The Fixer

Visa Lottery Chronicles

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 20 illustrations Published: June 2019

Author: Charles Piot

Contributor: Kodjo Nicolas Batema

African Studies, Anthropology, Sociology > Migration Studies

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.


"Extremely well written, The Fixer is a must-read for those striving for a more equitable world: their advocacy efforts around global mobility and migration cannot be understood divorced from global inequalities. The Fixer would be a great read for general readers, migration experts, policymakers, folks involved in advocacy for immigrants and displaced people, and students of immigration and transnational studies, as well as in courses on the challenges and ethics of ethnographic field research. Just a gentle warning — once you start the book, it is hard to put down." — Faranak Miraftab, International Migration Review

“Scholars of Africa will appreciate how Piot combines his deep regional knowledge of Togo and his ethnographic expertise to highlight the larger global forces that shape the lives of migrant-refugees.”

— Marius Kothor, African Studies Review

“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


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
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
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Second Place, 2020 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing, presented by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology section of the American Anthropological Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0304-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0191-1
Publicity material

Funding Information

Publication of this open monograph was the result of Duke University's participation in TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem), a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries. TOME aims to expand the reach of long-form humanities and social science scholarship including digital scholarship. Additionally, the program looks to ensure the sustainability of university press monograph publishing by supporting the highest quality scholarship and promoting a new ecology of scholarly publishing in which authors' institutions bear the publication costs. Funding from Duke University Libraries made it possible to open this publication to the world.