Migration as Postcolonial Praxis: Life Histories and Social Theory from the African-European borderzone
Dr. Knut Graw
One of the most striking aspects of contemporary African-European migration and the ways it is represented is the almost complete anonymity of its protagonists. The problem with this absence of detailed accounts of migratory life histories is that the reasons, motivations, and sociocultural/economic dynamics behind current migratory endeavours tend to remain out of sight or to be reduced to a rather simplistic and undifferentiated picture of generalized poverty, unemployment, and economic hardship. In response to this, the present research project follows individual migratory trajectories from West Africa to Europe in order to analyse, through a variety of detailed case studies, the interrelatedness of the different sociocultural, economic and institutional fields producing migratory processes and identities today. Starting from the personal experiences and accounts of Senegalese and Gambian migrants in Spain, the working hypothesis of this project considers ‘illegal’ migration not solely in terms of economic depravation or issues of border control but as an emergent space of postcolonial praxis and existential trajectory. Looking at the migratory process from a threefold perspective (pre-departure, border crossing and diaspora), the theoretical analysis of the developed case studies will focus on three main questions: (a) The question of the relation between the migratory imaginations and practices we are currently witnessing and culturally specific and historically embedded notions of mobility and agency; (b) the question of the concrete working and impact of globalization processes and the phenomenon of the borderzone; and (c) the question of the production of diasporic lifeworlds and realities at the intersection of individual experience and the politics and actions of the receiving state governing the field of economic and political access.