Lisa Åkesson, Docent, Senior lecturer, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg

Moving beyond the colonial? The new Portuguese migrants in Angola

For the first time in African postcolonial history, citizens of a former European colonial power are seeking improved living conditions in the ex-colonies on a massive scale. Until recently, Angolans have moved to Portugal in search of personal and economic security, but since the mid-2000s migration has been reversed. For visitors to Lisbon, the long line of Portuguese women and men queuing outside the Angolan consulate is a telling sign of a new era. The background to this development is the economic crisis in Portugal with drastically decreased salaries and soaring unemployment rates in combination with strong oil-fuelled macro-economic growth in Angola.

The main motive for the new migrants is to work hard and earn enough money to start an independent adult life, or, in the case of the middle-aged migrants, to sustain family members. Thus, integration into the labour market is the goal for most of these migrants. The urgent need to secure a reliable income is a reality they share with labour migrants all over the world. What is unique in this case, however, is that this vulnerable position is combined with a position of symbolic power grounded in the Portuguese historical identity as a former colonial power.

My presentation focuses on everyday workplace relations between Angolans and Portuguese in the Angolan capital of Luanda, where the majority of the Portuguese live. It discusses the changing relationships between the ex-colonizers and the ex-colonized in the wake of ongoing global migration. In particular the presentation discusses the following questions: In what ways, if any, do colonial power relations still resonate between Angolans and Portuguese? Are their imaginaries of each other in any sense moving beyond the colonial past? These questions are pertinent to analyse in relation to the present context where the Portuguese perform as labour migrants and business people rather than settlers and rulers. This is a situation that produces new ruptures and continuities with the colonial past.

Lisa Åkesson is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at the Department of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg and a Senior Researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute. Her present research centers on North-South migration, specifically the new Portuguese migration to the former colony of Angola. Over the years she has focused on transnational migration, and principally explored how labour migration affects those left behind in sending societies. Through themes such as remittances, conjugal relationships, child care and return migration she has examined relationships between "stayers" and migrated family members in Europe and the US. Critical analysis of international policy on migration and development is also an area of her expertise. Much of her empirical research has revolved around Portuguese speaking Africa, but she has also explored the globalized everyday life of migrants living in Sweden.

A longer text is available on request. Please contact Lisa Åkesson

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