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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Gina Porter

Lyon, F. & Porter, G. (2010). Evolving institutions of trust: personalized and institutional bases of trust in Nigerian and Ghanaian food trading. In Organizational trust: a cultural perspective. Saunders, M.N.K., Skinner, D., Dietz, G., Gillespie, N. & Lewicki, R.J. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 255-278.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper examines the processes of building cooperation in a context of sparse public-sector regulation. The Nigerian and Ghanaian food sectors are characterized by a highly dispersed and fragmented system of micro-entrepreneurs from diverse ethnic groups who both compete and cooperate in order to flourish. Drawing on ethnographic research, we consider the relationships and contracts that require an element of cross-cultural trust, how personal social relations and institutional forms are used to ensure trust, and the role of cultural norms. Our empirical findings indicate that individuals draw on both personalized social relations and institutional forms of trust that are underpinned by culture specific norms. Through personalized trust, traders have been able to operate across cultural boundaries, building common norms of behavior over centuries, and shaping these into what are perceived essentially as professional, albeit personalized, codes of conduct and semi formal institutional forms (such as associations) that function in parallel to the state.