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Open Access Mobilities and Sediments: Spatial Dynamics in the Context of Contemporary Sub-Saharan African Migration to Europe

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Mobilities and Sediments: Spatial Dynamics in the Context of Contemporary Sub-Saharan African Migration to Europe

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Abstract Contemporary African migration to the European Union (EU) is triggered by global interconnectedness, but at the same time it is opposed by the hard borders of the EU. As a consequence, sub-Saharan African migrants often undertake fragmented and dangerous journeys to the North. These journeys are mainly discussed with regard to the rather linear notion of transit migration (as if migrants depart, go through a transit phase and settle afterwards). In this paper I take a different perspective by approaching migrants’ journeys as open and dynamic phenomena that evolve ‘en route’. I present an analytical lens that takes different mobilities (of people, goods, information, etc.) as the starting point to investigate these migration journeys. With this mobilities lens I analyze in detail three trajectories of African migrants who are moving to the EU. In order to avoid a simple ‘everything is mobile’ argument, I subsequently explore the role of the geographical concept of ‘place’ in the facilitation of these migration journeys. I thereby take into account places as geographical localities as well as migrants’ places in their social networks. Finally, I illustrate how mobilities, in turn, bring their ‘sediments’. This means that they change and give meaning to places. This reciprocal way of relating mobilities to places helps us to go beyond both individualistic and structuralistic explanations of migration.

Affiliations: 1: International Development Studies (IDS), Utrecht University The Netherlands j.schapendonk@uu.nl

Abstract Contemporary African migration to the European Union (EU) is triggered by global interconnectedness, but at the same time it is opposed by the hard borders of the EU. As a consequence, sub-Saharan African migrants often undertake fragmented and dangerous journeys to the North. These journeys are mainly discussed with regard to the rather linear notion of transit migration (as if migrants depart, go through a transit phase and settle afterwards). In this paper I take a different perspective by approaching migrants’ journeys as open and dynamic phenomena that evolve ‘en route’. I present an analytical lens that takes different mobilities (of people, goods, information, etc.) as the starting point to investigate these migration journeys. With this mobilities lens I analyze in detail three trajectories of African migrants who are moving to the EU. In order to avoid a simple ‘everything is mobile’ argument, I subsequently explore the role of the geographical concept of ‘place’ in the facilitation of these migration journeys. I thereby take into account places as geographical localities as well as migrants’ places in their social networks. Finally, I illustrate how mobilities, in turn, bring their ‘sediments’. This means that they change and give meaning to places. This reciprocal way of relating mobilities to places helps us to go beyond both individualistic and structuralistic explanations of migration.

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2012-01-01
2016-12-07

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