Accepted Paper:

Islam, sport and development: three ways of imagining youth (im)mobility at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in the Gambia.  
Ross Wignall (Oxford Brookes University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses awkward encounters with young men participating in a Sport-for-Development programme at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in The Gambia, West Africa to explore discourses of mobility, immobility and imagined global relationships

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores my awkward encounters with young men participating in a Sport-for-Development programme at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in The Gambia, West Africa. Situating my analysis in relation to heated discourses of youth mobility and immobility stemming from an outflow of young Gambians via dangerous migratory routes, I explore my own relationship to young men I tutored by looking at three ethnographic moments linked by their relation to mobility and imagined global relationships. Firstly, I show how Gambian perceptions of Western intervention and development are both mediated and altered through particular personal relationships governed by structural inequalities. Secondly, I locate these debates in stories of sport and mobility, exploring how imaginary narratives of sporting success intersect both with government rhetoric urging young men to remain at home and actual travel and success offered by sporting exploits. Finally, I locate these debates in the constellation of local Islamic identities in relation to global imaginaries of power and inequality discussing how Islamic readings of globalisation render economic and political processes in 'Manichean terms' such as 'The West' versus 'The Rest' through which young Muslims articulate complex situational identities. As I show, these 'awkward' moments show how desires to migrate, travel and escape emerged, providing the grounds for powerful imaginaries of mobility at work through the YMCA and, indeed, through my presence in The Gambia.

Panel Time01
Imagination, migration & (im)mobility