- Translocal Somalia:Women's Migratory Testimonies
hwanagii orodnee [Remember us fleeing]nabad barinee [searching for peace?]mareykan waa laga soo waayay [3x] [In America, none was found]—"America" (K'naan [born Keinan Abdi Warsame]featuring Mos Def and Chali 2na) [Troubadour (2009)]
The sinking woman will try to make the wavesa column, its froth a steady handhold …—Ladan Osman, "The Western Gate" (2015)
Donald Trump intemperately campaigned for a "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States, during which he called refugee resettlement "the great Trojan horse of all time."1 This fear of Muslims has contributed to a tripling of anti-Islamic hate groups between 2015 and 2016, such as the three "Crusaders" from a Kansas town (ironically named Liberal) who were caught planning to detonate car bombs outside a housing complex [End Page 505] of Muslim Somali refugees who worked in the local meat-packing plant.2 Trump's two executive orders in the first months of his Presidency ruled that travelers from predominately Muslim nations of Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen (originally Iraq) should temporarily be denied entry because they were "inadmissible aliens" and "would-be terrorists" who were "detrimental to the interests of the United States."3 Such actions set off political and legal debates about whether such restrictions contravene immigration law prohibiting the rejection of visas based on "nationality, place of birth, or place of residence," or "disfavor" Muslims so directly that it ironically and unconstitutionally establishes religion in actions of the State. The 4th Federal circuit found that the revised Order "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination," leading the White House to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the "Travel Ban." Such a logic authorizes an "America First" patriotism seeking "an extra level of safety" against immigrants through bans and walls.4
While bodies might be politically banned from traveling, the historical crossings of intercultural exchange can never be blocked. They are often unseen or ignored, and it is the important role of transnational inquiry to track these circuits back into visibility. My contribution to this forum maps some expressive migrations of various women between one of these banned nations, Somalia, and the United States and Canada. Briefly describing some of these traversals back and forth from Africa to North America challenges the unjust profiling of entire nations through "extreme vetting"—a dehumanizing term derived from a veterinarian's checking the condition of a horse prior to a race. These restrictions are occurring at the very moment when another catastrophic famine is imminent in the Horn of Africa and the US military is carrying out more drone attacks after relaxing the rules of engagement designed to prevent civilian casualties. The conjoined Somali American vignettes that follow dramatize what Catharine R. Stimpson has called "The Nomadic Humanities" that "maps all our motions, their crossings, combinings, blockages, and erasures" and "the moral gyroscopes people devise to guide them through it all."5 Unlike exclusion or assimilation—and even pluralism that incorporates at the level of the receiving nation—nomadic methodologies bring into critical range the cross-spatial interconnectedness variously known by geographers as translocality and heterolocalism that informs the dynamic flows of transnationalism.6 Translocality reveals critical assessments of exchange that are [End Page 506] more discriminating—as discernment rather than as prejudice—that acknowledge and value the transcultural networks radiating from what Brickell and Datta call "situatedness during mobility" (2011, 3). Somalis in North America also represent a section of the circulation of a translocal umma around the planet—that produces what Anouar Malik has called Islam's "indispensable polycentricity" (2000, 132-56) as well as manifest the reciprocal affiliations that Susan Koshy has called "minority cosmopolitanism" (2011).
Soomaalinimo, or Somali communal nationalism, was promoted out of connection to the Islamic umma as well as in part through resistance to colonization by the British, Italian, and French, as well as impositions by adjoining nations. A century ago the British fought for twenty years against the jihad of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan whom they called the "Mad Mullah." The cyclical nomadism of Somali life has been globally transformed in the past quarter century into a compulsory migration...