Playing pool along the shores of Lake Victoria: Fishermen, careers and capital accumulation in the Ugandan Nile perch business
Beuving, J. Joost
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The 1990s saw the emergence of a thriving Nile perch export market from East Africa. This commercial table fish species is landed by migrant fishermen at villages that have sprung up along the shores of Lake Victoria and then exported to overseas markets. By analysing the Ugandan perch fishery as a set of careers, the paper shows that, although some fishermen have benefited from the perch boom, most face an uncertain and marginal existence. Few of them, however, move away in response. Analysis of an anthropological case study reveals that this is because the fishermen value the urban culture characterizing prominent village landings, expressed in particular clothing and hairstyles, the prevalence of non-kin ties, and a prospering leisure industry epitomized by the proliferation of pool tables. Hence, a cultural preference for life at the landings, rather than a universal quest for economic opportunity, drives their economic decision making.