Accepted Paper:

Stress resulting from cultural dissonance as an underlying cause of out-migration from Senegal to Europe  


Roos Willems (University of Antwerp)

Paper short abstract:

The incongruity between the demands for solidarity, put upon individual Senegalese men and women by their extended families, and the decreasing economic possibilities to satisfy those demands, often lead to increased levels of stress, albeit the onset of depression, to which only out-migration is perceived to provide an adequate solution.

Paper long abstract:

The widely media covered waves of out-migration from West Africa, in particular Senegal, to the Canary Islands in 2006, which took place in small pirogues carrying sometimes up to 100 men and women, have given rise to the image of destitute and desperate clandestine migrants. Recent research among repatriated Senegalese clandestine migrants by the author has shown however that the reality is more complex and that there exist under- researched socio-cultural causes underlying the unstoppable stream of African out-migration to Europe.

The cultural dissonance experienced by many Senegalese individuals results from the incongruity between the demands imposed upon them by the traditional social systems of support (that continue to exist even in urbanized setting), and the increasing scarcity of economic opportunities to fulfil one's obligations to one's relatives. The socio-cultural and economic effects of a the system of gerontocracy and a widespread kleptocracy add further to the stress experienced by the average individual, and may in some cases leads to the onset of depression.

In a society fraught with economic problems and increasing levels of poverty, there is little attention for or interest in stress and depression, let alone enough material and human resources for clinical facilities to treat these types of afflictions . This paper documents the resilience of the men and women undergoing the effects of cultural dissonance in looking pro-actively for solutions to their situation rather than passively undergoing it.

Panel W051
Migrants' pathways to health care: access barriers and patterns of resilience and mutuality