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Migration, family and the changing significance of absence in Senegal

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 -
1:00pm to 2:00pm
Oxford Department of International Development, Mansfield Road
Seminar Room 3

Part of the 'Migration to, through and from Africa: An African conversation' series, convened by Robtel Neajai Pailey and Marie Godin.

Speaker: Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, University College London

In the Senegambian region, mobility has long been an important aspect of familial arrangements, from polygamous marriages in which men move between wives’ homes to the circulation of children between households. With increasing migration throughout the 20th century, these regional patterns have been extended across continents, such that transnational marriage and parenting have become an ordinary part of life for many Senegalese families. At the same time, in Wolof-speaking Senegal certain forms of absence are valued so long as they are predicated on the substitution of the absent person with someone appropriate, and on eventual presence. Increasingly however, the ability to move back and forth for visits, and to be reunified with children or spouses, have become severely curtailed by the restrictiveness of immigration policies in Europe and elsewhere. Protracted periods of immobility thus radically transform the experience of living in transnational families. This paper suggests that the social significance of absence, and the ability to ‘live apart together’ that is often celebrated in popular discourse as well as in studies of Senegalese migration, are being transformed by forced immobility.

ABOUT THE SEMINAR SERIES - MIGRATION TO, THROUGH AND FROM AFRICA: AN ‘AFRICAN’ CONVERSATION

Scholars of African descent have increasingly contributed to the growing body of knowledge on African migratory flows, even though Africans have often been depicted as ‘objects’ rather than ‘subjects’ of scholarly inquiry. In this seminar series, we ‘reverse the gaze’ by showcasing cutting edge research conducted by African scholars who examine migration to, through and from Africa.

From early career researchers to more established academics, the presenters in our series demonstrate the geographic diversity of African migration patterns by showcasing how Africans on the move are part and parcel of broader processes of social, political and economic development across the continent and beyond. In doing this, they prove that “Africans have always produced knowledge about their continent, even though their contributions have been ‘preferably unheard’ in some cases and ‘deliberately silenced’ in others” (Pailey, 2016).

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Jenny Peebles
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Open to all