Invisibility in African Displacements

From Marginalization to Strategies of Avoidance

Edited by Jesper Bjarnesen and Simon Turner


New perspectives on migration governance and its effects on different groups of people on the move in the context of a highly politicised and publicised topic - African migration towards Europe.

African migrants have become increasingly demonised in public debate and political rhetoric. There is much speculation about the incentives and trajectories of Africans on the move, and often these speculations are implicitly or overtly geared towards discouraging and policing their movements. What is rarely understood or scrutinised however, are the intricate ways in which African migrants are marginalised and excluded from public discourse; not only in Europe but in migrant-receiving contexts across the globe.

Invisibility in African Displacements offers a series of case studies that explore these dynamics. What tends to be either ignored or demonised in public debates on African migration are the deliberate strategies of avoidance or assimilation that migrants make use of to gain access to the destinations or opportunities they seek, or to remain below the radar of restrictive governance regimes.

This books offers fine-grained analysis of the ways in which African migrants negotiate structural and strategic invisibilities, adding innovative approaches to our understanding of both migrant vulnerabilities and resilience.

Author Bio

Jesper Bjarnesen is a Senior Researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute working on regional and war-related mobilities in West Africa, with a focus on inter-generational relations and urban youth culture in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. Bjarnesen has published articles in Migration Letters, the Nordic Journal of African Studies, and Anthropology Southern Africa and edited a theme section of Conflict and Society. He also co-edited a special issue of the journal Africa and was co-editor of Violence in African Elections (Zed 2018).

Simon Turner is Associate Professor at the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies, University of Copenhagen. He works on forced displacement, diaspora, conflict and humanitarianism in the African Great Lakes region and on Europe. He has worked on a project on anticipating violence in the Burundi conflict and another on carceral junctions in European refugee policies. He is the author of Politics of Innocence: Hutu Identity, Conflict and Camp Life (2010), the editor of journal article Diasporic Tensions: The Dilemmas and Conflicts of Transnational Engagement (2008) and the co-editor of journal article Agents of Change - Staging and Governing Diasporas and the African State (2013).

Table of Contents

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction: The Production of Invisibility in African Displacements
  • Part I: Humanitarian In/Visibilities
    • 1. Renegotiating Humanitarian Governance. Challenging Invisibility in the Chad-Sudan Borderlands
    • 2. Encamped Within a Camp: Transgender Refugees and Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya)
    • 3. Displacement and Strategies of Invisibility in Post-War Burundi
    • 4. Sufficiently Visible/Invisibly Self-Sufficient: Recognition and Displacement Agriculture in Western Tanzania
  • Part II: State in/visibilities
    • 5. Forced Migration and a ‘Tolerant’ Administration. Processes Making Refugees Invisible in Adamoua, Cameroon
    • 6. Entangled Hypervisibility: Senegalese Migrants Everyday Struggles for a Place in the City
    • 7. Paths to Paris. Hodological space and invisibility among Malian migrants without papers
    • 8. Invisibility as a Livelihood Strategy: Zimbabwean Migrant Domestic Workers in Botswana
    • 9. The Nigerien Migrants in Kaddafi’s Libya: Between Visibility and Invisibility
    • 10. Violence, Displacement and In/Visibility of Bodies, Papers and Images in Burundi
  • Part III: Social In/Visibilities
    • 11. (Dis)Connectivity and Invisibility of Mobile Fulani in West Africa
    • 12. Fugitive emplacements: Wahayu Concubine Visibility Tactics through Fugitive Cross-border Mobilities, Niger-Nigeria
    • 13. The Paradoxes of Migrant In/Visibility: Understanding Displacement Intersectionalities in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • Afterword


‘An important book that highlights African migrants’ agency in the face of structures of inequality and violence. It offers invaluable insights into the processes of invisibility and visibility that mark the trajectories of African migrant encounters with the global migration industry. The accounts provided challenge the normalization of border enforcing mechanisms that work to exclude and distance Africans while living off the wealth extracted from the continent.’
Nina Glick Schiller, University of Manchester

'The book shows, in diverse African situations, migrants’ capacities of negotiation and their genuine agency, even in the most precarious and unfavourable contexts.
Through the use of case studies, the authors question the bureaucratic categories and oppose them with their meticulous understanding of social and political process of categorization. Thus, they implement the necessary independence of research vis-a-vis the powers and the state-centered point of view.'
Michel Agier, École des Hautes études en Sciences sociales


Publication Date: 29 October 2020
312 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786999207
Hardback: 9781786999191
eBook ePub: 9781786999160
eBook Kindle: 9781786999177

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