The Meanings of Women’s Mobilities: Gender Ideals and Female Mobility in West Africa

As part of the Lunchtime Seminar Series, the African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a seminar titled The Meanings of Women’s Mobilities: Gender Ideals and Female Mobility in West Africa presented by Dr Gunvor Jónsson (Departmental Lecturer, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford).

Despite increasing global attention to women’s involvement in migration in recent decades, very little research has looked at Malian women’s different forms of mobility, beyond the “rural exodus” from the countryside into towns. Gunvor’s fieldwork in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, focused on both mobile and settled female traders from Mali, the neighbouring country. Many of these women were heads of their own households; many were single – unmarried, divorced, widowed. In this presentation she will look at the various mobilities that these and other Malian women were engaged in, to examine the kinds of meanings and experiences they were associated with. She will start by discussing the role of local Islamic, patriarchal and Mande ideals in relation to women’s mobilities. Gunvor then moves on to examine the kinds of mobilities that were associated with womanhood, focusing specifically on how conceptions of womanhood were linked to liminal or perpetual conditions of strangerhood. By looking at the different meanings of women’s mobilities she argues that it becomes possible to explore not only what “ideal femininity” looked like but also, to consider alternative femininities and the changing discourses on gender.


Dr Gunvor Jónsson is a Departmental Lecturer in Migration and Development at the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford. She is a founding member of IMIn (the International Migration Institute network, and Review Editor of Migration & Society (Berghahn Journals). She is a trained anthropologist and holds a PhD from SOAS (University of London); an MA from Copenhagen; and undergraduate degrees from the University of Pretoria. Gunvor specialises in migration and mobilities in Africa, and the anthropology of West Africa (Mali/Senegal).

Date: Monday 5 February 2018

Time: 12.30 -13.30

Venue: ACMS Seminar Room 2163, South East Wing, Second Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House, University of the Witwatersrand East Campus