OACtM at Nordic Africa Days 2014

Kajsa presented a paper at NAD 2014 29-30 September, 2014:

Panel: 26. Migrant Genealogies: Narratives, History and Relatedness


“Have you ever seen a plane seat before?” Migration and mobility narratives among university students in Ghana

In this paper, I want to discuss migration and mobility narratives of university students based on a series of focus group discussions held at University of Ghana (a major public university) and Ashesi University College (a small liberal arts college) in Ghana. My interest is in undergraduate students, a group that is largely overlooked in migration studies. To understand why and how students migrate out of Africa, I argue an Africanist or decolonial view must be applied. One way of doing that is letting African students themselves explain the phenomenon. Another aspect is to contextualize Ghanaian university students’ migration narratives and include a critical view of knowledge production in the world (Dei 2010, Gatsheni 2013, Grosfoguel 2011).

My results suggest that while most students consider international migration in their projects of life-making, a share of them instead expressed strong aspirations not to migrate based on a mix of family and cultural reasons. I found that parents, but also religious leaders and lecturers play a role in shaping migration aspirations. Students mention, and critique, the strong “norm” to migrate aligned with literature on cultures of migration. Students also discussed receiving direct information from friends and relatives abroad over VOIP and social media channels – new important avenues for narratives of migration.   Although students in general are well informed about the steps for migration, many do not own a passport, suggesting the aspiration is not always backed by preparations. Interestingly, several students suggest lower-educated individuals are more likely to have a strong aspiration to migrate – I construe this as form of “othering”, not previously found in the literature.