Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Errant Journals: Stories of Movement of Africans in Dakar, Senegal
by Echeverri Zuluaga, Jonathan, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2012, 144; 3511718
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation analyzes the experiences of Africans who travel out of their home countries seeking a life of safety, peace, wealth and dignity. Different life circumstances and sets of aspirations lead them to Dakar, Senegal, where their journeys come to a halt. They don’t want to stay in this city, but where and when they will leave are details hard to pin down on a map or calendar and their time in Dakar stretch on and on. What kind of relations to space and time do these circumstances enact? Anthropological literatures on economic crisis, youth and migration have looked at the time and space implications of being unable to leave home or being stuck at a destination. I extend these literatures by examining the ways in which space and time are experienced in an already started but interrupted journey. While Africans in Dakar linger in suspension, loose ways of finding jobs and housing, as well as interacting with locals and non-locals, structure their experiences of the city. In their quests for wealth, peace and dignity, they also interact with states, UN agencies and NGOs which offer them partial access to rights as refugees, travelers and/or citizens. In contrast with these mechanisms of recognition, previous life trajectories represent alternatives to attaining the dignity, wealth and peace to which my interlocutors aspire. Another element that life in Dakar entails is intense negotiations for departure. My interlocutors came up with out of the ordinary routes and destinations. Instead of being exclusively oriented toward Europe or North America, their routes and destinations also were important urban centers in Asia and South America. Lastly, the uncertainty that surrounded life in Dakar involved stories shaping itineraries and existent plans for leaving constantly vanishing into thin air. I associate these dynamics with the term “errance,” an analytical tool that cuts across the social categories (nationality, religion, age, etc.) to which my interlocutors are ascribed, and particularly across categories used to frame their reasons for moving (economic migrant, asylum seeker, refugee, adventurer). It connotes adventure, travel, deviance, mistake, and a journey without predetermined end. It encompasses moving and “being stuck” as well as other paradoxes that an ever-prolonged life in Dakar involves. This analysis is the result of thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Dakar, Senegal, between September 2009 and October 2010. Fieldwork entailed reconstructing the life itineraries of thirty-six of these Africans whose journeys had been suspended in Dakar, through participant observation, informal conversations and walks through the city. My analysis provides elements for understanding contemporary forms of movement in Africa and their shift toward destinations other than Europe and North America. It also contributes with a reflection across categories used to investugate people on-the move such as refugee and economic migrant.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sawyer, Suzana M.
Commitee: De la Cadena, Marisol, Donham, Donald L., Ng'weno, Bettina
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: African Studies, Cultural anthropology, Social structure
Keywords: Dakar, Elsewhere, Errance, Migration, Movement, Official documents, Senegal
Publication Number: 3511718
ISBN: 9781267398406
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