chair below the living room window. Dave, another guarding partner, did not turn on the light in his guard room at all. Upon reaching his location, he liked to sit or lie down on the concrete bench in the dark listening to loud pop music on his small pocket radio. A few hours later, he would turn on a roll of so-called “dagga” and disappear even further, this 17
time mentally. When reporting on duty, Dave was already severely drunk. Smoking cannabis did not exactly clear his head. Sun-glassed Dave seemed addicted to pop music. Outside the guard room, he hardly ever removed the ear plugs connected to his pocket radio. He wore wrist and neck chains, and sometimes a tight bandana. In these last manners, Dave differed from Charles. Charles had no radio, sunglasses, wrist or neck chain. However, Charles was just as drunk.
Part of a Guardâ€™s Family, Kalingalinga 18
3.9 Words of Guarding During the course of time, I observed that the term “security officer” was of great importance in the company. This term and its negation were used by recruits and training camp instructors in about the same manner. A later round of concluding background interviews with the Alpha Zone chief commander and two managers, confirmed their use of closely related terms. The term “security officer” was negated by the term “watchman,” the latter indicating someone seduced or led astray by the city, hence incapable of taking proper care of himself – the kind of person “going home straight or whatever and stay absent for two or three days or more, whenever salary is paid,” explained one of the managers. Sometimes the implication was of a person who had never really left the village – the kind of person “who always takes off his boots and makes a fire” because of a childhood “spent under a tree,” explained the same manager. In either case the outcome was uncontrollable. It was too close to nature, too close to undomesticated desire, you could say. The term “security officer,” on the other hand, described a guard who was first and foremost educated, someone knowledgeable of advanced technology, for example walkie-talkies and electronic alarm devices, and with a solid background of secondary schooling, as demanded by the management, at least in theory19. A security officer was said to be proud, wearing his well-maintained uniform with self-assured authority. This type of guard was sophisticated. 3.10 Guard Performances Holy and Stuchlik are often cited and built upon because of their observation that there are sometimes huge discrepancies between what people say and do, which is not to be viewed as a dichotomy between “true” or “false,” but as a dichotomy between ideals and ideal realisation (1983:13). In other words, though some ideals are not carried out, they might still be ideals after all. The guard’s ideal identity was the “security officer”. Yet, I observed a set of seemingly related discrepancies, not the least in terms of practices with regard to sleeping on duty, alcohol consumption, uniform use and punctuality. Sleeping on duty, of course, did not relate well to the acclaimed ideal guard 19
identity, yet, as it has been indicated by the examples of Andrew, Bob, Charles and Dave, sleeping on duty might well be best described as an integral part of routine guard behaviour. Seemingly aware of this contradiction, guards sometimes tried to bend definitions. They confirmed to be either “dozing” or “conking,” neither of which, however, was considered identical to “sleeping:” Frank: When you are conking it is as if you are sleeping but your mind is outside. For instance, I might begin to conk soon [here at my location] but I am aware that now I am working. You have to be sensitive enough, even when you are sleeping, that is what conking is. Jakob: It is a kind of light sleep? Frank: Yes, it is a kind of light sleep, something like just enough or so. The problem with this definition of “conk” versus “sleep” was that most guards did not really manage to be “sensitive enough.” Not so much Andrew, but clearly Bob, Charles and Dave, basically slept like rocks every night. By doing so, they displayed a routine guard practice, condemned and common at the same time20. There was a high level of alcoholic consumption among the guards in Alpha Zone. I would estimate that roughly half of the guards were under the influence of alcohol. When attending the Alpha Zone parade, it was not unusual to see a guard, who could neither walk nor talk straight, standing in line surrounded by laughing colleagues, from where he kept on insulting the commander. When the parade was over, the guard began to crisscross towards his location21. Related, a great number of guards would change clothes before and after the parade, indicating that they were not as proud of their jobs as they pretended to be, a practice condemned by the commanders. The commanders criticized guards for being “not proud” to which the guards responded that they were “very proud,” where after they continued as usual. Another discrepancy was related to the issue of punctuality when reporting for the afternoon parading from 16.30-17.00. The self-acclaimed security officers simply did not report on time. Towards the end of my data collection, I decided to include documentation of this phenomenon by means of discretely jotting down arrival times throughout a 20
period of seven days. Data collected on a random Wednesday are presented in figure one below. With about 50 guards in the group, the representative figure also shows that approximately half of the guards missed the parade altogether.
Figure One. Parade Attendance
3.11 Life Story Telling In order to understand guards better, I decided to try to access wider dimensions of their existences. What kind of lives were they living in general? Where did they come from? Where were they going? What kind of other relations and influences were they subjected to and responding to? Within the scope of this study, the method of life story telling appeared to be a good method of answering such questions. Life story telling: (â€Ś) enable us to look at subjects as if they have a past with successes as well as failures, and a future with hopes and fears. It (...) allows us to see an individual in relation to the history of his time, and how he is influenced by the various religious, social, psychological and economic currents present in his world. It permits us to view the intersection of the life history of men with the choices, contingencies and options open to the individual. (Bogdan and Fry 1974:4) 21
Miller (2000:11ff.) outlines a number of approaches to life story telling. One of the features of the so-called “realist approach” is to collect life stories that are as uncontaminated by prior suppositions as possible. The purpose is to induce an objective social reality. On the other hand, the “narrative approach” holds that life stories are always contaminated. Information about a wider context is indirect, mediated through the perceptions generated during the course of the interview situation. Life stories, in other words, are very much situational. The life story tellers, I engaged, displayed a lot of flexibility, implying a high degree of situated reasoning. In the illustration below, Andrew does not know if he likes his job. In the end, he is very proud: Jakob: Would you like your children22 to be guards? Andrew: I would like them to do something better, something positive, and perhaps they will. God helps people, and it would be a testimony for them to tell people that their dad was just a guard, that they have passed through difficulties. Some people would not believe that. Just like you being here, all the way from Denmark, guarding this location with me. If you were standing outside, people would be laughing, saying, “Hey, what about that muzungu [white man] putting on that uniform, he must be desperate of some kind!” (Andrew laughs) Jakob: And they do, I can assure you! (Jakob laughs) Jakob: And then again, maybe it’s actually not that many. Perhaps they think of me as some kind of manager? Andrew: Exactly. Very good. They could think that you are a manager. Jakob: I think, they do. And that is just because of my skin. Andrew: Just because of your skin, Jakob. Jakob: What do you feel when you walk the streets in the uniform? Andrew: Ah, very proud! Jakob: Very proud? Andrew: Very proud! Exactly! In a related example, Bob sees his guard job as part of a God-determined transition away from unemployment and alcoholism, yet he still wants to leave his job. One of his reasons, he clarifies, is to avoid disappointing his children: Bob: It [Bob’s rebirth] was a miracle. It was a blessing. Jakob: Someone helped you? Bob: God helped me. Jakob: How did you feel about that? 22
Bob: I felt great! And I still feel great! I still don’t know what to say, not even during the testimonies we give at Church every Sunday. Jakob: You give a testimony? Bob: Every first Sunday, when there is testimony, yes. Yet, Bob still wants to quit his job: Jakob: My son is proud. He thinks, it’s cool that I am a guard. Sometimes we even drill together. What do your children think? They don’t say, “Hey dad, you are a night shift officer, that’s cool?” Bob: Actually no, they don't. My oldest is still too young, anyway. But, of course one day, he will come to realise what it is that I’m doing. One day, he will come to me and say, “Ah, dad, you are just a guard!” Another trait of the life stories was a frequent mounting of accusations against other people within the company, including guards, commanders, training camp instructors and managers. For example, it was often stated that there was a lot of bribery in the company. All were on sale: Days off, locations, ranks, uniforms and more. In addition, some were said to sexually harass female guards. These accusations were challenging in that it would be unethical to use them as straightforward fact. I had no opportunity of determining whether they were in fact just rumours (Steen 1989). Yet, it would be analytically flawed to disregard them completely. The story tellers intended to pass these more or less alarming accusations on to me. True or false23, what were their motives? As an effect of these accusations, and flexibility more generally, my approach to life story telling became inspired by the narrative approach. When collecting and analyzing life stories, I saw them as interpretations of lived experience being told as a means of “reaching out into the world in order to evoke certain effects and respond to other beings” (Mogensen 1998:50). Put differently, I was mainly interested in finding out what they were “trying to do” (Mattingly 1998:2).
