'sharing scarcity' Paper at Interdisciplinary Poverty Research Conference. Salzburg. 21 & 22 September 2017.


"Sharing scarcity": young men’s friendships in Freetown.


‘Eat as You Can’, a social club of young men in Freetown Sierra Leone was founded by childhood friends from poor backgrounds who in the absence of having families to support them, spend most of their time together and established the club on the foundation of cooking and eating together.

These young men counter the precarity in their day-to-day lives through sharing whatever little they have with each other, being social and praying together. The club is built on ideas of non-violence, religious tolerance and brotherhood.

‘Eat as You Can’ therefore presents a counter exam-ple to other often violent gangs in the area who make a living through the illicit economy. Members are both Muslim and Christian and often engage in shared prayers attending and contributing to both a mosque and a church.

This paper explores the interconnection between material and social limita-tions and conceptions of sharing. Through highlighting how friendships shape the live-world of young people in urban Sierra Leone today, this paper explores friendship as a way for people to express resilience, and counter scarcity. I analyse how people negotiate the prevailing uncertainty in a situa-tion of scarcity, contested authority and new urban dynamics through building and drawing from so-cial friendship networks. For the young men of ‘Eat as You Can’ who find themselves at the margins of society, their friends replace the function of a family and close friends are perceived as brothers sharing joy and suffering with their members. They organise funerals in the case of death, provide resources for marriage and naming ceremonies, offer advice, support and comfort to their members and punish wrongdoings and displays of ignorance, violence or self-centeredness. The members of the club provide shelter, and food for each other.

It is through the network of the club that the negoti-ation of opportunities for social and economic mobility in an environment largely perceived as rigid, stagnating and hard to manoeuvre takes place. This paper therefore examines questions of uncer-tainty and insecurity, and of people’s coping strategies in their struggle for self-determination in con-straint environments.


2017 Salzburg Conference in Interdisciplinary Poverty Research.

Theme: Religion and Poverty

Organised by the Centre for Ethics and Poverty Research of the University of Salzburg.

Location: University of Salzburg 21 & 22 September 2017.


The Keynote Speakers in 2017 will be Paul Cloke, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Exeter, Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith & Public Policy and Director of the Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Emma Tomalin, Professor of Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds, where she is director of the Centre for Religion and Public Life.

Possible topcis for the general theme sessions are, among others, current trends in poverty, inequality and social exclusion, poverty trends of different groups (minorities, age, gender, disability, unemployment), analysis of the economic, social and cultural processes underlying poverty, the effects of poverty on health, well-being, education, and inclusion, conceptualizations of poverty, methodologies of poverty research, the effectiveness of poverty alleviation measures and policy responses, and research on safety nets and welfare.

Possible topics for the focus theme sessions are, among others, the relation of religion and poverty and inequality in different states and world regions, religion as a factor in development, faith-based organisations and poverty alleviation, extent and causes of poverty and social exclusion of religious groups and minorities, religious perspectives on poverty, and theological responses to poverty and inequality.

The conference is open to all disciplines (development studies, sociology, economics, anthroplogy, social medicine, geography, political science, legal studies and the humanities), approaches, methods and concepts within the field of poverty research, and papers coming from an inter-, trans- or multidisciplinary background are particularily welcomed. Both research papers of empirical, theoretical or conceptual nature and policy papers are welcomed.

link to Salzburg Interdisciplinary Poverty Research Conference homepage.

Panel reference:

Panel Title: Poverty in Africa 1