Accepted paper:

Mobility discourses in contemporary Senegal: ideas of hope, opportunity and migration in flux


María Hernández Carretero (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes changing discourses about the value of mobility, the elsewhere and the figure of the migrant in contemporary Senegal. It pays particular attention to the dynamic nature of the notions of hope and opportunity with respect to migration and as they are assigned to particular destinations.

Paper long abstract:

Mobility, in a variety of forms, affects the lives of numerous individuals and families in contemporary Senegal. In recent decades, many Senegalese youth, disenchanted with the possibilities for socioeconomic advancement at home, have sought opportunities abroad. Particular destinations have become repositories of hope for those convinced that migration provided the surest path to success. In this paper, I examine the possible repercussions of changing financial conditions in the global arena on Senegalese discourses about the desirability of international migration, the relative allocation of hope to particular geographic locations, and ideas about the figure of the international migrant. The analysis is based on empirical material collected through ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with Senegalese migrants and non-migrants in Senegal and Spain. Spain has been a popular destination among Senegalese migrants and its economy has importantly suffered the impact of the global financial crisis. With the analysis presented in this paper I seek to contribute, beyond the Senegalese case, to a broader exploration of the dynamism of perceptions related to the hope and desirability attributed to different forms of mobility and destinations. The paper provides an empirically-grounded discussion on how the changing contextual conditions of migration are experienced and transmitted through the flow of information, material wealth, and people between sending and receiving countries. It highlights how those flows contribute to reshaping, among migrants and non-migrants, images of the elsewhere, ideas about where it is worth investing hopes and seeking opportunities, and the social status associated with international migration.

panel MMM14
New geographies of hope and despair