Guard’s Daughters, Kalingalinga
3.12 Talking Field Notes Emerson, Fretz and Shaw (1995:1) remind us, that the core of anthropological field research consists of two inter-connected activities: First-hand participation in some initially unfamiliar social world and the production of written accounts of that world by drawing upon this participation. Field noting is a key aspect of this activity and as such no trivial activity. I was aware of the need of writing down field notes as soon as possible after leaving the field, with as little talk to others about “what happened today” as possible. The objective of this technique is to not deprive the field note writing of its psychological immediacy and emotional release – to try to facilitate rather a “cathartic outpouring” than a “stale recounting” (ibid:41). Consequently, I made use of a tape recorder. This gave me one solid hour before my family woke up, from 06.15 to 07.15, to preserve “vivid impressions” (ibid:41). The downturn of this technique was that I had no access to these field notes afterwards before an assistant had transcribed them24. Accordingly, I sometimes had to put important intermediate field note readings on standby. Thus, I tried to balance an interest – within a larger, relatively participatory 24
research methodology demanding long working hours – in as much “vivid” data as possible, and research direction developing during the course of time, what Wadel terms a “round dance between theory, method and data“ (1991:130ff.). The obvious way of minimizing the lapse in time between observations and writing/talking field notes is to do some preliminary jottings in the field itself. In light of this consideration, I always carried a small note book and a pencil in my uniform pocket. Yet, these jottings still needed to be produced at a certain distance in time from my observations. I feared that too open jotting down of words as they were spoken or details of situations as they were enacted would make me look like someone whose “interest [lay] in discovering [informants’] secrets and turning their most intimate and cherished experiences into objects of scientific enquiry” (Emerson, Fretz and Shaw 1995:20). Hughes is probably right in concluding that “hatred occasionally visited upon the debunking historian is visited almost daily upon the person who reports on the behaviour of people, he has lived among; and it is not so much the writing of the report, as the very act of thinking in such objective terms that disturbs the people observed” (1971:505). Too open jotting, it follows, carried the danger of negatively impacting the trust between us. Hence, I decided to conduct my jottings as discrete as possible. In more practical terms, I sometimes pretended to do some patrolling, giving me a change of jotting. 3.13 Ethical Considerations Upon my entrance into the company, the management expressed fear of being too openly exposed to market competitors. The guards, on the other hand, expressed a fear of being too openly exposed to management: Jakob: What do you think would happen, if you went and told them [the management] about it [too low salaries]? Joseph: They would probably chase [fire] me. Jakob: You would be chased? Joseph: Maybe. Many guards have been chased from this company. In light of these fears, appropriate concealment of company and guard identities became an important ethical consideration. I had to make sure that neither guards 25
nor company would be recognized. This was a part of our “contract.” Regarding the latter, concealment of company identity, it was quite easy to ensure because specific company data, for example years of existence, market share, ownership and so forth, was not pertinent to my study. Hence, it would be easy to conceal the specific company identity. In order to keep the guards unidentified, I had to keep in mind and maintain discretion at every stage of data handling. Accordingly, I was very mindful of my response to questions from some of the guards like what I “might have learned” from this or that specific partnership. I tried to make use of their curiosity to very explicitly state – once again – that I was determined not to expose anyone being involved in my study. Participation ought to involve no risk. Yet, I knew that it would probably be difficult to conceal guard identities in a satisfactory manner at a later stage of research, the stage of report writing. To merely make use of pseudonyms appeared to be an inadequate safeguard because of the low number of informants involved. In the Alpha Zone, there were about fifty night guards and three commanders. In such a small setting it would be easy to recognize the real “Andrew”, “Bob,” “Charles” or “Dave.” Yet, it was not so easy to expand the setting either. To “surf” the company zones, thus integrating more and more informants, implied a possible and problematic inability of getting close to informants, reduction in data quality that is. I never found a satisfactory solution to this dilemma. Thus, this report is full of details that potentially could jeopardise the job of certain individuals. If follows that this report has to be classified. As indicated on its very first page, it is written specifically for study purposes only. In light of this decision, guards and other likewise potentially jeopardized informants, most notable the very few commanders, ought to be very safe strictly speaking. Yet, they might still be “unsafe” on a more personal level, depending on their perception of my presence within their ranks: It is important to display your purpose openly. Generally, undercover research is not accepted. It is a fundamental right of the researched to say no to be studied (Eriksen 1997:28, my translation). 26
Eriksen is, of course, absolutely correct. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to carry out in practice. Especially in a study like this with long and sometimes equally boring working hours, there is a very real danger of the researched and the researcher disappearing in “wild” thoughts. Unplanned, they move from a formal situation lit by informed consent to an informal, slightly darker, not negotiated situation. They enter a sphere of intimacy. Secrets become revealed. Are such data to be used by the researcher? Gammeltoft (2003) advises us to treat our intimate confidantes with loyalty, but at the same time display a kind of “disloyalty”. She says, we owe our intimate confidantes confidentiality, but at the same time owe them to use their stories in representations that are larger than them, provided that we make sure that their identities remain concealed. Concerns of safety influence the way stories are told, when they are told and to whom. But they are also influenced by concerns of social acceptance and access to resources. By telling me their stories, guards made me sense some aspects of their joys and worries, which I am now able to present in abstracted form. By doing so, I hope to see their problems eased. 3.14 Manoeuvring Guards Not the least because of personal, preliminary guard encounters, I sensed that my ability to establishing close contact with guards probably would be of cardinal importance in order for me to access their everyday activities. In effect, I chose to walk a very participatory “path” (Sanjek 1990:398)25. By means of this fundamental methodology, including my approach to life story telling, I came to know guards whose words and actions seemingly were not as stringent or straightforward as they would perhaps have been under some other circumstances. Somewhat comparable to what has been described by Vigh studying militant youth in Guinea Bissau (2003, 2004), although in this case not as extreme, I found myself surrounded by guards whose deeds resembled a kind of “social navigation.” The guards appeared to be “manoeuvring” or “navigating” in and out of situations demanding widely differing responses. On the one hand, guards talked about and performed their guard duties with dedication. Despite working nearly fourteen hours of work per day, seven days a 27
week – deplorable work conditions to which, I will return later in this report – for which they were paid as little as roughly one fifth of one family’s basic needs basket26, their invocation of the term “security officer” was clearly, to some extent, sustained by performances. Following recruits surviving on tap water, walking for hours to and from training, this was hardly surprising. Guards talked and acted remarkable performances. On the other hand, guards would sometimes turn up so late and drunk that it was difficult not to find it a bit odd because of its excessive character. The example mentioned in note 20 of the four guards sleeping as early as 18.30, constitutes one such example. In these manners, guards seemed profoundly estranged. What was this all about?
Chapter Four: Different Guards Guards can influence, and can in turn be influenced by, for example, members of their extended families. They often hear about initiatives aimed at bringing them “development” being discussed in various media, a somewhat “shattered” concept (Ferguson 1999:13ff.) in light of the economic breakdown that set in during the early 1970s, one of the world’s most full-blown and rapid27 (ibid:1ff., Hansen 1997:2ff.). More often than not, churches play a dominant role in the lives of guards. All these and more connections shape the guard identities enacted by, for example, Andrew, Bob, Charles and Dave. In this chapter, I would like to present a picture of the most obvious styles of guarding, I was able to observe. I observed that guards tend to enact a style that is either mainly cosmopolitanist or localist combined with either mainly overt or covert workforce opposition. The resulting four styles of guarding are all unique, while at the same time sharing the same basic components. Before presenting this “etic” categorization of guards (Harris 1979), I turn to the work of Ferguson (1999) in order to clarify the concept “cultural style.” It is a number of different “cultural styles,” that I intend to present in this chapter.
4.1 Cultural Style Revisited Kroeber’s textbook in anthropology from 1948 states that culture and society are counterparts, “Like two faces of a sheet of paper: To each distinctive culture there corresponds, necessarily and automatically, a particular society” (1963:76). This conception enables a reading of cultural differences between societies, for example Tanzania and Zambia (motto: “One Zambia, One Nation”). It does not quite as easily, however, enable a reading of cultural differences within a society. The most common solution to this problem perhaps has been to see a given society itself as a composite, a “plural society” (Kuper and Smith 1969) consisting of many different racial or ethnic groups, each of which, like a society, possesses its own subculture. A second, less widespread solution, though often used when conceptualising Third World countries, has been to invoke evolutionary pluralism, suggesting that the appearance of cultural differences within a society reflect the simultaneous presence of two developmental stages. Within contemporary anthropology, the solution has been to conceptualize “the cultural” (Keesing 1994) as an open-ended, relational and dynamic process, the point being in different ways to break free from “bounded notions of culture so characteristic of a previous era’s anthropology” (Hansen 1997:165). In line with this string of thought, Ferguson suggests that we turn to British post-Marxist studies in order to understand the lives of contemporary Zambian urban workers. In particular, he emphasises the work of Hebdige on British youth subculture in the 1970s, suggesting that we do not understand: (...) the spectacularly and self-consciously “different” styles of punk (...) and other groups (...) as total ways of life [as in either of the above mentioned approaches] but as complex forms of social action that must be interpreted in the context of material life and social relations. Difference here (...) is continually produced within the [same] society. (Ferguson 1999:94, emphasis in original). Inspired by Hebdige, Ferguson presents his concept of “cultural style,” defined as “practices that signify differences between social categories”. Cultural styles, he emphasizes, “do not pick out total modes of behaviour, but rather poles of social 29
signification, cross-cutting and cross-cut by other such poles.” (ibid:95). Ferguson demonstrates his use of the term by referring to the opposed poles of masculinity and femininity in contemporary American society that do not imply a unitary “masculine” or “feminine” mode of behaviour. Because the axis is crosscut by other axes, for example class variation, an upper-middle-class style of being masculine might differ widely from a working-class style of masculinity. Additional stylistic axes may be added as the analysis requires. Sexuality, in example, might cross-cut both gender and class. A male identity might vary according to class, in turn varying according to sexuality (ibid:95). In light of this elaboration, I do not suggest that any of the four styles of guarding, I am about to present, represent “complete coverage” of any informant involved. My focus is on practices signifying differences between social categories within the world of guarding recognized and described in terms of a restricted number of analytically distinct stylistic dimensions. The intersection of stylistic axes that I have decided to emphasize could have been cross-cut by other stylistic axes, for example age, region of origin, specific church membership and more. My intention has been to map stylistic differences that seem to be of particularly significance, more obvious to observe than others, that is. In effect, I have decided to leave out, for example, age, region of origin and other stylistic dimensions. Ferguson continues his clarification of the term “cultural style” by means of criticizing anthropological ideas of culture being slipped on and off manipulatively in response to different situations, in example that “all skill and behaviour learned in town drops off like an old coat when the labour migrant returns home” (Watson 1958, quoted in ibid:96). Ferguson highlights this argument as an important corrective to the then dominating idea of an unchanging rural African unable to adjust to urban conditions, yet, it misses, in his opinion, that ”style tends to stick with a person,” requiring not “simply a situational motive, but a whole battery of internalized (...) capabilities acquired over time” (ibid:96). The case of Bob supports this point. Recently, Bob had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints28 and was now determined to become a “good person,” as he put it. To be a good person included rigid sobriety and an ability to 30
“suffer without complaining.” In order to implement these new beliefs, Bob read his bible for many hours every day/night. Hence, it was puzzling to learn that the chief commander described Bob as the second-most troublesome of Alpha Zone guards. Eventually, I came to see this peculiarity as an effect of past stylistic dimensions that were still “stuck” to him (ibid:96). This was most evident in the way he talked, like Rocky Balboa29, pumping up rusty words one by one by means of powerfully contracting stomach muscles. The resulting mumbling was almost certainly witty. Bob was obsessed with trying to add witty comments. Following this contribution, it was not difficult to understand why the chief commander saw Bob as a troublemaker. This perception, however, differed widely from Bob’s intention. Bob expressed an intention of being a “good person.” Styles, Ferguson continues, are sometimes constructed under a “situation of duress” (feminist Butler 1990, quoted in ibid:99). He says, this is the case with the contrasting styles of localism and cosmopolitanism, he observed among Zambian mineworkers. Their styles are “strategies of survival under compulsory systems [in this case] deteriorating economic space.” (ibid:99). With regard to the guards, I met, Ferguson is right in emphasising that there is not much romanticism at stake when people are forced to walk for two or three hours to and from training in order to save the equivalent of one third of a dollar in each direction or simply skip meals to make ends (still not) meet. When looking for cultural styles under such circumstances, it makes sense to think of these styles as “strategies of survival.” On the contrary, it is not easy to read: (...) some recent revisionist interpretations of poverty – for example, Esteva's celebration of the ”opportunity for regeneration” provided by the working poor's unemployment (1992:21); Rahnema's (1997:x) invocation of the virtues of ”noble forms of poverty”; or Lummis' call for ”discovering that many of the things that have been called ”poor” were actually different forms of prosperity” (1992:49) – without thinking about the decidedly unromantic realities of actually existing poverty in places like Zambia (...) (ibid:249, emphasis in original)
Yet, styles are always cultivated. They require “ease” (Bourdieu 1984:68ff.) that can be achieved only by means of investment, for example in terms of money. As Ferguson puts it, “You buy [either] clothes for your parents or for your girlfriends, [you] cannot afford both” (1999:100). Related, it is necessary to invest energy and dedication, as in the example of Ferguson’s research assistant, who, to Ferguson’s surprise, “spent his spare time drinking not with age mates but with a group of shabby-looking old men” (ibid:100). Andrew used to do the same: Andrew: What I did, Jakob, was to force myself to spend time with the elderly people within [the company]. People were surprised of why Mr. [Andrew] was spending his time with elderly people. Jakob: Why were you doing that? Andrew: Why was I doing that? Because of nothing else but to seek some guidance, nothing else but to seek some help, some advice, nothing else but to seek some... To try to get some ideas about how to get by in my situation, you see. Because I thought that this life that I had engaged in was a very big challenge. That is why I split from the bachelors. Andrew summarizes some of the central points with regard to the term “cultural style.” First, he mentions that it is not impossible to cultivate a new style, but that it is very demanding. You need to practice. Secondly, he states that style is not just about self-making, but also about simply making it, how to “get by.”
