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Universität Bayreuth (2019)

West African Migration in the Age of Climate Change : Translocal Perspectives on Mobility from Mali and Senegal.

Romankiewicz, Clemens

Titre : West African Migration in the Age of Climate Change : Translocal Perspectives on Mobility from Mali and Senegal.

Auteur : Romankiewicz, Clemens :

Université de soutenance : Universität Bayreuth

Grade : Doctoral thesis, 2019

High mobility in West Africa, regarded as one of the world’s hotspots of climate change, continues to be prominently framed by neo-Malthusian portrayals of threatened agricultural livelihoods, population pressure, and sedentarism. However, simplified notions of so-called environmental migration, especially in contexts of slow-onset environmental change, are based on fundamental conceptional flaws as well as weak, patchy empirical evidence. This thesis contributes to the debate on climate change, environment, and migration by scrutinizing conceptual and methodological deficiencies and adopting a migration research perspective. The objective is to provide a multidimensional, translocal explanation of contemporary population movements from two rural study areas in the semi-arid Sahel of Mali (Bandiagara) and Senegal (Linguère). Assuming repetitive migration as a well-established, habitual part of people’s lives and social networks spanning different places, the theoretical- conceptual framework integrates complementary approaches of translocality, migration theory, and political ecology. With this conception, circular mobility, flows of resources, knowledge, and ideas involve multidirectional, multilocal cumulative effects reshaping interconnected local contexts and environmental conditions. Accepting the complexity, contextuality, and multicausality of migration in effect contradicts the prioritization of environmental effects on human migration in the research design. Suggestive questioning and highlighting climatic or environmental stress as drivers of migration have been identified as methodological flaws in previous empirical research as they risk biasing results and preventing new insights. Moreover, data (collection) and analytical methods that aim to causally link environmental and climatic factors with migration data while neglecting spatial and temporal scale issues are susceptible to fallacies. Consequently, the methodology is primarily based on multi-sited ethnography, including observation, interviews, and the collection of migrant biographies at multiple places of identified migration networks. To reduce biases and allow for multidimensional explanations of migration, field research involved separating the topics of climate/environment and migration and avoiding suggestive interviewing about (climate and environment as) migration motives. The findings show that aside from soil characteristics and significant intra- and interannual rainfall variability, human activities considerably shape prevalent vegetation and degradation patterns as well as the productivity of agricultural land. Evidently, harvests and people’s ability to compensate shortfalls are temporally, locally, and socially differentiated. The availability of technical equipment, labor, know-how, pesticides, fertilizers, as well as field size and location significantly determine yields. Furthermore, rural livelihoods’ reliance on mobility, pooling multiple and multilocal income, and food sources are established strategies. Therefore, livelihoods are not only determined by subsistence agriculture, nor by external climatic and environmental factors. Furthermore, findings on migration patterns show that historically evolved internal migration to urban centers, primarily capitals, and international migration within West Africa are most prevalent. Long-established migration networks explain why the Côte d’Ivoire continues to be major international destination for migrants from Bandiagara and the higher relevance of migration to Europe from Linguère. Moreover, the majority of population movements are circular and temporally diversified. Permanent emigration of entire communities does not take place. Instead, people’s mobile life trajectories demonstrate that durable unidirectional resettlement rarely occurs or is hard to identify as such. Rather, depending on the current life phase, people circulate among different places of migration networks, discover new destinations, and sometimes return after many years of absence. The increasingly diverse and irregular timing of circular migration, previously guided by the seasonal timing of rainfall and farm work, is due to the relative decrease in economic, social, and cultural significance of traditional rainfed cultivation. This, in turn, is interlinked with translocal, diversified, and temporally flexible income generation. Instead of initial migration triggers, multidimensional, translocal, and hence relational space represents both the result of migration and the precondition of contemporary mobility. It means that cumulative and reinforcing effects of people’s socio-historical backgrounds and already existing migration strongly shape differentiated and multidirectional manifestations of contemporary migration. The findings show that the characteristics and perpetuation of people’s translocality, circular migration, and resource flows are determined by intensely interdepending dimensions of necessity, maintaining common identity, and development. These aspects can hardly be separated from each other. The established reliance on translocal livelihoods and social structures (necessity), peer pressure, continual shared translocal aspirations, social bonds, beliefs, and solidarity (identity) as well as the desire for well-being, increasing living standards, participation, self-determination, and progress (development) are major explanations of contemporary population movements.

Mots clés  : West Africa ; Mali ; Senegal ; migration ; climate change ; environment ; translocality


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