Achieving the Senegalese Dream: Transnational Narratives in Dakar and New York City
Omolayo Ojo (School of Oriental & African Studies )
Paper short abstract:
This research analyzes how narratives shared within transnational spaces shape and are shaped by the social construction of migrants and migration and reveals the importance of archetypal and counter narratives as they highlight how people navigate idealized and realized expectations of migration.
Paper long abstract:
As an active sending nation, many people in Dakar, Senegal have family or friends that reside in another country. This research contributes to the understanding of how narratives are shared within transnational spaces and how these narratives shape and are shaped by the social construction of migrants and migration. Using ethnographic methods, this research is a comparative analysis of the migration narratives shared in Dakar and New York City, one of the primary destinations for Senegalese migrants. The focus on narratives shared within this space is particularly salient when considering how migrants and non-migrants utilize them in various contexts and how information about migration is selectively shared with different audiences, including immediate family, acquaintances and possible emigrants. The analysis thereby opens up for consideration how conflicting themes and narratives are created and reconciled across and within the sending and receiving nations and even by the same storyteller. Emergent themes include efforts to achieve "The Senegalese Dream"—material wealth, public display and sharing of that wealth, marriage, and respect within the community. The narrative describing going to "El Dorado"—referencing any Western nation—as a particularly effective means of achieving this dream remains dominant, but is more often used within a phantom narrative tradition in which naïve individuals still buy into the myth or juxtaposed with a challenge narrative that highlights the realities of migration. Accordingly, this research reveals the importance of archetypal and counter narratives about migration as they highlight how people navigate idealized and realized expectations for migration.
Storytelling and social order in Africa