Residence, Kabulonga 32
4.2 Localism and Cosmopolitanism Among the copper miners with whom Ferguson worked, it was “impossible not to distinguish two contrasting cultural modes,” he claims, which he terms “localist” and “cosmopolitan” (ibid:91). Stereotypically, the cosmopolitan workers preferred “relaxing in bars and clubs, drinking bottled beer or liquor, listening to Western or ”international” music, speaking English and mixing languages with ease, dressing smartly (even ostentatiously), and adopting an air of familiarity with whites like me” (ibid:92). Stereotypically, the localist workers preferred “drinking in private homes or taverns, preferring ”African” or home-brewed beer, speaking the local languages of their home region, dressing in drab or even ragged clothes, listening to ”local” music, and presenting to a white foreigner like me an impression of intimidation and sometimes even servility” (ibid:91f.). Localist stylistic markers, Ferguson explains, seemed to distinguish those who had a strong sense of continuing allegiance to a rural “home” community, whereas cosmopolitan stylistic markers seemed to distinguish those who were to some extent rejecting rural ties. The former often visited the village and displayed strong ethnic or regional identity. The latter shrugged off localist cultural traits along with an embracing of Western-dominated mass culture (ibid:92).
Barbed Wire Wall, Kabulonga 33
4.3 Guard Orientations It might be tempting to think of localism as a residual category. In the terminology of Wilson, “Africans cannot but wish to gain the respect and to share the civilized status and the new wealth of the Europeans, whose general social superiority is always before them” (1942, quoted in ibid:105). In case of localism constituting an achieved stylistic competence, there is, however, no hierarchical relation between the two categories. In that case localism would comprise an alternative scale of valuation and prestige, coexisting with the cosmopolitan prestige scale. With regard to the localist oriented guards, I met; they did not seem to think of themselves as members of a residual category. On the contrary, they seemed to think that it was the extreme cosmopolitanists who could be labelled as such. For example, such people “failed to plan,” Frank explained. They failed to plan to such an extent that it was actually much better for them to be paid as low a salary as possible. They were unable to handle money: Frank: I always tell these guys that if you fail to sustain yourself with the little money you are getting now, then how about if you one day are to be given a lot of money? How do you think, you will make it then? Yet, localists were not “primitive,” as exemplified by Andrew. Once he wanted to pay me a visit, I sent him a text message asking what kind of drink he would like to be served, since I was on my way to the supermarket. Within a few minutes, he answered “I only take soft drinks. Alcohol has negative impacts on human nature and on economic development.” One of the interesting aspects of this self-assured declaration is its manifest rejection of alcohol consumption. Following Ambler (1990), a tradition of alcohol consumption has played a large role in Zambian history, not the least towards the end of colonialism, explaining the apparent puzzle of some of the first initiatives of the new administration. One of the very “first acts of the new administration was to eliminate the beer halls” (ibid:295) established by the British colonialists in order to control what they saw as “disruptive and dangerous” (ibid:296) drinking patterns. Andrew seems to be more in line with the colonialists’ viewpoint. 34
Yet, there is more. Andrew inserts a reference to “economic development” as reason for his rejection of alcohol consumption, thus invoking a metaphor claimed to “occupy the centre of semantic constellation so incredibly powerful” that there is “nothing in modern mentality comparable to it as a force guiding thought and behaviour” (Esteva 1992:8). The reference reveals that Andrew has been to some extent “caught up in a Western perception of reality” (Sachs 1992:5). As such it is no surprise that urban living is conceived by localist Andrew as an antithesis to “primitive way of living.” Andrew’s statement echoes new localist Bob’s high appreciation of urban “facilities,” not the least “those Italian films, Bud Spencer and Trinity,” that could be watched for “just a coin” in the 1970s, when he first arrived in the town of Kafue. The examples of Andrew and Bob – and Frank who knows how to deal with money – indicates that localism does not come from rural areas, lingering in cities out of inertia, the classic “tribesmen in town” hypothesis (Mayer 1961, Epstein 1967). Following Ferguson, localism is an achieved urban style linked to rural life “not because it is an extension of it, and not because it resembles it, but because it signifies it” (1999:110, emphasis in original). Andrew, Bob and Frank display solid connections to “wide open spaces of modern urbanism” (ibid:110). Regarding guard cosmopolitanism it is perhaps not appropriately described by means of labels such as ”European” or ”Western,” since it also includes, for example, a preference of Congolese Rumba. Yet, the guard cosmopolitanism, I met, did indeed seem to be influenced by Western and Western derived cultural forms. Preferences of beers imported from the Netherlands or South Africa30, Westernstyle pop and rap music, what was referred to as “vibe” music, BBC, Big Brother, fancy bikes, sun-glasses, electronic gear, computers, caps and more, all confirmed a certain Western affinity. Dave, who permanently wore sunglasses, and who was once the owner of a compound cinema, displayed clear cosmopolitan stylistic markers, for example by means of demonstrating excessive knowledge within the field of electronics. Many times during his life story telling, he returned to this subject with confidence, now and then asking if I was still following him:
Dave: I used to run a cinema, you know. To do so you first need to have a very big colour TV, something at least like this, I would say. [He draws it in the air]. Second, you need a first-class DVD player. Now, in those days, I used the videos. Video tapes, you know. You know the video tapes? Jakob: I know them, yes. Dave: And I think, you know about the DVD? Cosmopolitanism differs from localism in terms of being often more “noisy.” One of its versions saw excessively drunk Dave hammer into the Alpha Zone parading ground on his streamlined mountain bike far too late every afternoon. While on parade, still wearing black sun-glasses, listening to “vibe” music on his earphones, he would soon begin to quarrel with the commander in charge. Related, another central feature was a high level of disintegration. Dave, for instance, basically never talked to anyone. After yet after another loud clash with the parade commander, he used to head straight to his location. Illustrating his lack of contact with colleagues, he even managed to miss the news about a certain company riot resulting in the imprisonment of five guards. This riot, to which I will return shortly, was, of course, much discussed. Likewise, Eric (always wearing a trench coat, a backwards pointing farmer’s hat, sometimes sun-glasses) was disintegrated. Reflecting his rather old age of 46 compared to an average of just above 3331 – combined with long working hours32 probably because of nowhere to go except from the guard room to a bar and back again – he resembled a well-known image of a lost “watchman” of cosmopolitanist kind33. Carrying the burden of this resemblance, Eric looked like a not too bright anachronism, someone at the very bottom of the guard prestige scale: Frank: There is this guard [Charles], there is this guard [Eric], all those old people, right? Jakob: Yes? Frank: They don't understand English. Some of them don’t even know how to put their names on the call sheet [circulated at parade in order to keep track of guards’ earnings]. Jakob: Is that really so?
Frank: It is. Long time ago, you see, this job we’re doing was done by old people, someone like that, that kind of people. Back then they were not even asked about their school papers. Jakob: But they are now? Frank: We are. Me myself am a grade twelver. A full grade twelver. Being somehow “outdated,” as in the case of Eric, or of “the future,” as in the case of Dave – who was probably suffering from some kind of brain damage, some of his colleagues suggested – cosmopolitanists appeared to be, in the eyes of localists, somehow misplaced, gone astray, running wild. Why else would someone like Dave repeatedly break the company rules? Why else would someone like Eric live his life in guard rooms and bars? Obviously, they were lost. Cosmopolitanists, of course, denied this categorization. On the contrary, as in the case of Dave, they were very proud of themselves. Young cosmopolitanists like Dave were proud of their solid modern foothold. Eric, Charles and other relatively old cosmopolitanists were proud of their lived experiences, their proven capability of actually making it, or at least of still being here, translating into more or less laconic views of their younger colleagues. A younger guard says about the latter, that “they have had a life, they have worked for the government and whatever, now they have retired actually.” Because of their unwillingness to admit their faults and change, both young and older cosmopolitanists were said to be “stubborn.” Their refusal of self-reform displayed “selfishness.” They were “showing off,” said localists. As indicated by the term “selfishness,” their misconduct was associated with individualism. However, it was not just associated with individualism but with disrespect more generally, a problematic overall lack of humility and loyalty. In the eyes of accommodating, community-seeking localists, they were “cheek.” Before leaving this stylistic contrast for now, it might be worth emphasizing with Ferguson that “people who make [cosmopolitanist] stylistic moves need have no necessary sense of themselves as citizens of the world (the usual definition of cosmopolitan) nor need they have any broad experience of diverse geographical or cultural domains beyond their own” (ibid:212). Hence, in this usage the term implies nothing about travel or cultural competence. 37
The commonality of cosmopolitanists, whatever they may or may not know about the wider world, is that they cannot or will not be “at home” at home. They slap surrounding faces by means of stating, “I am not one of you, I don’t fit within your world (...) I am free from your claims and expectations” (ibid:212). They are the “anti-members” (ibid:212), within the world of guarding.
