Caring through crime: Ethical ambivalence and the cocaine trade in Bissau

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This article examines the way young men in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, make sense of and engage in the transnational cocaine trade, which has established itself on the Upper Guinea coast. It describes Guinea-Bissau's emergence as a regional centre for the trafficking of cocaine from Latin America to Europe, and shows how the illegality and volatility of the commerce are socially assessed and valued. The drug connection impacts on the lives of the young men in the city in a variety of ways. While it is seen to have brought with it a range of political and societal insecurities and uncertainties, it is also perceived to offer potential livelihoods and prospects. On the one hand, cocaine is positioned as an ethically dubious commodity; on the other, its revenue and concomitant social effects are seen as morally reasonable and required. The article therefore centres on the ethical dimensions of the trade, as seen from the perspective of the youth in question, and argues that it needs to be understood in terms of situational obligations rather than abstract ideals. It approaches ethics from a relational point of view and shows how the moral evaluation and ascription of the cocaine trade are defined inter-subjectively and understood in relation to social responsibility, care and accountability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrica
Volume87
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)479-495
ISSN0001-9720
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

ID: 169757136