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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Icons of becoming: documenting undocumented migration from West Africa to Europe
Author:Vium, Christian
Periodical:Cahiers d'études africaines (ISSN 0008-0055)
Geographic term:West Africa
illegal migration
Abstract:Dramatic and spectacular images of destitute African migrants suffering in their attempts to reach European shores in ramshackle boats have become endemic in European media. However, these images rarely do more than produce the migrant as a political subject, a bare life from a continent portrayed at the height of its suffering. Through ethnographic case material stemming from an ongoing research project documenting undocumented migration from West Africa to Europe, this article describes significant events in the migrants' lives which predate the departure from the African continent, thus providing rare ethnographic data from the perilous crossing of the Sahara desert. The article describes and argues how photography can be used as a productive research tool in ethnographic research and how it enables a particular form of collaborative storytelling, which holds promises for a new form of conceptual ethnography. Through the article, it is demonstrated how undocumented migration is essentially a matter of social becoming, which paradoxically involves an inverted becoming, in that those who migrate must continually denounce themselves, becoming nobody so as to avoid becoming nobody in the eyes of their families back home. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum in English and French. [Journal abstract]