4.4 Recurring Rioting At the time of my field research, an internal riot stirred within the company. As an effect of delayed payments of their monthly salaries, frustrated guards dispersed all over the city got in touch and walked to the company’s head office. Informed about what was going to happen, management called the police who tried to protect the head office from the angry crowd. Perhaps because of this response, things soon began to escalate. Windows on passing cars got smashed. The office was bombarded with dirt, vegetables, fruit and so forth. Unfortunately, I was not in Lusaka on the day of this occurrence. Hence, I am not able to elaborate on details. I have had access only to differing verbal accounts, for example with regard to numbers said to be in the range from twenty to several hundred guards. Yet, I am still able to use the incident as an illustration of the job dissatisfaction characterising guards. The fact that workers sometimes tried to attack and smash their company’s head office – a phenomenon occurring once or twice every year, guards, commanders and managers agreed – illustrates the deeprooted nature of the guards’ dissatisfaction with their company. 4.5 Rates of Workforce Turnover Rates of workforce turnover constitute another good, yet slightly more complex indicator of workforce dissatisfaction. In this case, workforce turnover rates could be measured by means of reading terminated work contracts. My reading of the two hundred latest terminated work contracts revealed that approximately 80 percent of guards left their jobs, deserted or got fired within the first three years of working for the company. Approximately 30 percent of guards quit their jobs, desert or get fired within one year of employment34. Though obviously not in the low end, it is not straightforward to claim that it is in the high end either. What constitutes “high” rates of workforce turnover is a complex matter, because there is not a simple linear relationship between rates of workforce turnover and social and/or economic company performance. Economically speaking, too little workforce turnover can be as big a problem as too much. If organizations do not have some flow through of new personnel, they risk ossification. Also, some workforce turnover might be socially desirable 39
because it gives people an opportunity to obtain entry into the labour market and to move on to different and better jobs. Furthermore, what constitutes excessive workforce turnover varies from sector to sector. An industry like guarding is arguably better suited to operating with higher rates of workforce turnover than industries such as mining, which have more expensive human capital inputs. Also, within particular industries the impact of a given rate of workforce turnover will be much greater in some areas than others. Not surprisingly, it is much easier for most organizations to manage ongoing substantial workforce turnover in “base level” positions than among more skilled workers and professionals (Beach et. al. 2003). For the purpose of this argument, I have taken a “grounded” rather than “a priori” approach to determining what constitutes high workforce turnover in this company. My assumption is that personnel within the company itself are the best equipped to make such assessment. A critical part of the training camp personnel35 claimed that they were no longer able to muster enough recruits. They argued that the deteriorating work conditions increased the number of guards leaving and reduced the number of applicants. In effect, the company was marked by man power shortages making it now virtually impossible to get a day off, even in case of serious illness36. This was not just a result of very well-calculated profit-maximizing on behalf of managers, they argued. Their initial shrinking of workforce in order to make the company more competitive had taken on its own life. Intensified rates of workforce output matched by declining input constituted a downward, dynamic spiral undermining the future prospects of the entire undertaking. Some less critical training camp personnel argued that the declining number of applicants, currently in the range of ten per day, far from heydays of “queues all the way to the gate,” as one of the training camp instructors put it, still managed to meet the demand caused by outgoing guards. Nevertheless, workforce turnover was a big challenge. It was not so much caused by deteriorating work conditions, as by problematic work attitudes. More specifically, it was an effect of Tonga and Lozi tribesmen37 misusing the security company as a temporary sanctuary from more important, seasonally determined fishing and sugar cane activities. 40
In order to test this theory, I examined the dates of termination of the two hundred work contracts in question. As illustrated by figure two below, the tribal theory appears to be invalid. No single month or months are characterized by mass turnover. Guards quit, desert and get fired throughout the whole year.
Figure Two. Seasonal Turnover
The guards were simply not satisfied with their working conditions. They left because of specific company failings. They wanted days off, better uniforms and higher salaries paid on time. In particular the latter issue, amount and time of salary, appeared to be of great importance. These were the specific company failings that made the guards experience a frustrating situation. Sometimes, they talked about “slavery,” an extremely strong invocation. Sometimes, they talked about their managers as people committing “crime” against their workers. Sometimes, they said that they were treated “like animals,” being “exploited” or going just “down and down:” Frank: That is why [because of amount and time of payment] some of my colleagues are engaging themselves in credits. Jakob: But that doesn’t work, does it? Frank: So, they make new credits. For instance myself, if I happen to ever get paid this month, I will get [roughly 70 dollars]. Now, in the range of [60 dollars] goes to [interest]. The little leftover, I may end up with, forces me to go and obtain new credits. 41
Jakob: Okay. Frank: That is why in this kind of job, you see, instead of improving, you find yourself going down and down. Down you go instead of up.38 Hence, workforce turnover was, indeed, high. Its excessiveness was indicated by stressed training camp personnel who found it still more and more demanding to fill the gap caused by leaving guards, thus blaming either management or a few prejudiced tribes or both. Meanwhile, commanders in the field itself fought a losing battle against having much more locations to cover than guards to command39, thus narrowing the chance of getting a day off. Within this context, the guards themselves talked about mistreatment. They confessed to having had enough.
Broken Glass Wall, Kabulonga
4.6 Resistance In light of the above paragraphs presenting profound guard dissatisfaction, it is difficult not to include a consideration of the large amount of work with the field of anthropology analysing so-called â€œresistantâ€? behaviour. Parts of this work cluster around the inspiration provided by the relatively straightforward example given 42
by political scientist Scott (1985). Scott demonstrates how the dispossessed in a North Malaysian rural context, aware of their condition, manage their behaviour and discourse to their own advantage as far as possible, without engaging in fullscale rebellion. Nash (1979), Taussig (1980), Comaroff (1985), Ong (1987) and others expand the scope of this line of work by suggesting that resistance might be deflected into religious forms, whose political force is at least partly hidden from the consciousness of the adherents. Some have even suggested, for example American historian Genovese (1974), that under some circumstances of extreme domination that render a subjugated population powerless to resist in any explicit ways, it might in the end be useful to think of accommodation, even though it appears passive, as a latent phase of resistance. In light of this inspiration, in this case primarily Scott (1985), it is difficult to think of guards as being compliant. Unofficially, they display an understanding of their situation marked by clear-cut notions of opposition between workers and management expressed by means of referring to themselves as “animals,” “slaves” or “exploited.” I interpret the earlier mentioned gossiping about superiors said to be corrupt, alcoholic, engaged in sexual harassment of female guards and more as a means of widening the distance, hence consolidating “good guys” and “bad guys” (Steen 1989). Moreover, they actually do sometimes explode in more or less fullscale concrete rebellions. Usually guards, however, enact more “managed” opposition. Excessive latecoming, as illustrated by figure one above, sluggish parading making new guards straight from camp stand out because of exaggerated drill willingness, widespread disrespect of the rule of sobriety, violation of the commander’s and management’s instruction on always wearing the uniform in public – and perhaps even sleeping on duty – exemplify how guards perform their dissatisfaction with the conceived mistreatment. These actions make work conditions to some extent more bearable while at the same time trying to display critique. I interpret the widespread phenomenon of mysteriously lost caps and berets making it impossible for about one third of guards to salute their superiors as an example of particularly sophisticated resistance.40 This understanding is in line with the upset manager remarking, “Those boys don’t want to salute their bosses. 43
That’s why they always lose their headdress. They make them fly off [in the wind] on purpose.” I learned that his interpretation missed the additional twist provided by the fact that some of the seemingly headdress-deprived guards wore their hats and berets on location. Their “problem” thus constituted a kind of “smart bomb.” It was specifically aimed against superiors. Considering the context surrounding these acts – strong conceptualisations sometimes matched by rioting – it is difficult to disconnect them from integral political substance. However, that does not sustain a simple and romantic picture of “comrades standing together at the barricades, ready to give their blood or their lives for a common cause” (Keesing 1992:6). In addition to this very widespread style of politics, I observed a set of very different political alternatives. 4.7 Styles of Politics Young cosmopolitanist Dave enacts a more direct style of politics. He fantasizes about “staging a war against the company” by means of a powerful guard union making the management clear that “we do not come to work on this or that date unless things begin to improve,” a fantasy to some extent reflected by his everyday routines. Every day, he is too late for parade. Every day, he is drunk. He never attends parade without wearing black sun-glasses while listening to loud “vibe” music, thereby communicating distance. Usually, he ends up quarrelling with the commander in charge. Before, during and after their verbal punches, he chews a hard ball of chewing gum. His style is radical. Andrew is pragmatic. As appointed union representative among the Alpha Zone guards it is his duty to link Alpha Zone guards to the guard union, Zambia Union of Security Officers and Allied Workers. The latter negotiates on a bi-annual basis the collective agreement between management and workers. Reflecting this duty, Andrew sometimes gave a small speech at the parade about this or that topic, sometimes receiving a bit of feedback. In addition to these initiatives, he is politically busy in some other manners. Informally, he has the role of mediating in emerging conflicts among Alpha Zone guards and their commanders. He is asked by both sides to intervene. Dave and Andrew, it follows, are very different. In the eyes of Andrew, Dave 44
is counterproductive because his behaviour contradicts Andrew’s argument that guards should be treated well because they perform well, what could be termed “merit” resistance. For example, Andrew requested jackets at the break of winter, by arguing that officers were performing well. He presented this request to the chief commander at a parade. In line with this approach, to which I will return below, Andrew is one of the few guards wearing his uniform to and from work. In short, he tries to represent faultlessly performing officers. Dave, of course, undermines this effort. By means of what could perhaps be termed “defiant” resistance, he communicates rejection of effort, non-compliance, to such an extent, that it is clear that Andrew faces some difficulties with regard to implementing his “merit” resistance. Dave, however, is angry. Sometimes, as in his declaration of war above, he blames “the company.” Sometimes, he blames “bad birds within the company.” That Dave perhaps sees Andrew as a “bad bird within the company,” thus reciprocating Andrew’s severely negative assessment of Dave, is suggested by his recent u-turn with regard to guard unionism. Despite dreaming about a strong guard union, he has now cancelled his own union membership. Despite these differences, it is important to take note of Andrew and Dave as stylistically related. The stylistic familiarity follows from their relatively outspoken challenge of existing work conditions. They might be said to exemplify “bold and overt” resistance, whereas other guards, for example Frank, Bob and Eric, might be said to exemplify “subtle and covert” resistance (ibid:214). The latter group of guards’ excessive late-coming, sluggish parading, gossiping, sleeping on duty and the like is much more difficult to interpret. A principal weakness of the latter line of approach, relates to its openness to different interpretations, in turn being important because of different inherent political implications. More specifically, there is a risk of guards’ active effort in terms of substandard work performances – what I have termed subtle and covert resistance – being seen as a lack of effort, if not outright inability, with regard to quality work. This is a problematic interpretation seen from the perspective of guards because it helps justify domination over, and the curtailment of respect for, their rights as workers. 45
My suggestion, following Gupta (2001), is that exaggeration of the flawed features of the oppressed plays an important role in construction and securing of ideological justification for domination. Hence, it was a powerful weapon when someone like Lord Cornwallis declared, “Every native of Hindustan I verily believe is corrupt” (quoted in ibid:106). There can be little doubt, as Gupta remarks, that such a point of view helped Lord Cornwallis play more resolutely his subsequent role of conquering and civilizing hero among the Indians. Related, it was of significance that ancient Indian women were portrayed as inherently promiscuous, loaded to the brim with uncontrollable sexual energy, thus making their taming and domestication necessary in order to save them from running wild. This justified both the oppression of females and child marriages (Chakravarti 1995). Carter observes how indentured labourers migrating to Mauritius were seen as “rogues, whores, and vagabonds,” concluding that this was “part of a strategy [defending their] deprivation of rights” (1995:107). Exaggerations of a related kind played a role in the security company, where Andrew, Bob, Charles, Dave and the other guards were working. They played a role in the chief commander’s attempt to help some of his workers overcome their uncontrollable alcoholic tendencies by means of parade timing. They also played a role in Frank’s distrust of some of his peers’ abilities with regard to signing their own names and handling money. Below, I bring an extraction of a group interview with two top managers as yet another example. To my surprise, Manager A begins the interview by bluntly stating, “So, now you know you would never employ a guard from this company, right?” He uses this opening line to launch a long defence of the company, concluding that “there is psychology to the matter. You need to get into these people’s heads.” Manager B tries to contribute with some more or less enlightening examples: Kids are brought up in the village. What do they do there? They play all day. They sit under a tree. They feel the breeze. Now comes a time when someone has to do something. How do you think it is for me or my colleagues to make such person work?
