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  • Hope and Uncertainty in Contemporary African Migrationeds eds. by Nauja Kleist and Dorte Thorsen
  • Lauren B. Wagner
Nauja Kleist and Dorte Thorsen, eds. Hope and Uncertainty in Contemporary African Migration. New York: Routledge, 2017. 200 pp.

Hope and Uncertainty in Contemporary African Migration starts from the same paradox that inspired me, nearly 20 years ago, to be curious about migration as a research topic: the unshakeable, seemingly inexhaustible, yet rationally untenable hope that propels individuals to launch themselves towards an uncertain future far from home. This collection of chapters provides invaluable insight into the many sides of this perpetual objective and driver of mobility, from how "hope" is produced and circulates before any attempt to migrate to how it keeps migrants "stuck" in their trajectories, unable to reach an intended destination but unable to return. Though oriented around African migrants and their contemporary trajectories across the globe, the themes will no doubt be recognizable—and informative—to researchers working in many different contexts of migration.

The chapters of Hope and Uncertainty collectively delve into the many layers of "hope" required to instigate a first journey beyond one's local borders, as well as how hope is maintained during interminable periods of immobility, how it helps to create opportunities in places where possibilities for livelihoods are limited by other social and institutional factors, and, how through seemingly tragic events—like detainments, rejections, and even death—hope is maintained and even strengthened for others in proximity. Importantly as well, they address how these configurations of hope are evident along many different trajectories of migration from Africa, including familiar South-North pathways (i.e., to Europe or the United [End Page 1137] States) as well as South-South ones (e.g., to China and Argentina), and in the transit spaces (e.g., Libya, Nigeria) that become unintended destinations themselves. Through these comparisons, different motivators in the churn of contemporary African migration are made visible as actors across diverse contexts.

More impressively for a volume dealing with such a loaded and multi-faceted philosophical concept, the chapters coalesce around a core definition of hope from a few core theorists (i.e., Ernest Bloch, Ghassan Hage, and Hirokazu Miyazaki) to elaborate how hope is both socially situated in imaginaries and institutional structures, and effective as an analytical concept that cuts across social variations. Hope is, by and large, treated by these authors as evident through its practical implications, so that each contribution empirically shows actions (or inactions) made in pursuit of hope, along with how those practical efforts are managed, understood, and made coherent in narratives of migration.

The volume overall has been divided into three sections, conceived by editors Nauja Kleist and Dorte Thorsen as 1) repositories of hope, 2) spatial and temporal dimensions of hope, and 3) connections between (im)mobility and postponed or lost hope. The first section address how institutional regimes, discourses, and religious beliefs can all serve as repositories, so to speak, which contain, maintain, and perpetuate hope for migrants. The second theme collects different imaginings of spatial and temporal elsewheres, demonstrating the role that these dislocated potentials and pasts can play in keeping hope alive despite challenging circumstances. The final grouping convenes around actors who are stuck and immobile, whether physically or existentially, and the ways that hope enables them to manage life on a daily basis. These sections are laid out by Nauja Kleist's introductory chapter, which establishes the parameters of hope used by the contributors throughout.

Kleist's introduction situates the collected authors in terms of how their geographical scope provides a spatial framework for understanding the breadth of contemporary migrations within and out of (West) Africa, as well as grounding the theoretical orientation for the chapters to follow. Her framework orients the entire volume around hope as a way to "link questions of political economy and mobility regimes with analyses of the collective social imaginaries and aspirations which imbue migration projects" (1). In particular, hope becomes a way to address the "mobility paradox," exemplified through improbable migration projects where [End Page 1138] global stratification of wealth and opportunities create conditions that simultaneously prompt and prevent movement. Kleist is also quite specific about the...


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pp. 1137-1141
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