Human migration and displacement affect societies around the world. Nowhere are their impacts more acute than in Africa, where people’s movements in search of profit, protection and passage continue to shape the continent’s politics, economies, and societies. Beyond its practical and political importance in an era of globalization and urbanization, this course builds on human mobility’s analytical utility. As an empirical phenomenon and heuristic, people’s movements may be simultaneously destabilizing and empowering: they challenge not only the organization of socio-economic and political structures, but our presumptions about them.
They ask us to read cities, states, and societies through varied lenses and at multiple scales. Drawing course material from the social scientific canon together with case material primarily from Africa and elsewhere in the ‘global south’, this course questions, and problematizes core concepts and broader debates within academic scholarship and policy processes.
This is not a practical training course but rather an ongoing conversation among the empirical dynamics of human mobility (e.g., causes, consequences, and responses), their meaning for contemporary social, political, and economic life and the methods and means we use to learn and communicate about these matters. While not offering technical training, it provides critical empirical and conceptual foundations and analytical and communication skills.
The course is divided into two primary sections. The first outlines global trends and provides the conceptual and legal vocabulary used in discussions of migration and displacement in contemporary societies. In doing so, it highlights the often uneasy relationship between complex social realities and the flattening effects of categorization in policy and science. The second investigates formal and informal responses to migration by embedding the study of human mobility within broader social scientific considerations of globalization/transnationalism, state power, and the changing nature of social and political community.
Throughout the course, students will be asked to relate migration patterns and responses to multiple forms and scales of governance and regulation.