Work and Migration: Life and Livelihoods in a Globalizing World

Work and Migration: Life and Livelihoods in a Globalizing World

Work and Migration: Life and Livelihoods in a Globalizing World

Work and Migration: Life and Livelihoods in a Globalizing World

Synopsis

Using case-studies from those who have moved either transnationally or internally within their own country, international contributors offer various definitions of what it means to make a living on the move.

Excerpt

Livelihoods and African-American identifications among youth in Nairobi

Bodil Folke Frederiksen

The title of this chapter refers to the way in which the barriers to spatial mobility experienced by young people in a Nairobi slum may generate forms of mobility and identifications, which are not necessarily confined to the slum area, ethnic group or nation. More specifically, I would like to discuss the significance of mobility and diasporas in the light of young people's dreams and experiences and in relation to their local construction of livelihoods and transnational opportunities for cultural identifications. I argue that for young people in an African city such as Nairobi, being African and being urban carry greater significance than belonging to a nation, in this case Kenya, and or to an ethnic group. This can only partly be explained by local histories of migration. Another significant factor is the transnational cultural products that are used and produced by the young people themselves.

Images and narratives made familiar by the electronic media feed into the dreams young people in particular have of a wider spatial and social mobility. There may be a lack of fit, however, between travel and migration routes, that is, the mobility of bodies, and the routes of popular culture - the mobility of meaning. Only rarely do narratives emerging from these two draw upon and conjure up the same culturescapes. For young people flows of meaning and images from a global popular culture may be more appealing than those rooted in actual movements of people on a more limited regional and national scale, although the latter may have the immediacy and authenticity of family experience. A mental mobility, which is related in complex ways to the realised mobility of persons, contributes to the development of skills and the invention of livelihoods. Such forms of mobility are of special importance for the quite well-educated but largely unemployed young women and men who are found in the poor areas of East African cities.

Which narratives and identifications, then, give pleasure and make (economic) sense for deprived but alert young people in an African city? Which places are imagined, and what are the reasons for certain patterns and preferences?

In his overview of theoretical work on 'diaspora', James Clifford discusses collectivities other than the nation which may produce sentiments of identification, and suggests that 'world historic political/cultural forces such as “Africa” …may produce diasporic identification for blacks in Britain and the Americas' (Clifford 1994). The global importance of reggae and the Rastafarian movement is an obvious instance of a genre which captures the experience and history of mobility in

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