This panel follows the trajectories of the formal and informal figures who have organized or guided migration in Africa, past and present, examined from historical, anthropological or geographical angles.
Today large-scale migrations, whether from rural to urban spaces, or within or across states, are perceived as being integral to the African continent. Older studies tended to emphasize coercive "push-factors" such as land pressures, taxation, violent displacement, impoverishment and underdevelopment. More recently scholars have re-conceptualized migration as a more open-ended personal and collective strategy to achieve various development goals. Both the structure and the agency view of migration—mobilities channelled by impersonal forces or within a kin milieu or through ethnic networks—have often overlooked the elaborate semi-anonymous logistics of the in-between. This panel is interested in following the trajectories of the formal and informal figures who have organized or guided migration in Africa, past and present. The questions that the panel seeks to investigate include: Who were these mediators of mobility, including recruiters, brokers and transport workers? What tools did they employ (for instance, promises, guarantees, degrees of information and misinformation, sorting paperwork, formal and informal contracts, gaining and allocating commissions, and social instruments such as credit)? What was the social organization and transactional economy of these ports of call, transport hubs and points of contact, whether in urban centres or rural border areas? What were migrants' own experiences with and assessments of these relatively opaque but indispensable mediators? Beyond "push-pull": who and what are the strings? The panel conveners welcome especially abstract proposals with a historical, anthropological or geographical perspective.