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Keywords:

  • Youth;
  • Globalization;
  • Cosmopolitanism;
  • Clothing;
  • West African City

Youth clothing and exchange shape cosmopolitan identities, the city, and global flows in Dakar, Senegal. How Dakarois youth use dress to shape the city and urban identity is puzzling. Despite the declining economy and for many, extreme poverty, youth dress up in stylish and provocative outfits. In Dakar, youth are increasingly entrepreneurial individuals who base the authenticity of their cosmopolitan identity on an ability to buy and sell (trade) in the urban/global informal economy. Because the informal economy is intensely competitive for both buyers and sellers, youth rely on social networks, various forms of reciprocity, and trust in order to perform their work. At times, youth engage in dishonest acts and banditry in order to sell and procure clothing. These strategies highlight the uncertainty of life in Dakar, the relativity of morality, and the creativity that youth employ to make their lives and a life for the city. In these often hidden and subtle ways, youth steer the economic cultural life of the city and keep it hooked in to the global economy. This research is based on fieldwork conducted in Dakar and New York City between 1996 and 2005. Research methods include interviews, participant observation, focus groups and engaging youth in authoring informal fashion magazines which feature their own photography and stories about contemporary clothing trends in Dakar.