Playing information games: démarcheurs in the second-hand car markets of Cotonou, Bénin

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Abstract

This paper discusses démarcheurs, intermediaries in the second-hand car markets in Cotonou, Bénin. An ethnographic case study shows how démarcheurs make a profit by creating barriers between car buyers and sellers. In this way the paper presents an alternative interpretation of intermediaries: not as brokers of market information in fragmented business networks but as skilful information manipulators who pretend to be important. By analysing how démarcheurs interpret the car business as an information game, the paper tries to make understandable the cultural logic of their economic behaviour. This shows that market information is socio-culturally constructed knowledge and that intermediaries play a crucial role in its construction.

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