Being now well into the interview, Manager A begins to exemplify, what he thinks is inside “these people’s heads.” He says that Manager B’s examples do not include his own guard at home. She is extraordinary, he says, because “she is also the lady that goes inside my house and makes my bed. She takes money out of my pocket and puts it next to my bed, that is how close she is to me and my family, and nothing ever goes missing.” Theft, it follows, is normal behaviour. Following this comment, Manager B becomes inspired to reveal yet another problematic aspect of guards’ relation to money. He is troubled by a “nightmare of guards going straight home or whatever and stay absent for two or three days or more, whenever salary is paid.” Now, Manager A summarizes the managerial task ahead. He says, “We’ve got to get their minds right. It’s got to be upgraded.” It follows that what is supposed to be “weapons of the weak” (Scott 1985) might well be turned into “weapons of the strong” (Gupta 2001). The problem is that whenever a guard is too late for work, disregards the rule of sobriety, claims to have lost his or her headdress and so forth, the guard makes possible “another round of exaggerations [that] reproduces the existing barriers (...) which in turn justifies (...) economic and political domination” (ibid:107). Accordingly, Andrew might have a point in using faultlessness as weapon. Dave is in line with Andrew with regard to transgression of the majority line of guard politics being more subtle and covert resistance. Yet, he refuses to qualify for being taken seriously, as might be said about the style of Andrew. Dave acts as if insisting on some kind of pre-ordained right to better working conditions. 4.8 Four Styles of Guarding In this chapter, I have presented a picture of different guards. I have done so by dividing the group of guards twice. First, I divided the group of guards along an axis of localist versus cosmopolitanist aspirations. Secondly, I divided these two groups along an axis of overt versus covert enactments of resistance. The picture thus presented showed localist oriented guards whose cultural style could best be described with key words such as humble, traditional, collective and compliant. These guards contrasted with cosmopolitanist oriented guards whose cultural style could better be described with key words such as, for example, 47
proud, experimental, individual and provocative. Both groups, the chapter continued, could be divided along a line of different enactments of resistance, sometimes resorting to riots. A majority of localists and cosmopolitanists engaged in subtle and covert resistance, for example by being late for duty, by apparent loss of headdress and so forth. To this was added a smaller group of guards engaged in overt resistance of localist and cosmopolitanist kind. Overt resistant localists used compliant behaviour as a mode of qualification for better work conditions, whereas overt resistant cosmopolitanists resorted to defiant behaviour as a mode of disqualification of work conditions. The chapter demonstrated how the latter styles of politics circumvent certain problematic counter-effects of covert resistance, perhaps in part explaining their deployment. Seemingly similar, they nevertheless also contradict each other.
Chapter Five: Prestige and Politics To get a good understanding of the ways surrounding influences have conditioned guard lives and styles, we must try to obtain a view of the range of different ways in which guards have experienced and dealt with those realities. To capture such a picture we need to try to move beyond the general analytic model developed in the above chapter towards the ethnographic concreteness of actual guard lives played out in time. For that reason, I will now turn to life story telling. At this point, it is implied, I am turning towards a more realistically oriented approach to life story telling in that I use the information gathered through life stories to arrive at general principles regarding guard life. The central feature of this approach is induction. (Miller 2000:11ff.). I understand single life stories as special cases of a larger whole. It follows that a sufficient number of cases are necessary in order to generate a broad and varied basis upon which to generalize. By gathering fourteen life stories, I think, I reached a satisfactory level of â€œsaturationâ€? (ibid:11). Multiple cases were collected and revealed to a great extent the same pattern of concern here.
Below, I begin the chapter by presenting three life stories told by guards that are positioned differently within the above illuminated model depicting four ideal types of guarding. Unionist Andrew reveals some reasons for his transition from a rural life to a life in Lusaka working as a guard combining moderate localism and overt resistance, what I have termed “merit” resistance. Former boxing champion Bob reveals some reasons for his transition towards localism combined with what I have termed “covert and subtle” resistance. Exemplifying this kind of resistance combined with cosmopolitanism, I turn to Charles. Despite having lived his entire life in cities, he dreams of taking up small-scale village farming. Following these three life stories, and the larger pool of life stories that they represent, I suggest that guard styles relate to a wider Zambian society marked by declining urban appeal, yet without completely emptying it, in turn generating an ideal of pragmatic/moderate self-making among the guards. Secondly, I suggest that this ideal – reflected by the term “security officer” versus “watchman” – tends to transform widespread workforce dissatisfaction into mainly subtle and covert acts of resistance. Thirdly, I argue that this is most likely a contradictory line of action in terms of work condition improvements. Yet, it appears to be difficult to cultivate new guard styles that are both politically potent and prestigious. I argue, fourthly, that there is perhaps more overt workforce resistance underway. 5.1 Andrew: “So That It Balances” Andrew is born in 1970 in the Luapula Province bordering Tanzania to the North and DRC to the West. His two stepfathers are fishermen. His biological father is a subsistence farmer. Fourth-born Andrew among fifteen siblings believes that it is important to balance his support to rural relatives which is not easy in his situation because of a large and geographically scattered family. He says, “We are desperate in terms of assisting each other. When your parents are together and you send them [in the range of three dollars], at least you know that this money reaches the same house. Now, you have to share. You send something here, something there, so that it balances. If only you had one mother and father.”
While interested in supporting his rural kin “at home,” Andrew also enjoys a number of distinct urban features. For example, he likes to “meet people, whereby you can gather new ideas and information.” Andrew describes such meetings as a “part of development.” He likes the many “activities” that occur. He is impressed by the city centre around Cairo Road41. Looking back, Andrew recalls a certain thrill at exploring unfamiliar items, such as, for instance, cars, stoves and TV. “Oh, is this really a TV? I remember we learned something about the TV back in grade nine,” he laughs out loud. The purpose of Andrew living in the city is to financially support his rural relatives. That is why he travelled to Lusaka with his grandmother at the age of 26. In Lusaka, she informs Andrew’s aunt, “This one is not going back with me. What you should do is to look up some employment for him, so that he can be able to assist us in the village. This one is a grade twelver, you see.” This transition, however, is hard. According to Andrew, the problem is that his aunt does not fulfill their expectations. He says, “All she wanted was for me to wake up early every morning and do some cleaning outside the house, polish the shoes, take the children to school, take them back, shopping, this and that. There was no time to sit down together and say, “Hey, let us now assist each other in this or that way,” no.” He had imagined that “in town, maybe, you could have a little bit of money,” yet in reality he gets none. The food is bad, too. “In the village you have to make big nshima. Here it was just one small piece of lamb. How are you going to be satisfied? It was even better in village,” he laughs. Because of these circumstances, Andrew decides to move in with another aunt who also stays in Lusaka. Together with her three children, the five of them share a two-roomed house in Kalingalinga compound with no electricity. At this time, he would like to capitalize on his “good results from grade twelve,” perhaps “even go to college.” This will make the whole family “well up.” However, his aunts, including the previous aunt, refuse to sponsor this ambition. They have their own children. In the end, his aunt in Kalingalinga suggests that he tries to become a guard instead.
Saturday 6th June 1998, Andrew begins his training as guard. When entering the gate, he is determined to put an end to “two years of struggling,” an aspiration to which, he succeeds. He is soon able to pay his own “rent, a bag of [corn flour], a bag or charcoal, some clothes.” It is as if a “new life” has started. Up to this time some friction among the urban members of Andrew’s family persists. In the end, he is also asked to leave his other aunt’s house. The problems make Andrew’s grandmother return to resolve matters. Andrew recalls how they “sat down together as a family and reconciled.” The situation has improved since then. Nevertheless, there are still some “differences.” Yet, he would “never ever let them down.” There has been some friction among the rural family members, too. Andrew mentions a complication occurring around the time of his departure, perhaps in part explaining his move. He says that he is a “school leaver [because of help from an uncle] and a footballer,” something that “carries weight in the village,” making it possible to “engage in any lady, you want.” He chooses a lady who turns out to be married already. She is “in other words a witch,” he declares. She leaves him and his family “very much disappointed.” When working as a guard in 1998, Andrew faces new complications with regard to his relationship with rural relatives. This time the challenge is a “certain Tumbuka lady,” whose charm has captured Andrew to such an extent that it has caused ongoing discussions about appropriate marriage partners. Because of her different tribal affinity, his rural relatives keep on asking “a lot of questions.” In the end, however, they comply. Andrew succeeds in making them understand that things are different now, that things are not like “back then.” In 1999, Andrew and that “Tumbuka lady” marry. They have four children, two of them twins, one of them from Andrew’s village affair. The six of them share a rented two-roomed house in Mutendere compound with no electricity. Professionally, he has achieved some, too. His skills during training result in him being awarded “best radio transmitter.” Later, he is among the four guards who are asked to go to one of the compounds and catch a colleague suspected of theft from his location. In the end, the four succeed and are promoted. Currently, Andrew holds the second-highest rank in the company. Ranks and salaries match, 51
making him relatively better off. In addition, he is a small-scale money lender and a pest controller, the latter “not that bad.” Yet, Andrew reports that life is difficult. More specifically, he is concerned about his children’s education, one of the central duties of his role as father, as he understands it. Hence, he considers quitting his job as guard and becoming a taxi driver instead. The problem is that the cost of a driving license leaves him with no other option but to withdraw his children from school for a while. He struggles to compare hypothetical long-term benefits and short-term downfalls. Andrew gives the impression of being a person to whom balance in life is important. He presents himself as a pragmatic person who is open to “new ideas,” what he terms “development,” yet someone who regularly underscores continuity, commitment and so forth as important values. There is a tone of conservatism in his talk. Hence, it is no surprise that he concludes his life story telling by once again addressing the importance of support from urban to rural relatives. He tries to send back some money every month. To do so is crucial, he says, because “back home even [the equivalent of 12 cents] can make a pretty big difference.”
