Writing Culture and the Life of Anthropology
Orin Starn is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is the author of The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal and Nightwatch: The Politics of Protest in the Andes, and the coeditor of The Peru Reader, all also published by Duke University Press.
This chapter discusses Togolese who apply for the U.S. Diversity Visa lottery. More Togolese per capita apply for the Green Card lottery than those from any other African country, and winners attempt to game the system by adding “spouses” and dependents to their dossiers, reinventing kinship along the way. The U.S. embassy in Lomé knows this gaming is going on and constructs ever more elaborate tests to attempt to decipher the authenticity of winners’ marriages and job profiles—and of their moral worth as citizens—tests that immediately circulate to those on the street. This chapter explores the cat-and-mouse game between street and embassy, situating it within the post–cold war conjuncture of ongoing crisis, of an eviscerated though still dictatorial state, of social death and the emptiness of citizenship under such conditions, of a sprawling transnational diaspora and the desires and longings it creates, of informationalism and its new technologies, of surveillance regimes and their travails.