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A Culture of Corruption:
Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria
Daniel Jordan Smith

Winner of the 2008 Margaret Mead Award

Paperback | 2008 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691136479
296 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 halftones.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400837229 |
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E-mails proposing an "urgent business relationship" help make fraud Nigeria's largest source of foreign revenue after oil. But scams are also a central part of Nigeria's domestic cultural landscape. Corruption is so widespread in Nigeria that its citizens call it simply "the Nigerian factor." Willing or unwilling participants in corruption at every turn, Nigerians are deeply ambivalent about it--resigning themselves to it, justifying it, or complaining about it. They are painfully aware of the damage corruption does to their country and see themselves as their own worst enemies, but they have been unable to stop it. A Culture of Corruption is a profound and sympathetic attempt to understand the dilemmas average Nigerians face every day as they try to get ahead--or just survive--in a society riddled with corruption.

Drawing on firsthand experience, Daniel Jordan Smith paints a vivid portrait of Nigerian corruption--of nationwide fuel shortages in Africa's oil-producing giant, Internet cafés where the young launch their e-mail scams, checkpoints where drivers must bribe police, bogus organizations that siphon development aid, and houses painted with the fraud-preventive words "not for sale." This is a country where "419"--the number of an antifraud statute--has become an inescapable part of the culture, and so universal as a metaphor for deception that even a betrayed lover can say, "He played me 419." It is impossible to comprehend Nigeria today--from vigilantism and resurgent ethnic nationalism to rising Pentecostalism and accusations of witchcraft and cannibalism--without understanding the role played by corruption and popular reactions to it.

Review:

"The heart of the book concerns how Nigerians cope daily with the need to 'settle' with those who hold power, but are also experiencing a breakdown of the system that at least allowed for survival."--Nina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

"[Smith's] book offers a sophisticated and deeply troubling portrait of a contemporary Nigeria."--Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs

"Smith has written a sharply critical, yet finely judged, book that every student of African politics should pay heed to."--Ebenezer Obadare, International Affairs

"[Smith's] primary concern is with the perception of corruption amongst Nigerians and the impact this perception has on the behavior of Nigerians. Anyone who is concerned with the discussion of corruption and how it relates to the development of African economies should read Smith's book. The notion that corruption causes poverty is accepted by Western development banks and their critics alike. Smith demonstrates better than any opponent of this idea could that this assumption is rooted in the perception of African's behavior rather than in an analysis of the economic of development."--Stuart Simpson, Culture Wars

"Smith examines e-mail schemes as cultural texts, analyzing their structure and what they say about the culture of corruption in Nigeria."--Susan Cotts Watkins, Population and Development Review

"Corruption may be found everywhere. However, its particular pervasiveness in Nigeria is sometimes referred to as 'the Nigerian factor' by Nigerians themselves. Anthropologist Smith examines this corruption from the perspective of ordinary Nigerians in their everyday lives...This clearly written volume is for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the dynamics of corruption in contemporary Nigeria."--E.P. Renne, Choice

More reviews

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xix
INTRODUCTION 1
CHAPTER 1: "Urgent Business Relationship": Nigerian E-Mail Scams 28
CHAPTER 2: From Favoritism to 419: Corruption in Everyday Life 53
CHAPTER 3: Development Scams: Donors, Dollars, and NGO Entrepreneurs 88
CHAPTER 4: "Fair Play Even among Robbers": Democracy, Politics, and Corruption 112
CHAPTER 5: Rumors, Riots, and Diabolical Rituals 138
CHAPTER 6: "They Became the Criminals They Were Supposed to Fight": Crime, Corruption, and Vigilante Justice 166
CHAPTER 7: Anticorruption Aspirations: Biafrans and Born-again Christians 191
CONCLUSION 221
Appendix 233
Notes 241
References 247
Index 257

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      File created: 11/10/2014

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