Washing my Husband’s Uniform, Kalingalinga 52
5.2 Bob: “Could Have Been” Bob is born in 1964 in Northern Province bordering Tanzania to the North and Malawi to the East. However, his early childhood is in Chingola on the Copperbelt, where his father works as a miner. In 1972, the company reduces its workforce, making Bob’s father redundant, after which Bob and family return to their village. Being now a “new person,” it is difficult to relate to villagers “wearing torn clothes, walking barefooted.” Their life is “boring.” Bob is “just forced to go and graze the animals [ten cows] only.” They even eat bad food, Bob continues. In the village, he explains, “people are even eating without cooking oil.” Luckily, things change in 1975. Bob’s father is offered a job in a factory in Kafue, Central Province, south of Lusaka. The company provides accommodation in the form of “a cheap electrified house with two bedrooms, kitchen, sitting room, bathroom and toilet”. They live “a much better life, now”. As touched upon in the previous chapter, Bob “never fails to find a coin” to spend on a movie. Unfortunately, Bob is, in his own words, “dull.” He is not able to read, write or speak properly, probably because of “shyness from the village.” Following his inclination to skip school behind his parents’ back, the situation worsens. In time, the pattern begins to resemble a kind of street life. Sometimes, he returns to his parents’ home for food and beatings. Because of Bob thus being a “failure,” he is sent to nearby Mazabuka, where his father’s brother lives. With the help of his uncle, Bob is struggling to complete grade eight. Bob is now eighteen years old. Around this time, by 1982, Bob has been boxing for many years despite his father’s opposition to it. Bob recalls how his father, whenever he learned that Bob was boxing, “would whip you so good that you would learn.” Yet, Bob does not learn anything. He keeps on boxing, especially in Mazabuka, where he is given “more freedom, that is good,” including a change of more frequent boxing. As a result of this environment, Bob not only brings a completed grade nine exam certificate back when returning to Kafue in 1985 but also shows better skills in boxing. Bob says, he has a “heart” now. Bob’s skills are noticed by a boxing club in Kafue. Together with some other extraordinarily talented boxers, Bob is allowed to stay at the boxing premises. The 53
club becomes his home. The club buys him “everything a boxer needs.” Being now in his early twenties, Bob gives up smoking of cannabis. It has been a long time since he was petrol sniffing. Then, he is also offered job. A friend of his boxing coach, who is related to the owner of a textile factory in Kafue, gives him a change of being a “man of this world.” Bob is happy to help his younger siblings staying at home with his parents. To work and support that household confirms that he is a “real man” now. Meanwhile, Bob’s boxing talents continue to develop. He makes his way into the Zambian national boxing team travelling to various countries in the region, for example Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa. He is told by some of his father’s colleagues that his father is proud of him. Around that time, Bob engages in a romantic relationship with the daughter of one of the textile factory managers. They marry following her pregnancy. The wealthy family, Bob thus enters, is able to send the younger brother of Bob’s wife to Cambridge University in England, from which he returns with a master’s degree in political science. He gets a good job in the central administration, where after he begins to support his family, including his sister married to Bob. It is because of his assistance that Bob, his wife and at the moment six children manage to stay in their three-roomed house in Kalingalinga compound with no electricity. Before the difficulties set in, Bob is asked to join the police. A representative of the police academy in Lusaka interested in upgrading their boxing team tells him that he has been given a wildcard. Initially, Bob declines due to poor academic results. In the end, he is convinced about his apt qualifications. Bob begins to work as a police officer in 1994. He tells me about widespread corrupt practices and everyday physical violence towards suspects. He admires C5 and Flying Squad, two special units created towards the end of President Kaunda’s regime in the unruly 1980s. He illuminates in detail their practice of “going to the compound and gunning down the criminals.” He conceptualizes crime as a kind of war between good and bad people. His own participation in this war, however, is short. He is fired in 1998. He does not want to reveal the reason for this occurrence. Within the same year his boxing career is coming to an end because of age. He is 34. 54
Bob spends the following five years drinking heavily. To illustrate the depth of his fall, he says, he is “even drinking kachasu.” Kachasu is an extremely strong local distil. It is said to be very dangerous, hence bought and sold illegally. Yet, he manages to recover. He meets God through some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and changes fundamentally. Within a short period of time, he begins working as a sober night guard. Up to this point, Bob has given the impression of being someone whose life has been remarkably unstable. He has not only mentioned a high degree of fluctuation between rural and urban areas but also between social statuses. Cattle boy, street kid, boxing champion, police officer, unemployed alcoholic and guard are some of the parts in life, he has played. No wonder, he ends his life story telling by reflecting upon missed and grabbed opportunities. He regrets that he did not get to know God a little earlier. If only he had done so, he “could have been, maybe, a good person.” He ended up being bad instead. Now, it is his ambition to be a good person. More specifically, he wants to remain a dedicated church member, a prospect neither facilitated nor obstructed by his guard job. His job is not really that significant. God and church are.
Daughter of a Guard and Friends, Kalingalinga
5.3 Charles: “My Uniform Stinks” Charles is the fifth born among nine siblings in 1960 in Harare, Zimbabwe, where his father works at a factory processing tobacco. Ten years later, the family returns to Zambia because of increasing political unrest. For three weeks, they stay at the Central Railway Station in Livingstone, Southern Province, from where Charles’ father tries to get in touch with his brother staying in Ndola, Copperbelt Province. Every month for a number of years, he has sent his brother a relatively large amount of money in order for him to build them a house. Now, he learns that their house is sold. His brother has moved to South Africa. They decide to head for Lusaka and again the family ends up staying at the Central Bus Terminal – this time for three months – from where Charles’ father tries to get in touch with his oldest son who left their house in Zimbabwe because of unspecified disagreements. They have not talked to each other since. Luckily, through the assistance of a local radio station, they find him. He is working as gardener in Kabulonga. The older brother helps his family in various ways. For example, he lets them move into his servant’s quarter in Kabulonga and uses some of his contacts to find his father a job as brick layer. Some years later, Charles’ father begins to build his own house in Mutendere compound. While renting a small house in Kalingalinga compound, he completes his house building project. During those first years in Lusaka, Charles’ sister gets married following an unexpected pregnancy. Her pregnancy disappoints her father gravely. He declares that she is not part of the family anymore. Charles disagrees with this decision, and he and his mother continues to assist his sister. Charles reveals that besides being beaten regularly by her alcoholic husband, she loses three children in a row, each time within a few months after their birth. When she dies in 2005, Charles takes over the responsibility of her five surviving children. Charles was married for eleven years until his wife died in 1994 and left him with three children to take care of. The nine of them share a house with Charles’ divorced sister and mother. The eleven of them stay in the three-roomed house with no electricity in Mutendere compound built by Charles’ father.
In 1979, following his completed grade seven, Charles gets his first job. With the help of his brother, he starts to work as a gardener. In 1982, one of Charles’ friends returns from South Africa. He could use some help regarding distribution of propaganda materiel from the Soviet Union. Charles and his friend are paid by the Russian Embassy. Their job is to pick up manuscripts delivered by Aeroflot in order for them to set up a library. This job leads to a job as housekeeper for the library leader. Later, he meets a Dutch diplomat offering better conditions. Charles is headhunted. Charles has a good relationship with the first and second Dutch diplomatic family for whom he works. Yet, in 1989 he is fired. Charles holds a number of jobs between 1989 and 2000. From 1989 to 1991, he frequently travels to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, obtaining textiles for resale in Lusaka. Business opportunities deteriorate in 1991, after which he is employed as a guard by the Japanese Embassy. In 1994, the Japanese Embassy decides to hire a professional guard company causing the abrupt removal of all existing guards. Fortunately, Charles is able to find a job as a guard for a private company. That company, however, closes in 1997. The following years, he works as “bottler” in an oil-producing factory closing down in 2000. Charles embarks on his current guard job in 2003. He says that this is the worst job that he has ever had. As an example, he has no proper footwear. Boots are not part of the uniform. He shows me the holes in his shoes. Moreover, his beret looks “ugly.” He deliberately decides not to wear it at the parade in order to make the commanders realize that he should have a new one. Also, he works close to fourteen hours every day and has no time to wash his uniform. Of course, his uniform “stinks.” Of course, he looks like “rubbish:” Jakob: So, you are not proud of being a guard? Charles: A bit. Jakob: Not really? Charles: I am proud, anyway. But we are treated like animals.
In line with this very critical stance, Charles is planning to leave his job and start a new life. His plan is to uproot his mother, eight children and sister and return to the countryside around Chipata, Eastern Province, where his parents lived before migrating to Zimbabwe. Charles is convinced that there is a relatively good, or at least better, chance of “progressing” by means of farming. One of the great stumbling blocks for Charles is that none of the other family members wants to move. All ten of them want to stay in Lusaka, not least the children. Charles is puzzled by their position. If they really want to go “to Lusaka, this town, they can do so after we have progressed,” Charles reasons. 5.4 Moderate Self-Making One of the central common threads that seem to run through the life stories told by guards, as in the above examples, is a conceived great difference between rural and urban living, the latter being seen as somewhat superior. Andrew exemplifies this conceptualization when remembering his fear of going to Lusaka. He says, he has heard a lot about Lusaka in school and radio, yet is not able to imagine the true state of such remarkable place. He declares that he is “proud to touch down in Lusaka.” To do so signifies someone being a “real Zambian.” Bob exemplifies the same conceptualization. He has a hard time relating to shoeless villagers. They are so poor and primitive, not even eating cooking oil. Yet, the life story tellers are careful not to fully embrace their new and more advanced urban living. Andrew illustrates this stance by being very explicit about his attempt to balance urban and rural qualities. He associates the city with “new ideas” and “development.” His village area is more simply his “home.” Bob reveals a related point of view when now denigrating his primarily urban, individual and international past as top boxer as now “wasting time”, contradicting his current goal of being a “good person” or “real man,” defined by Bob as someone who takes proper care of his family, ultimately including parents and siblings. Charles has lived his whole life in big cities, Lusaka and Harare. Yet, he talks about moving to the countryside to take up small-scale farming. His plan signifies, as in the case of Andrew and Bob, somewhat restrained urban identification. Ferguson suggests that this schism is in some significant part “a response to 58
the booms and busts of the urban economy and the consequent shifts in the ruralurban balance of power” (1999:231). More specifically, he claims to have detected a recent shift towards greater rural identification: (…) as urban workers in the 1950s and 1960s gained a greater ability to live independently of their rural allies, they became increasingly able to shrug off the rural-based obligations of wide kin networks, remittances, bride wealth, visits home, and localized “home-folk” sociality, and along with it (in the long run) the cultural style that signified acceptance of these obligations. In the last twenty years, however, workers have been increasingly compelled (by bleak economic circumstances) to fall back on the rural areas (…) [U]rban workers have come under (…) pressure to reactivate or create rural alliances [decreasing] the ability of workers to be cosmopolitan, and an across-the-board resurgence of localism. (ibid:231). Ferguson’s observation is to some extent confirmed by the life story told by Bob, initiated by his father leaving his village for some very viable urban alternatives, Chingola and Kafue. As Bob remembers it, basically everything was better then – better schools, hospitals, housing, cultural facilities and more. Related, Charles tells the story about a father who basically loses everything when moving to Lusaka. Yet, he accomplishes a feat which Bob, Charles and others now think is virtually impossible, to build his own house.42 Andrew reveals a related pattern in terms of rural expectations that are not actually practical. Restricted urban possibilities are illustrated by his aunt in Kalingalinga who recognizes her responsibilities, but does not have the means to implement them in practice. In the end, the only choice left for Andrew is to substantially scale down his dreams, initially aimed at education, and take on guarding instead. In light of his urban hardships, it is not surprising that Andrew is interested in maintaining a strong relationship with his rural and urban kin. He is aware of the fragility of his situation. The same urban fragility could play a role in the “rebirth” of Bob, carrying the additional significance of bringing him closer to an extended family in either of two forms. Continuous committed church membership might prove his readiness in terms of being conceived once again by his biological kin as a “good person” or 59
“real man,” implying renewed intimate contact. Alternatively, he has in any case a fully functional faith-based extended family to fall back upon. Fragility obviously characterizes the life of Charles. His somewhat odd idea about “return migration” (Moore and Vaughan 1994) as a means of “progress,” in line with detected tendencies of “counter-urbanization” in other African countries (Champion 1989, Bayart 1993, Potts 1995), underlines the current hardships of urban living in Zambia compared to seemingly better preceding decades. The urban guards, it might be concluded, are stranded somewhere between what they see as likewise inaccessible village pasts and urban futures. The former place, where they do not want to be, is characterized by key words such as, village, modesty, tradition, commonality and history. The latter place, where they do not have a chance of reaching, is characterized by key words such as, city, money to spend on consume, education, individuality and development. Their life stories show how assets of economic, cultural and social kind are put into use to meet the challenge of reaching a sound position somewhere between these two likewise inaccessible ultimate destinations. An important attribute of this position is that it is seen by most guards as more sophisticated than both too “localist” and too “cosmopolitanist” alternatives, as demonstrated by the term “watchman.” When used by guards, this term might either signify someone “lost” because of lack of backward orientation, someone off track in a cosmopolitanist sense, or someone “lost” because of lack of forward orientation, someone off track in a localist sense. It is somewhere between these extremes that true sophistication is located. To balance things means to look down on others from top of the guard prestige ladder, to be the most advanced.
