Inside cosmologies of destinations: a case study on changing imaginaries of migration from Eritrea
(University of Trento)
Paper short abstract:
Based on ethnographic research conducted among Eritreans at home and in transit to and in Europe, this paper analyses the multiple layers contributing to the emergence, reproduction and transformation of “cosmologies of destinations”.
Paper long abstract:
Based on ethnographic research conducted among Eritreans at home and in transit to and in Europe, this paper analyses the multiple layers contributing to the emergence, reproduction and transformation of "cosmologies of destinations". By this concept, I refer to widespread representations of the world which orient migration journeys. Among my Eritrean informants, possible destinations were ordered along an implicit but widely shared normative and moral scale, with different levels of perceived safety, individual freedom, social recognition and economic achievements—just to mention some key dimensions. Drawing from my case study, this paper shows how cosmologies of destinations are shaped by several influences. First, I examine how historical exposure of the community to international migration has influenced my informants' ideas about destination countries; second, I describe how national and international media play a role in affecting their preferences; third, I illustrate how mouth-to-ear rumours, and the continuous circulation of second hand information contribute to certain stereotypes about possible countries of destinations and their inhabitants. The (reliable or not) information, images and imaginaries built on these different sources, are combined, reproduced and transformed over space and time by different groups. As a result, cosmologies are sometimes extremely sensitive to feedback mechanisms and on other occasions, resistant even to first-hand migrants' experience. How, under what circumstances and among whom cosmologies change are empirical questions for which I provide some exploratory analytical answers feeding into the larger debate on migration and aspirations, moralities and cultural diffusion.
African migration imaginaries: rumours, cosmologies, representations