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Women of power: undoing academic tropes about West African female migrants 
Anais Ménard (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Andréa de Lobo (University of Brasília)
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Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg (Carleton College)
Thursday 18 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

Building on scholarship that focuses on West African women’s central role in processes of international mobility, this panel questions academic (and public) tropes of disempowerment by looking at the ways women challenge gender patterns and build power in their societies of origin and of migration.

Long Abstract:

Recent scholarship regarding West African migration explores economic rationales and social aspirations driving international mobilities. Many such analyses remain gender-blind, overwhelmingly depicting West African migrants as young men, often illegalized. Despite their nuanced approach to migration processes, anthropologists have participated in reproducing clichés of powerlessness about West African women who migrate, emphasizing how gender hierarchies — such as dependence on family reunification — render women vulnerable and constrain their socioeconomic opportunities. Some anthropological authors have begun to undo these academic (and public) tropes by noting the intersections between women’s reproductive and care work and their agentic roles in initiating and shaping transnational mobilities. Recent studies have revealed West African women’s central positions in the circulation of migratory capital, as leaders in their diasporic neighbourhoods and as creators of transnational networks. This panel extends such work of undoing by focusing on the ways in which West African women challenge gender patterns and reconfigure notions of power in their societies of origin and of migration. It emphasizes women’s autonomous (if embedded) trajectories, as central actors of their own migration. It contextualizes women in their national histories and post-immigration contexts and challenges narratives of disempowerment by investigating how women appropriate and use various West African imaginaries of power in contexts of migration. The panel invites papers that explore the various ways women build their own socioeconomic pathways, achieve social recognition, mobilize female-based networks, and circumvent or use gender norms in their own interests.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -
Session 2 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -