Nauja Kleist, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies

Hope and uncertainty in African migration – life after deportation to Ghana

Contemporary migration is characterized by a mobility paradox. The increased reach and accessibility of communication, media and transport technologies mean that people in many parts of the world are exposed to visions of the good life and future elsewhere while restrictive mobility regimes makes access to the global circuits of legal mobility increasingly difficult. How do migrants respond to this situation and imagine their futures? In this lecture, I argue that hope constitutes a productive analytical framework for studies of migration in the light of this mobility paradox, highlighting potentiality as well as uncertainty. I explore this through a case study of life after deportation to Ghana. Based on fieldwork among Ghanaian deportees and other involuntary return migrants, I explore trajectories of social and spatial (im)mobility, how they relate to notions of the good life and future, and their temporal and spatial projections. Returning empty-handed is widely embedded in shame and a sense of individualized failure, despite widespread knowledge of the uncertainty related to high-risk migration. I suggest that this conundrum is an expression of the local persistence of international migration as a repository of hope for a better and livable future. By implication, deportation constitutes both a disruption of mobile livelihoods as well as the hopes underpinning them.

Nauja Kleist is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies where she works on African migration, with particular focus on Ghana. Her research concerns involuntary return migration, European and African mobility regimes and their social effects, diaspora mobilization, and the role of hope, uncertainty, belonging and gender relations. She has published widely on these topics in, e.g., African Affairs, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, African Diaspora, and has recently co-edited the volume Hope and Uncertainty in Contemporary African Migration (with Dorte Thorsen, Routledge, 2017) and guest-edited a special issue of History and Anthropology on ‘Hope over Time’ (with Stef Jansen, 2016).

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