Accepted paper:

Longing for Exile: Youth and Migration Aspirations in Urban Ethiopia


Tekalign Ayalew Mengiste (Addis Ababa University and Stockholm University)

Paper short abstract:

Migration aspiration in urban Ethiopia is shaped by precarious life condition, transactional relations and increased imaginations of better life is elsewhere. This paper discusses how various actors and discourses (re)produce migration imaginaries among the young.

Paper long abstract:

Several local and global conditions are shaping young people's migration aspirations in urban Ethiopia. In the context of uncertainties due to limited life choices and volatile political conditions, many young people are unable to fulfil personal life projects and family expectations, including stable income, marriage and starting one's own family. With the expansion of interconnections to global systems and access to information on unequal world and consumption patterns, limited access to formal migration channels as well as encountering daily flows of diasporic remittances, young people have begun feeling deprived and excluded from global connections. Moreover, in everyday media, state policy, popular culture, public debates and discourses about migration to the West and diaspora in Ethiopia are very much about high level of 'prosperity, consumption, cosmopolitanism, knowledge and remittance', which significantly shape the hopes and motivations of the young people wanting to migrate mainly to the West. Moreover, expanding migration industry such as private labour recruitment agencies and migration brokers disseminate narratives about gains of migration to potential migrants. Based on ethnographic data, collected between 2013-2015 for a PhD project, from various actors in Addis Ababa (origin location) and migrants en route (in the Sudan, Italy) and in diasporic locations such as the UK and Sweden, this paper maps out how, among others, translocal and transnational relations, smuggling practices, popular culture and state policies produce and reproduce images of migration destination among Ethiopian potential young migrants.

panel P196
African migration imaginaries: rumours, cosmologies, representations