The Fixer

9781478001911: Hardback
Release Date: 28th June 2019

9781478003045: Paperback
Release Date: 28th June 2019

20 illustrations

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 224

Series Theory in Forms

Duke University Press Books

The Fixer

Visa Lottery Chronicles

Charles Piot follows a visa broker—known as a “fixer”—in the West African nation of Togo as he helps his clients apply for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery program.
Hardback / £84.00
Paperback / £21.99

In the West African nation of Togo, applying for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is a national obsession, with hundreds of thousands of Togolese entering each year. From the street frenzy of the lottery sign-up period and the scramble to raise money for the embassy interview to the gamesmanship of those adding spouses and dependents to their dossiers, the application process is complicated, expensive, and unpredictable. In The Fixer Charles Piot follows Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a Togolese visa broker—known as a “fixer”—as he shepherds his clients through the application and interview process. Relaying the experiences of the fixer, his clients, and embassy officials, Piot captures the ever-evolving cat-and-mouse game between the embassy and the hopeful Togolese as well as the disappointments and successes of lottery winners in the United States. These detailed and compelling stories uniquely illustrate the desire and savviness of migrants as they work to find what they hope will be a better life.

Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Business of Dreams  1
1. Border Practice  27
2. The Interview  45
3. Kinship by Other Means  63
4. Trading Futures  85
5. Embassy Indiscretions  109
6. Protest  124
7. Prison  134
8. America, Here We Come  148
9. Lomé 2018  171
Notes  179
Bibliography  195
Index  207

Charles Piot is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University; editor of Doing Development in West Africa: A Reader by and for Undergraduates, also published by Duke University Press; and author of Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War.

“The U.S. visa lottery program has been called ‘the planet's most popular game of chance.’ In this utterly riveting book, Charles Piot, among the finest Africanist scholars of our day, takes us—along with consummate ‘fixer,’ the lottery broker Kodjo Nicolas Batema—on an extraordinary journey into the business of dreams, following those seeking a path to America. Along the way, they not only make new lives, they also fashion an organic ‘theory from the South’ about the workings of the contemporary world order. Laced with humor, irony, disappointment, and hope, The Fixer is a truly terrific accomplishment.”

John L. Comaroff, coauthor of
The Truth about Crime: Sovereignty, Knowledge, Social Order

The Fixer is both an entertaining tale and a deep one. The pages turn quickly as we follow a vivid cast of characters chasing their emigration dreams through various impostures staged by the title character. But while the stories are often funny, the poignant predicament that frames them is deadly serious. A powerful book, illuminating a set of issues that could hardly be more important or timely.”

James Ferguson, author of
Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution