Alice Elliot, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University College London

On migration, proportion, and texture

How do we speak, think, and write of migration when it presents itself ethnographically not only as a national/transnational movement of people, but as a constitutive component of life itself – an entity through which kinship relations are nurtured, the passing of time is measured, gendered subjectivities emerge and are recognised? In this paper, I draw on my on-going research in emigrant areas of North Africa, swept since the 1970s by impressive transnational movement towards Europe, and trace how migration has come to permeate the places where it originates, coming to bear on the very principles, categories, imaginings and practices around which local life unfolds. Tracing how migration appears, at once, at deeply different scales of social and intimate life – from the minutiae of everyday conjugal relations, to the imagination of worthy futures, to notions of humanity and its loss – I reflect on the ways in which both proportion and texture of the somewhat dry socio-economic concept of “migration” come to be radically redrawn when observed in the areas from which migrants originate – and, ideally for many of them, where they will one day return.

Find out more about the Migration cluster at the Department of Social Anthropology.

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