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Freiburger Geographische Hefte, Vol. 78

Irene Schöfberger (2016): Strategisches Handeln im translokalen Raum. Eine Analyse translokaler Livelihood-Strategien am Beispiel von vier ländlichen Gemeinden des Senegal und von zwei europäischen Migrationszielen


Migration from West Africa is gaining the attention of the European public opinion and is often seen as a simple reaction to difficult situations and as an exception to the rule of sedentary lifestyle. This meaning-laden view (VERNE & DOEVENSPECK 2012), however, ignores that mobility has always been the rule in West Africa. lt is therefore necessary to investigate migration as a part of amplified and long-term livelihood-strategies negotiated by migrants inside social groups (household, community) according to structural constraints. The aim of this dissertation is to better understand livelihood-strategies in translocal spaces. Particular attention is dedicated to (1) the creation and maintenance of translocal spaces, (2) the construction of translocal livelihood-strategies, (3) the influence of vulnerability on translocal spaces and livelihood-strategies, and (4) the context-dependent processes of change in livelihood-strategies.

These questions were investigated both theoretically and empirically. A case study was conducted in four rural communities of Senegal: Yoff (in the region of Dakar), Guede Chantier (in the region of Saint-Louis), Sambe (in the region of Diourbel) and Dindefelo (in the region of Kedougou). One of the communities (Yoff) is currently undergoing a rapid urbanization. The inhabitants of these places extend their livelihood-strategies to a translocal space through internal and external migration and through various other practices of mobility. For the purpose of this dissertation, this space was investigated through a multi-sited ethnography, which took place in the four Senegalese communities and in two European migration destinations (Piacenza in Italy and A Coruna in Spain). A mixture of qualitative methods of investigation was applied during three fieldwork-phases and included individual, collective and expert interviews, informal conversations, focus groups, a participative photographic documentation and a redesigned method for the investigation of translocal social networks. The evaluation of the data followed an inductive approach.

The results suggest that individuals and households in the examined communities diversify places, sources of revenue and income-generating activities. Social networks permit the creation and maintenance of translocal spaces. Translocal livelihood- strategies and spaces are adapted to the contextual conditions through processes of construction and negotiation. This way of proceeding allows people to cope with different aspects of vulnerability. Spaces and livelihood-strategies, therefore, determine each other.

The results also show that (1) translocal spaces are hybrid and constantly changing constructs, in which (2) households extend their strategic actions through the livelihood-strategies "diversification': "social networks" and "construction': (3) Vulnerability, translocal spaces and livelihood-strategies proved to determine each other. Finally, it was found that (4) continuous processes of construction permit social actors to adapt their livelihood-strategies to constantly changing contextual conditions.

The results of this dissertation show the necessity of research approaches that include an analysis of the construction and negotiation of local and translocal spaces and strategies. Structural constraints and resulting aspects of vulnerability influence translocal spaces and strategies and must therefore be considered. Finally, it was demonstrated that translocal livelihood-strategies contribute effectively to better living conditions in rural communities of Senegal. Local income-generating activities (especially agriculture and trade) are still important, but social networks and remittances deriving from migration can significantly increase the resilience of households.