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May 10, 2019

Introducing West African Migration Stories

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

The border post at Canhamina in Guinea-Bissau, at the border with Senegal

When I first started the CHI Fellowship, I had dreams of mapping the migration of all of the people I spoke with during the course of my field work. I interviewed over 350 people, and probably half of them migrated at one point or another. That would have been an awfully crowded map! The more I started to think about what I wanted to display through my project, the more I realized that a map, while nice, did not exactly capture the spirit of what I wanted to demonstrate: the individual movements of people and families that stitched together, make up my dissertation. So I changed my project the focus on those narratives themselves: you see my project, West African Migration Stories, here.

In the process of writing my dissertation, often times individual voices get muffled. A paragraph here, a couple sentences there, but stories are truncated and not given time to breathe. My goal with this project has been to display people’s voices, and to provide context for those stories, but to also let the stories speak for themselves. You can see the final product here.

I organized the project around three key themes: fleeing the war for independence in Guinea-Bissau, fleeing 1960s-70s Guinea because of economic and political hardship, and seasonal peanut farming. I chose these three because they all shed light on aspects of migration across Africa: migration due to war and violence, migration due primarily for economic and political reasons, or seasonal migration to work in specific industries. While each story is unique, the journeys can be related to broader trends across Africa.

Originally, I was not going to introduce the interviews, just let the stories speak for themselves. However, most of these interviews were between thirteen minutes and an hour long, but the excerpts from the interviews below range from four to ten minutes (averaging about six). Because the transcripts focus on the migration itself, I wanted to contextualize the migrations as part of a person’s larger life. No migrant is just the story of the migration itself, but of the larger journey of their lives.

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