Mobility Makes States: Migration and Power in Africa

Mobility Makes States: Migration and Power in Africa

Mobility Makes States: Migration and Power in Africa

Mobility Makes States: Migration and Power in Africa


Human mobility has long played a foundational role in producing state territories, resources, and hierarchies. When people move within and across national boundaries, they create both challenges and opportunities. In Mobility Makes States, chapters written by historians, political scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists explore different patterns of mobility in sub-Saharan Africa and how African states have sought to harness these movements toward their own ends.

While border control and intercontinental migration policies remain important topics of study, Mobility Makes States demonstrates that immigration control is best understood alongside parallel efforts by states in Africa to promote both long-distance and everyday movements. The contributors challenge the image of a fixed and static state that is concerned only with stopping foreign migrants at its border, and show that the politics of mobility takes place across a wide range of locations, including colonial hinterlands, workplaces, camps, foreign countries, and city streets. They examine short-term and circular migrations, everyday commuting and urban expansion, forced migrations, emigrations, diasporic communities, and the mobility of gatekeepers and officers of the state who push and pull migrant populations in different directions. Through the experiences and trajectories of migration in sub-Saharan Africa, this empirically rich volume sheds new light on larger global patterns and state making processes.

Contributors : Eric Allina, Oliver Bakewell, Pamila Gupta, Nauja Kleist, Loren B. Landau, Joel Quirk, Benedetta Rossi, Filipa Ribeiro da Silva, Simon Turner, Darshan Vigneswaran.


Joel Quirk and Darshan Vigneswaran

We are living in an era of increasing African mobility. Spurred on by steady economic growth in many parts of Africa and global revolutions in transport and communication, migrants of African origin have increasingly spread across both continental Africa and the world at large. While emigration to countries in Europe and North America has attracted the most attention among both policy makers and researchers, these movements have been outpaced by sustained increases in shorter and circular patterns of intracontinental mobility. Migrants in Africa have been moving between rural and urban areas in substantial numbers, contributing to the rapid growth of sprawling cities and fostering new patterns of urban settlement. Indeed, the un Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) observes that “between 2005 and 2010 Africa experienced the highest urban growth rates in the world—an annual 3.3 percent average—and the pace is expected to remain relatively high over the next 15 years.” the issue here is not simply an increase in overall volume. Human mobility takes place in the context of a diverse range of conditions and capabilities. Toward one end of a broad spectrum, we have large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons, and “survival migrants.” These overlapping groups move for reasons largely beyond their control and often end up being “warehoused” in camps, temporary protection zones, and detention centers. At the other end of the spectrum, we have transnational economic elites, international tourists, and workers in the aid and development industries who are able to swiftly and routinely parachute in and chopper out of even the most remote areas of the continent.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.