Routes, locations, and social imaginary: a comparative study of the on-going production of geographies in Somali forced migration

Shaffer, M., Ferrato, G. and Jinnah, Z. (2017) Routes, locations, and social imaginary: a comparative study of the on-going production of geographies in Somali forced migration. African Geographical Review [DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19376812.2017.1354308]

Abstract
Drawing on the thresholds approach, a model that incorporates geography and mobility studies to understand migration from the perspective of migrants, this article examines the importance of location and route(s) in determining the journeys of Somali migrants. We use the protracted displacement of Somalis to address the process through which actual and perceived geographies are produced and reconfigured by Somali migrants on the move. In doing so, we look at how different migration paths, connected through transnational networks, influence the geographical perception of migrants at the core of any cross-border experience. Employing ethnographic fieldwork with Somalis in South Africa and the US, we argue that the personal subjective realities of migrants are instrumental in determining when, how, and where to migrate, even under conditions of forced migration. In addition to flows of economic and social remittances, narratives shared through networks have a central role in shaping views of time and space in migration. Locations previously perceived as ideal final destinations sometimes become temporaries, while sites of transit are remembered as sites of belonging and investment. This comparative piece demonstrates the importance of these multifaceted flows as new geographies of displacement and migration emerge, renewing and challenging notions of place and transnational home.

About Zaheera Jinnah

Zaheera Jinnah has a PhD in anthropology and a background in development studies and social work. Her research interests are in labour migration, gender and diaspora studies. She is a researcher at the ACMS where she teaches, supervises graduate students, and engages in policy and academic research. Her doctoral thesis concentrated on aspects of gender norms, agency and livelihoods among Somali women in Johannesburg.

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