Many West Africans migrated from their countries to America between the late 80s and mid 90s with the hope of improving their living standards. What they found was, however, not what they expected. They found themselves struggling to earn enough money for themselves and their families back in Africa. Most of these Africans had to start up small businesses while others looked for casual employment. This paper analyzes the plight of these African immigrants as Paul Stoller portrays them in his book Money has no Smell: The Africanization of New York City. Specifically, it looks at how they failed to fulfill their ambitions.
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This work discusses the topic by giving examples of Africans who left their homes hoping to get good jobs and send money to their families back in Africa. It also discusses the culture shock that troubled some Africans’ lives, and how most of them had to compromise their religious and social values to get money for survival. Before travelling to America, most of them always thought of this country as a place that did not have problems. They also hoped to interact with the American society without difficulties.
The first aspect of this problem is the Africans’ hope of ending their troubles by travelling to America. Economic problems in West African countries have always been the main reason for the migration of their citizens into America (Stoller 2002:17). Stoller uses Issifi as an example of African men who travelled to America with the hope of making money for their families back in their native countries (Stoller 2002: 4). He met an American woman who could not allow him to help his family as he had intended. She wanted all his attention. Life in America further hardened when the government closed down the market for African goods in 1994 (Stoller 2002:14). What this man went through portrays the disappointment that most Africans experience in American cities. They meet more problems instead of good lives.
Stoller also highlights the troubles Africans experienced while trying to fit into the American culture (2002: 9). They, for instance, found it difficult giving all their attention to women and involving themselves in same sex marriages (Stoller 2002: 4). They were equally shocked by how Americans disregarded family ties. Issifi narrated the story of her possessive girlfriend, Monique, who was always unhappy whenever he mentioned his native country or his family. According to him, a good woman should not be so demanding. Africans found this culture very overwhelming, but could not avoid it.
Most of the African immigrants were Muslims, but the difficulty of life forced them to compromise their religious values in order to get money. Issifi, for example, makes his business transactions with different people; drug traffickers, robbers and people from other religions (Stoller 2002: 5). The Quran forbids Muslims from transacting with people who are considered ungodly and those who do not hold beliefs that are similar to theirs. This readiness to do anything with the purpose of getting money is, in fact, the main theme Stoller addresses in the entire book. It is what the title of the book summarizes.
From the analysis, it is evident that America has problems just like many developing countries. Money is not picked on the streets; everyone works hard to get it. The analysis also implies that America is likely to face many problems due to overpopulation resulting from immigration. At the same time, it highlights the harsh realities Africans meet in a place they previously revered-economic, religious and social problems.
Stoller, Paul. Money has no Smell: The Africanization of New York City, 1-17. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Web.