Alice Sala


A Global « Computer Village » Ethnography of a long-distance trade of computers & allied products 

In the heart of Lagos, Nigeria, lies “Computer Village” the African biggest computers and allied products market. New or second-hand goods, in parts or assembled, mainly imported from both the USA and from China, most often by Nigerian migrants, transit here before reaching the rest of Nigeria and the whole of West Africa. During their stay in Lagos, they may be scrapped, repaired, modified, bought and sold, or “simply” end up on an e-dump.

The multi-site ethnography of this highly connected market will take place in the USA, Guangzhou and Lagos, with a particular focus on this latter place, and will look at two of its interrelated aspects. On the one hand the project will inquire within the market’s boundaries: who is selling and/or repairing what and how? Which kind of economical, political and social institutions are present in the market? Particular attention will be paid to second-hand laptops; this will allow investigating the selling (of whole and parts) as well as the repair activities. On the other hand “Computer Village” will be replaced within the global economic system, as part of what I call a market’s network: from where, through which channels, by whos hands the goods and the money move around the world along this mainly gray, partly illegal long-distance trade?

This great example of Nigerian’s creativity and entrepreneurships can be read as a parallel distribution channel filling the supply gap side of informatics access. The understating of this worldwide trade will help to cast light on what Feguson calls the “Global Shadow” refering to the place of the so-called Black Continent within the global economy.


Fresia, Marion, David Bozzini & Alice Sala
2013. Les rouages de l’asile. Regardes ethnographiques sur une procédure administrative; SFM 62, Université de Neuchâtel.
Ellen Hertz & al,
2011. « Amies », Nouvelles Questions Féministes. 30,2, Lausanne : Antipodes.
Sala, Alice.
2010. “La prostitution est … plus de temps au téléphone qu’au lit” in : Hertz, Ellen, Dahinden, Janine et Lieber, Marylène.(eds.) Cachez ce travail que je ne serais voir : Ethnographier le travail du sexe, pp 119-135, Lausanne: Antipodes.
2016 “Hustlers' Wonderland? Selling Used Computers in Lagos: between Challeges and Opportunities” Interdisciplinray Conference "Lagos: from the Pepperfarm to the Megacity" Barnard College, New York, 06-07 May 2016
2013 “Computer Village: Ethnography of a long-distance trade of computers and allied products” ECAS 2013 5th European Conference on African Studies: African dynamics in a multipolar world, Center of African Studies - ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon, Lisbon, 27-29 June 2013
2008 “Elle vous fera rêver sur son lit à baldaquin”, International Symposium “Cachez ce travail que je ne serais voir: Ethnographiez le travail du sexe”, The Centre for the Understanding of Social Processes (MAPS), University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel.

D'autres infos

2002 | Elle découvre la caméra et surtout la table de montage.... depuis elle entretient avec la vidéo une drôle de relation.
2007 | Enfin licenciée, elle pense avoir trouvé le job de rêve "ethnologue-assistante de réalisation" sur le film "La forteresse".
2008 | Pour la première fois en Afrique, elle plonge à Lagos: la ville washing machined la petite alice.
2011 | Elle revient à l'Uni, commence un doctorat... et elle croit à nouveau avoir un job de rêve...