Accepted Paper:

Uncertainty, hope and the willingness to take chances in the context of migration decision-making  


María Hernández Carretero (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

An ethnographically-based analysis of the relevance of hope and uncertainty for understanding attitudes to emigrate and return in the case of Senegalese migration to Spain. The hope of succeeding connected to particular places affects perceptions of uncertainty and the willingness to take chances.

Paper long abstract:

Hope and uncertainty go hand in hand in explaining how migration decisions are made in the context of livelihood alternatives. The concept of hope, together with hopefulness and hopelessness, allows us to better conceptualize how uncertainty is perceived by individuals who confront decisions about imagined future livelihoods in relation to migration possibilities. On the basis of ethnographic material on a study of migrant trajectories between Senegal and Spain, I compare individuals' attitudes to the initial decision to migrate to Europe on the one hand, and the possibility of settling back in Senegal on the other hand. At the time of leaving Senegal in the first place, the idea of making a future as a migrant in Europe is filled with hopefulness, whereas the prospects of making a living at home are seen as little more than hopeless. Individuals and families are confident investing in migration, and the migrant appears little concerned by uncertainties. By contrast, when considering returning to Senegal - a seemingly ubiquitous desire among Senegalese abroad - migrants highlight the need to ensure making the right income-generating investments, lest failure may undermine the entire migration project. I argue that the greater degree of attention paid to uncertainty in relation to return has much to do with the differentials in hope attributed to specific places: since migrating to Europe is seen as a sure avenue to success, taking chances is worthwhile. Success in Senegal is more elusive, and this makes migrants more cautious about ensuring a solid plan of return.

Panel W002
Ethnographies of hope