5.5 Workforce Politics An implication of this socio-cultural schism of not too thorough cosmopolitanist stylistics and not too thorough localist stylistics – that guards are out of order with the “linear script that the modernist meta-narrative wrote for them – neither remaining (…) “tribal” villagers (…) nor becoming (…) “Westernized” urbanities” (Ferguson 1999:81) – follows from its attributes with regard to being a foundation 60
from where to pursue workforce opposition. It seems to prioritize enactments of covert and subtle resistance. An indication of this occurred when one day a manager paid our parade a visit. Standing in lines in uniforms, we heard him embark on a long and somewhat elegant pep-talk comparing guards to cars, repeating just how very important it was for us, guards or cars, to initiate proper standards of fuelling, apt cleanliness routines, frequent physical examinations and so forth. Then, of course, it had to happen. He had to mention the immense importance of adequate periods of rest which was, of course, a bit ironic given the fact that many of the guards in front of him had worked non-stop for several years. I guess, the manager was well aware of the irony of the peppy dead end, he had entered. In some kind of weird psychological way that would explain his great difficulties in reversing and getting out of there again. He went on and on about the importance of rest. When finally, one of the guards asked a question about this issue, he was not given an answer. Instead of answering, the manager took three long steps and stopped right in front of the guard raising the question. While looking the guard straight into his eyes, he asked him if it was not correct, that he had been given a new winter jacket the week before? The guard said “yes,” hence the following contra-question, “So, why are you complaining?” The guard did not answer. He was struck by a wave of laughter sent by his head-shaking colleagues, making him burst into laughter himself. As I came to see it, the funny side of this encounter did not relate so much to the question itself regarding the chance of possible days off being integrated into the company sometime in the future – a question that seemed to be both relevant and timely – but to the whole idea of ever asking it. By asking such question, the guard displayed “talkative” or “cheeky” behavior. To do so in front of a manager, he had to be either stupid or simply mad. The predominant guard prestige ladder, it follows, does not just suggest that guards engage in overall moderate localist or cosmopolitanist stylistics, but also in likewise moderate workforce resistance. If guards enact too open resistance, they face the risk of being seen as either a “lost villager” or as a cosmopolitanist who 61
has really “lost it.” In order for guards to maintain prestige, they ought to display resistance of mainly subtle and covert kind. As mentioned this is the strategy of the great majority of guards. They turn up too late and often drunk, do not drill very well anymore, sleep on duty, claim to have lost their caps and berets, making it impossible for them to salute superiors, refuse to wear their uniforms in public, in effect frustrating commanders, and so forth. Most guards, of course, prefer to perform prestigious politics. 5.6 Alternative Guard Styles Under the given circumstances informed by a certain guard prestige ladder that is in some deeper sense most likely informed by economic circumstances – as well as more acute considerations, for example avoiding to lose one’s job – the above outlined political style might well be the best when working as guard. Yet, it is also clear that its effectiveness might be disputed. As said, it is a problem that when a guard appears too late, drunk, sleeps on duty and so forth, the guard enables the making of “exaggerations [that] reproduces (...) existing barriers (...) which in turn justifies (...) economic and political domination” (Gupta 2001:107). As mentioned, the barrier of relevance here is the one between “watchmen” and “security officers,” the former signifying a primitive mentality of either localist or cosmopolitanist kind. In either case the guard is incapable of partaking in an advanced security business, hence neither worthy nor needy of civilized work conditions, for example money – to spend on drinking. In light of the political uneasiness related to this ideological barrier that is all too easily exploited politically by managers – however, is also articulated among the guards themselves – it is worth paying attention to the few guards engaged in cultivating what might in the longer run turn out to be more promising styles of guarding, for example Andrew and Dave. Dave’s alternative style of guarding is built on blending explicit confrontation with explicit cosmopolitanism, the latter providing a kind of excuse from where to pursue the former. By connecting himself so thoroughly to somewhere out there, somewhere beyond Lusaka and the guard company – even physically by means of wearing ear phones – he resembles very well an outsider. An outsider, it is implied, 62
understands things differently. An outsider behaves differently. Hence, Dave is able to perform safe confrontations. Because of spill-over from confrontation to proof of otherness, it serves his case to be unremittingly obstructive. However, there is a price to pay for such privilege. There is almost always a price to pay for someone enacting a role as outsider in such an extreme fashion. In this case, the price is demonstrated by the colleagues of Dave suggesting that Dave is probably suffering from some kind of brain damage. The alternative enacted by Dave, it follows, is de facto weak in terms of both prestige and power. Andrew’s alternative style of guarding seemingly holds a greater promise in terms of probable inspiration in that it does not conflict with, but in fact makes more explicit, the already existing guard prestige scale and its inherent opposition of “watchmen” versus “security officers.” What is new, it follows, is not so much a dimension of its moderate localist outlook, being as it is extremely soft-spoken and fundamentally community-oriented, but, more specifically, of its new insistence on mutual obligations between stakeholders. This is a step that moves well beyond the contemporary majority guard style of not too extreme localist or too extreme cosmopolitanist variety translating into primarily subtle and covert enactments of resistance, yet still in a very prestigious manner. Andrew confirms agreed on rules of prestige by means of using security officer manifestations to ask for matching work conditions. In addition to being prestigious, this style is also very powerful. Because of its political utilization of common sense repeated throughout the company, it holds a promise of workability among moderate localists and cosmopolitanists alike, while at the same time raising a point of concern to managers. Following their own line of reasoning, “security officers,” naturally, ought to be treated well. 5.7 Radicalization One of the greatest challenges of the style enacted by Andrew relates to whether guards are in fact able to walk such a line of faultless behaviour in order for them to prove their quality, in turn earning better work conditions. The challenge depends on a belief in long-term perchance gains versus immediate expressions of dissatisfaction, for example by means of “lost” caps and berets. 63
Currently, the company order does not seem to favour patience. Actually, on the contrary, it sometimes happens that guards gang up and walk to the company headquarters bombarding it with stones and slogans. Not the least because of recurring rioting, it is clear that the long-term prospect implied by the style of Andrew might prove to be very difficult to implement in practice. What could the guards do, then? In my view it is not unreasonable to speculate on possible radicalization of future guard styles, the term “radicalization” in this case signifying an orientation towards more explicit and overt critiques of management. After all, as mentioned, many guards understand themselves as being “exploited” like “slaves” or “animals” by people committing a “crime” against them, thus they are going just “down and down.” In addition, it is characteristic that the still not very widespread, however central style of Andrew, displays exactly more overt workforce resistance.
Electric Fence, Kabulonga 64
Chapter Six: Conclusion Gupta concludes his critique of Scott by suggesting that “the way forward for poor peasants and agricultural labourers is not individual, covert or clandestine smallscale acts [of resistance] but mass, large-scale and overt revolt. Indeed, this is the direction that rural anger seems to be taking in (…) Uttar Pradesh” (2001:106). He is happy to see the growth of defiant Bahujan Samaj Party. In line with Gupta, we might conclude that things are moving in the right direction when seen from the perspective of poor urban labourers in Lusaka, in this case illustrated by private security guards. The occurrence of more overtly oppositional guard styles combined with recurring rioting within a discursive framework of very explicit, however hidden, declarations of opposition, suggests a possible tendency towards more direct confrontations mirroring a larger picture within contemporary Zambian society – in the 2006 elections, opposition leader Michael Sata won a landslide victory in urban areas by means of passionate antiChina and anti-West rhetoric43. It seems as if poor urban labourers throughout Zambia, including private security guards in Lusaka, put to use new and upgraded weapons in terms of prestige and politics. In a much larger picture, such development exemplifies what McMichael conceptualizes as responses “to the failures of developmentalism and the further disorganizing impact of globalism” (2000:274). He argues that these responses range from withdrawal into alternative projects, for example Islamic revival and recovery of non-capitalist agro-ecological practices, to attempts of reframing development as a question of rights and basic social protections, for example local rebellions like the one in Chiapas, social-environmentalism and certain forms of right-wing fundamentalism (ibid:241ff.). Additional responses, he argues, include mushrooming consumer advocacy, community supported agriculture, organic food systems and fair trade groupings. All these and more responses, concludes McMichael, express the uncertainties of social arrangements under globalizing tendencies. They express a widespread desire to break out of the homogenizing and disempowering dynamics following globalization in its more recent, mainly neo-liberal economic and attached political form to establish a more sustainable 65
and meaningful form of life – for example by means of rejecting foreign influences and/or by rejecting an endorsed strongly profit-oriented company order. Is this something to be celebrated? Returning to the Zambian scene, there is no reason why guards or any other Zambian for that matter should accept a fork in the historical road favoring a Western model over alternative models in the non-Western world, a fork including a very strong dose of economistic thinking, threatening to undermine alternative conceptions of social organization (Sachs 1992). Yet, there is arguably not much need for new forms of exclusive politics. Genuine human sustainability requires recognition and protection of rights in inclusive terms, a point that mainly ethnicbased mobilization in Uttar Pradesh praised by Gupta (Chandra 2004) and mildly isolative-leaning Zambian opposition tends to miss. The more appropriate challenge for all stakeholders, bypassing guards and national politics, is to work hard on finding ways to include contemporary Third World workers in the more freely choosing ranks of humanity. Conceptualizations of these workers as different are in a deeper sense more likely the problem than the solution. That is a lesson we might learn from guards whose trouble first and foremost begins by the ever-lurking, degrading term “watchman.” The challenge of all is to see the dad, husband and lover – the person – behind this mask.
1 The point of this and the following chapter is to disclose what Sanjek terms “the anthropologist’s path” (1990:398), thereby strengthening the validity of this field research. Following Wadel, I try to reveal my “dance” between method, data and analysis (1991:22). 2
Zambian guards are not armed. Rapid Response teams constitute the exemption.
My own guards worked for a different company.
