This blog documents my efforts in researching the trade in second-hand clothes – locally known as mitumba – in Tanzania. The idea for this research project stemmed from previous stays in East Africa. The trade in second-hand clothes, imported from all over the world, seemed to be almost omnipresent. Other social scientists studying the trade have employed so-called “global value chain” approaches. They have described how the clothes arrive in African ports and how it is being traded within the continent’s large cities and metropoles. In my research, I will primarily focus on the translocal trade in mitumba and its relation to processes of labour migration. More specifically, I focus on connections between Tanzania’s economic centre Dar es Salaam and the rural towns of Lindi and Mtwara on the southern coast.
My name is Gerda Kuiper and I am a cultural anthropologist based at the Global South Studies Centre at the University of Cologne in Germany. My project started in November 2019 and is funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. I am also associated to the DFG-funded collaborative research centre Future Rural Africa.
The blog’s aims are twofold: one is to share some of the research findings with a broad audience; the other is to make the ethnographic research process visible. I hope you enjoy reading this blog!