Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

dglovsky

dglovsky

By

October 21, 2018

Mapping Internal African Migration

October 21, 2018 | By | No Comments

My research focuses on a particular borderland split between four West African countries: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea. Since the late 19th century, people in this borderland have moved between countries for a variety of reasons and in multiple directions. I plan to use my CHI Fellowship to map some of these movements.

For some of these locations, this is not a major issue. I was able to collect geographic coordinates for the 110 villages, towns, and cities in which I interviewed people during my fieldwork in 2016 and 2017 (see the below map for the sites of my interviews). However, the problem becomes in tracking where these people came from. Some people discussed their own migration from villages that may no longer exist, or are in different locations from where they had previously been. Additionally, there are often several villages or towns with the same name, particularly when the name has religious meaning. In other cases, villages have multiple names, and so the officially recorded name in government documents may not line up with the information I was given. Other people I spoke with discussed the migration of their parents or grandparents, and only knew the names of particular districts from which those people migrated but not the villages themselves.

Despite popular perception, most African migrants don’t actually leave the continent. Without even considering migration within individual countries, most international migration in Africa occurs from neighboring countries. Côte d’Ivoire alone hosts 1.3 million migrants from Burkina Faso, while nearly 600,000 Ivorians live in Burkina Faso. For some perspective, Burkina Faso’s population is estimated at nearly 20 million, with Côte d’Ivoire’s nearing 25 million.

Countless articles in newspapers around the globe understandably discuss the migrant crisis in Europe, with Africans (and others) trying desperately to cross the Mediterranean in search of a better life. However, the more demographically significant migration of those within the continent remains understudied. But how to represent these migration in a way that transcends numbers? This is what I hope to do through CHI.

Many of the people I spoke with migrated short distances, in some cases less than 10 miles. Are these individuals foreigners in their new countries? Are they considered international migrants? These are some of the questions I explore through my own research. While other aspects of African migration are worth of study, these more localized studies remain opaque for much of the public. Digital Humanities practitioners have the ability to bring these migrants into the public eye, and are also able to more easily share their research with the public in Africa. During my 4 years in West Africa, I was constantly reminded how much of academic knowledge is sealed off from the outside world through expensive journals and scholarly monographs. Graduate students and faculty at the University of Dakar would ask me if I had particular articles that they could not access. While more journals are open-access than in the past, much scholarly research still remains behind closed doors, inaccessible to those being written about.

However, rural Africans are increasingly gaining access to the internet through smart phones and improved wireless infrastructure. Thus, if research can be made accessible online, it can be accessed by growing numbers of Africans, including those whose communities are the subject of academic scholarship.

dglovsky

By

September 20, 2018

Dave Glovsky: Better late than never

September 20, 2018 | By | No Comments

I am in my sixth and final year in the History Department at MSU. I spent almost two of those years overseas conducting research on rural communities in four West African countries: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea. I spent most of a year talking with farmers, herders, and traders about cross-border movement and migration, exploring what these cross-border relationships tell us about life in these twentieth and twenty-first century borderlands. My interest in these rural communities stems out of two years I spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small town in southern Senegal, located near Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea.

So how did I end up as a CHI Fellow? I thought about applying to CHI before, but was unable to do so because I haven’t spent both semesters on campus at MSU for three years. I also wanted to wait until I had actual data collected that I could apply to this fellowship. I plan to use the next year to add a digital component to my dissertation, visually tracing how individuals and communities crossed borders to create a larger space outside of the control of colonial and post-colonial West African governments. As an educator, I find students are increasingly interested in digital tools to gain and produce knowledge.

Additionally, maps have fascinated me since I was a child. They provide a template that people can understand in a way that explaining work through text cannot always do. This is particularly true when tracing how, when, and where people moved. Explaining that someone moved from Guinea to Gambia means almost nothing to 99.99% of Americans. But when a map represents that movement, it becomes comprehendible. After having conducted 200+ interviews in over 100 communities, I am ready to gain the technical know-how to put my research online, not just for people in the U.S., but for the communities I worked with in West Africa while conducting research. Check back at the end of the year to see how well I did!

You can follow me on twitter at @glovsky, where I post mostly about West Africa.