It was definitely not the classroom lessons, where we sat on benches of about 30 centimetres in height surrounded by scrap metal from floor to ceiling. It could take us about three hours to write off names and titles of all important persons in the company. In another lesson we were asked to copy long and complex encyclopaedia definitions of, for example, fire extinguishers, alarm systems, theft, robbery and more. Usually, a recruit was asked to write the words on the blackboard. Letter by letter, he worked his way through the long words in the instructors’ master.
5 In the absence of love, Fromm suggests, individuals attempt to palliate their existential aloneness with less satisfactory solutions. By means of the “orgiastic solution,” the individual abandons his or her sense of separateness through fusion with “tribe” or a larger “cosmos”. Orgiastic experiences are facilitated by drugs, alcohol and group rites like dancing, chanting and drumming.
Eventually, it became unbearable to witness my colleagues’ skipping of lunch. Hence, I brought a fifty kilo bag of corn flour. Recruits contributed with so-called “relish,” usually a few boiled onions and tomatoes.
The incident did not damage my good relationship with the training camp manager, who had been asked to update the management about my role in training camp. Before handing in his observations, he showed them to me – causing a good deal of red-cheeked embarrassment on my behalf because of flatter. He specifically mentioned this case.
8 Most Zambians think of white people as being non-religious, from where it is just a short step to be seen as Satanic. Therefore, my participation in the spiritual life was of great importance. 9 No recruit ever admitted to have been personally involved in bribery. That seemed strange since bribery was the standard way of explaining when and where recruits got deployed. After finalising my data collection, my very good friend from training camp, John, disclosed that he and three other recruits had paid a bribe of 50.000 kwacha, equivalent to roughly 15 dollars, to one of the training camp instructors in order to get a good location fast. His confession reminded me of the persistent distance between recruits and me. 10
I met about one hundred guard recruits. Of these, three were women.
Using the terminology of Mauss, comparing anthropology to fishing, I was still swinging a rather large “fishing net” (quoted in Ferguson 1999:17). Reflecting this working process, I knew that this set of interviews might in the longer run turn out to be of secondary importance. Yet, they would still constitute an important background, for example with regard to the term “watchman.”
The term derives from the colonial urban control apparatus that invoked race to segregate housing, labour, health and domestic arrangements. Back then, “the compound” referred to racially segregated housing tied to employment. Today, it encompasses all low-income areas, sometimes also referred to as “township.” (Hansen 1997:68).
There were a number of different guards. Keeping in mind my initial interest, I chose to follow the so-called “residential” night guards.
Women were not allowed to work as night guards.
15 It was of crucial ethical importance to inform clients about the purpose of my “guest guarding” of their premises. Consequently, the very first thing I did, whenever I reached a new location, was to go and obtain permission from the client in the house. 16
As mentioned, all names are pseudonyms.
Most Zambians refer to these miserably concrete boxes ranging in size from one to three square meters as guard “houses.” I prefer to use the term guard “room.” 17
I did not meet any guards, who had had any actual encounters with burglars while on duty. Experienced staff within the company explained that crime occurrences in rich Lusaka areas had dropped to virtually zero. 18
Officially, the company employed grade nine graduates only. In reality, however, according to two hundred randomly picked work contracts, at least one third did not fulfil this criterion.
20 Guards, of course, were not allowed to sleep on duty. Yet, when the chief commander was called to a school to solve the problem of four sleeping guards found by the school headmaster as early as 18.30, he did not seem to care. Apparently, he was more interested in getting back to his supper with Andrew and me, the context of his subsequent explanation of how he tricked the headmaster by means of excessive anger towards the four guards. In the end, the headmaster backed down. He felt sorry for the guards, thus suggested a warning. The commander laughed.
Commanders displayed inconsistency in terms of frequently mentioning, what guards had been taught in training camp, that consumption of alcohol was a so-called “serious offence.” An offence of this character, including stealing, sleeping on duty, absconding from work, smoking of cannabis and more, was to result in instant dismissal. Yet, nothing happened. On the contrary, commanders were often drunk themselves, one of them basically every day. 21
Two hundred randomly picked work contracts suggested that at least three quarters of the guards had at least two children to take care off.
Academically, Zambian domestic disorder/sexuality has been “hot” stuff. Powdermaker said that “Civilization, let it be whispered and shouted, requires people to exercise self-control, and such control is achieved by forfeiting some other tendency such as spontaneity. [Zambians are] excessively promiscuous [because they lack] inner control” (1962:303f.). Related, Schuster could not “escape the conclusion that something is pathological” about Zambian family life (1979:130). According to Schuster, the root of this pathology is rural Zambian traditions magnified under urban conditions. She paints a picture of “scantily clad” villagers, leading a life that is ”slow and easy” with little to do but have sex with whomever comes along since ”the world view of villagers is that sexual intercourse is the only normal form of personal interaction between physically matured individuals” (ibid:130f.). More recent, Epstein suggested that an early trauma of weaning practices in traditional Bemba society “tends to produce a fixation at the early oral sadistic phase of libidinal development” (1992:166). This helps explain not only “mutual suspicion, constant bickering, and (...) fighting [that] are recurrent features of relations between spouses” (ibid:168), but also other “regressive behaviour,” for example 1950s fears surrounding the issue of federation between Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi), “widely perceived (...) at an unconscious level, as (...) a threat to their sexuality” (ibid:169). Ferguson adds a different understanding. He says that it is important to think of households not as a natural, pre-given unit of society, but as a nexus of overlapping interests and activities. Ferguson says that this observation applies not only to ”healthy” nuclear families or to ”pathological” forms that deviate from it, but to all domestic groupings (1999:191). He suggests that Zambians “conduct their domestic affairs (as most of us do) in a way that seeks to respond to the (...) problems they face. [L]leaving a spouse or taking money from a lover, like shifting one's residence or sending one's children off to stay with relatives, might constitute not simply a problem but the solution to a problem – a way of managing
[a formidably difficult] situation” (ibid:192). In light of this more convincing argument, it becomes possible to think of female guards as perhaps ambivalently engaged in sexual relations with one or more of their colleagues. As in the case of alleged bribery, female guards’ hypothetical involvement and critique at the same time might underscore the profoundness of this problem. It might tell us something about lack of choice. 24
He transcribed my field notes, interviews and life stories.
To this was added some basic statistical background. Because I learned that there was not much specific knowledge about this industry, I decided to spend a weekend at the company head office, studying work contracts. In what follows, I will occasionally refer to this background being constructed some weeks after my time in Alpha Area.
26 The Basic Needs Basket Survey is conducted by Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection every month to show the “minimum cost of a decent lifestyle for a family of six in Lusaka.” In February 2008, the cost was 1,870,650 kwacha (JCTR 2008). According to the collective agreement of 2007, guards earn from 307,424 to 411,702 kwacha before deductions. I cannot specify the latter reference, because it carries the company’s name.
From 1964 to 1978, Zambia was classified as a “middle-income country” (Weeks and McKinley 2006:8). In 1969, Zambia’s GNP per person exceeded that of Brazil, Malaysia, South Korean and Turkey (Ferguson 1999:6). Currently, however, Zambia is classified as a “least developed country” (UNCTAD 2008). The goal of the contemporary Zambian government is to re-attain middle-income status by 2030 (UNECA 2008), thus completing the circle, back to pre-1978. 27
Also known as Mormon's Church.
29 Bob’s interest in films suggests that he has picked up some inspiration from the Oscar-winning hit move by Sylvester Stallone from 1976. On the other hand, it is most likely not by change that the famous character talks the way, he does. In light of Bob’s close resemblance with Rocky, it might be reasonable to think of Rocky as an important mirror copied from and by boxers. As it will be revealed later, Bob used to be a high-ranked boxer.
Ideally, that is. When talking about actually consumed beers, cosmopolitanist guards referred to local brew, typically “Shake-Shake.”
The figure is based on two hundred randomly picked work contracts.
Eric worked roughly 45 shifts per month, often three shifts in a row. As confirmed by colleagues and commanders, he worked about 150 hours every week. 32
Originally, the term “watchman” referred to someone working as a guard informally. They were often old and poor ex-workers or retirees “looked upon by their peers with disdain as people who “don’t have any place to go” [back to the village, that is], a rather shameful predicament. [In effect, they were forced into pickup up] casual work [for example] as a night watchman, or a charcoal dealer (...) or perhaps stay with their employed children” (Ferguson 1999:129). 33
According to these work contracts, almost three quarters of guards had worked as army, police or security officers before joining this guard company. The percentage indicates a high degree of “horizontal jumping” between by and large identical guard companies – as confirmed by constant discussions among the guards about which company was the best to work for just now.
In addition to interviews with the instructors, I had a number of more informal talks with other members of the training camp staff, mainly a few attached clerks. 35
36 Guards worked seven days a week. Their working day stretched 13.5 hours. Some guards had not had a day off for years – confirmed by commanders and managers.
In Zambia, seven broad ethnic groups are identified and all the officially 72 tribes belong to one of these broad tribal groupings: Bemba, Tonga, North-Western, Barotse (including Lozi), Nyanja, Mambwe, and the Tumbuka group.
Frank mentions an important specter haunting the lives of guards: Debts. Illustratively, Alpha Zone pay day never arrived without the presence of two specific money lenders. One was working as guard in Alpha Zone. One was commanding another zone. On one such occasion, I got a chance to talk with one of them. He showed me his list with names and numbers of 48 guards owing him a total of about 750 dollars equivalent to 10-12 monthly guard salaries after tax. He had been doing this business for more than six years. It was an integral part of the company. Just how integral it was, was demonstrated by the manager in charge of distributing the envelopes containing salaries. Often, when a guard was absent, he opened the absentee’s envelope and paid the money lender, where after he closed the envelope again. What made this system so appalling was its entrapping effect in the longer run. The monthly interest rate was 50 percent. 38
39 A number of locations had to remain unguarded every night because of lack of man power, in the range of ten percent. The challenge was to hide it from the client. Empty houses, schools and shops were the best suited with regard to this challenge.
A guard was supposed to always salute his or her superior. However, following standard military procedure, a guard was only allowed to salute when wearing apt headdress.
The legacy of Lusaka’s planning as the capital of Northern Rhodesia in the 1930s is apparent in the grid pattern of the city’s geography. Wide avenues lined with trees and high-cost residential areas surrounded by open spaces or small parks bear out the claim of the capital’s garden-city design. The colonial name of Lusaka’s main thoroughfare, Cairo Road, still remains. It rings with imperial echoes of Lusaka as a colonial outpost of Europe, a small part of a grand plan to link the British colonies in Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to Cairo (Hansen 1997:1f.). 41
42 It is the implications of this point that defines the work of Hansen on “rapid population growth combined with economic decline (…) turning home ownership into an exceedingly limited option for the next generation of urban residents” in low-income Lusaka (1997:183f.).
See for example the critical BBC news article from 29th September 2006, “Profile: Zambia’s “King Cobra”” published online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5378726.stm (BBC 2006).
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Published on Jun 10, 2014
An Ethnographic Field Report about Prestige and Politics amongst Private Security Guards in Lusaka, Zambia Department of Ethnography and An...