The City in a Shoe: redefining urban Africa through Sebago footwear consumption



In Dakar, footwear and clothing markets are unstoppable forces of urbanism and modernity They are packed with merchandise, and they sprawl beyond the official boundaries set by the municipality. For better or for worse, footwear and apparel keep the city in motion, give it life, and keep it current with global trends. The movement of traders and transmigrants through Dakar and globally-dispersed Senegalese communities informs style and taste at “home” and “abroad.” This paper examines the production, exchange and consumption trajectory of a particular commodity, Sebago shoes, as a means to highlight the spatial dimensions of Dakar clothing markets and the city itself. The “social life” of Sebago and its various symbolic meanings assigned by Senegalese in Dakar and New York illustrates: 1) the complex nature of global flows and 2) that the city and its transmigrant communities share a continuous social space. This picture of complex flows and exchanges suggests the redefinition of city and market boundaries. [Dakar, transmigrant communities, commodity chains, Sebago shoes]