Introduction: Forging a Study of Mobility, Integration and Belonging in Africa

  • Loren B. Landau
  • Oliver Bakewell
Part of the Global Diversities book series (GLODIV)


This is an era in which varied forms of human mobility are redefining the meanings of home, community and belonging across the world, giving rise to novel forms of membership. This chapter argues that the experiences of Africans moving within the continent provide valuable insights into these memberships and the practical and ethical foundations on which they rest. It outlines the volume’s various case studies and highlights their contributions to scholarly debates. In so doing, it evokes the forge as a dual metaphor: on the one hand transforming, as mobility forms and reshapes the meaning and boundaries of community; on the other hand dissembling, as people consciously disguise their history or aspirations, generating inventive forms of representation that allow for novel ways of being. This approach draws attention to migrants, hosts, politicians and others as active, strategic and tactical actors at play within structural constraints and opportunities, rather than as passive subjects of these structural forces. The outcome may not fit with our normative aspirations; some will be illegal, morally dubious and physically precarious. Some others may embrace norms of rights and tolerance, while others reject the moral and political foundations of space-based political community. The chapter concludes by arguing that the work of scholars is not to celebrate the universal power of the subaltern or blindly condemn the constraints imposed by capitalism or coercive states, but rather to document and theorise these outcomes and their determinants. These tasks are at the centre of this chapter and the book it introduces.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Loren B. Landau
    • 1
  • Oliver Bakewell
    • 2
  1. 1.African Centre for Migration & SocietyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Global Development InstituteUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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