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Navigating complexity and contradiction: an interview with a Gambian businessman in Istanbul

By Helen Mackreath

Jahara Import-Export business is located in a Beyazit warehouse composed of roughly one hundred businesses, of which around ten are run by, or employ majority of, African workers from Senegal and Gambia. It is owned by Mehmud Kebbeh, a Gambian man who identifies as a migrant and a business-man.

I first met Mehmud as an interlocutor for a separate research project. As a British researcher our initial conversation encompassed discussions of some of his time spent in London and the relationship between our two countries, including the legacies of colonialism, as well as respective feelings about our “foreigner” status in Turkey. I spoke to him further to understand more about the warehouse as a space of transit, of multiple criss-crossing identities across nationality, class, gender, religion. Our conversation indicated multiple ways in which he navigates the overlaps between his business, religious and national identities; the importance of his import-export space as a social setting where migrants shed restrictive identifiers and share commonalities; and the multiple areas of hierarchy, exchange and isolation within the Gambian and Senegalese communities. Continue reading Navigating complexity and contradiction: an interview with a Gambian businessman in Istanbul