Jesper Bjarnesen: "A Family Affair?"
- Date: –12:00
- Location: Engelska parken - Eng3-2028; Campus Gotland (video)
- Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
- Contact person: Susann Baez Ullberg, Don Kulick
The Research Seminar in Cultural Anthropology
(N.B. Replaces the previously announced seminar with Philip Kao, Harvard University)
Jesper Bjarnesen, The Nordic Africa Institute: "A family affair? Creating and maintaining transnational bonds through phatic kinship"
When generations of labour migrants create and uphold transnational connections, it is often understood to be a family affair. Pioneers send for their children, or pave the way for parents, siblings and more distant relatives, and transnational spaces are maintained through the similar aspirations and trajectories of new generations of migrants. What is less understood is how flexible notions of kinship may be in these contexts. On the basis of a long-standing ethnographic involvement with transnational mobilities between Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, this article illustrates the ways in which idioms of kinship serve as a central currency for facilitating labour migration and other moves in this region. The analysis emphasises historical continuities in labour mobility between these two countries, vested in local ideals of hospitality and solidarity through the institution of the tutorat in Côte d'Ivoire, as well as the ruptures in these social contracts through the past two decades of political and armed conflict.
Conceptually, the paper suggests that the evocation and maintenance of kinship-like ties, while not established or maintained explicitly to that end, becomes a central currency in facilitating transnational mobility. The article thus adds to the emerging literature on migration brokers and infrastructures by ascribing these kinship-like ties a pivotal role in facilitating the continued mobility within a transnational space. The argument thereby challenges assumptions about the role of the family in transnational migration, and the nature of migrant aspirations, and suggests that Africanist migration research, drawing on a long tradition of highlighting the situatedness, flexibility, and contextuality of social relatedness, may contribute to theoretical refinement of research on migration infrastructures and brokerage.