ABSTRACT

It was in early 2016 that I first set foot on a bridge linking Brazil to France and the European Union. It was my first day of fieldwork as a doctoral student, and I was eager to cross this peculiar bridge across the Oyapock River. Fortunately, my host and friend Stéphane and his nine-year-old daughter Aline joined me on this little trip from the French border town of Saint-Georges-de-l'Oyapock (in the following: Saint-Georges) to the nearby bridge. Since the bridge was not yet inaugurated at that time, we went to the French police station located next to the bridge to ask for permission to pass. Caught by surprise, the officer working at reception that day asked us to come in and was happy to have some visitors on what seemed like a boring working day for him. We had some small talk, and the officer—whom I shall call Guillaume—told us that he had been relocated from Paris to French Guiana several years ago for the opening of the bridge. Year after year, the inauguration was delayed, and so Guillaume was twiddling his thumbs in his office, from which he was able to see the bridge within spitting distance, day in and day out. It was defunct before it was even operating: neither pedestrians nor vehicles could be spotted on the cable-stayed bridge whose two towers, with a height of 83 metres, majestically rise over the lush rainforest and the waters of the Oyapock River. Luckily, Guillaume said, his tenure would soon be over, and he could go back to the metropole. As it turned out, the bridge was partially opened in 2017, when Guillaume was already back in Paris.