IFG 1 Public Lecture Series: Thoughts towards a Conceptual Understanding of African Migration, Speaker: Dr. Faisal Garba


Date: Wednesday 24 April, 2019 Time:2:00PM

Thoughts Towards a Conceptual Understanding of African Migration

Dr. Faisal Garba, University of Cape Town



African migration is largely studied within discipline specific frameworks and models. The bulk of these models were developed from studies on migration in North America. Accordingly, there is  little context-based conceptual and theoretical understanding of African migration rooted in the socio-historical underpinnings of migration on the continent. Existing dominant theories (read models) were developed within the context of migration to the United States from Mexico, and other parts of the Americas. These “theories” are typically applied to African cases with little, if any, regards for broad or specific migration histories: How they (histories) shape and are influenced by ideas of space, belonging, travel and accomplishment. Data on African migration is routinely processed in “finished theories.” When the data does not fit, as often happens, an explanation is sought while the model remains intact.

Writing about this practice in the discipline of economics where many of the migration “theories” were developed, Thandika Mkandawire said Africa serves as an exception. Africa’s exception is mentioned in footnotes while theory moves on. Researchers working on African migration and aware of the limitations of applying the existing “theories “which do not fit the reality they are studying, complain about the practice, and then rather curiously, proceed to use deploy them (Akokpari 1999, De Haas 2010). The continuation of the practice means that the notions of territoriality held in African societies are treated only descriptively. And local power configurations, global political economy and local and general histories of a connected world that intersect with the existing patterns and practice of migration on the continent is given inadequate attention.
By tracing the dynamics of territoriality and mobility in select African social formations, and using empirical material on the conception of mobility and claim to belonging by African migrants in South Africa and Germany, the presentation will put forward some thoughts around concepts and categories that could be considered in thinking theoretically about the place of movement in Africa. The presentation will grapple with the following questions: Why is concept important? Are concepts rooted or rootless? What do categories make apparent and what do they assume without making obvious?

Date: Wednesday 24 April, 2019
Venue: University of Ghana, International House, Seminar Room 3rd Floor
Time: 2:00 PM