University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars > The Paradox of Parallel Lives; Immigration Policy and Transnational Polygyny between Senegal and France

The Paradox of Parallel Lives; Immigration Policy and Transnational Polygyny between Senegal and France

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In France, there is widespread public suspicion that migrants from Africa and Asia misuse marriage to bypass immigration restrictions. West African men, in particular, are suspected of marrying European women while having a wife back home. Focusing on the case of Senegalese male migrants, in this paper I argue that transnational polygynous arrangements are simultaneously produced by tightening immigration laws in Europe, where entry is contingent on marriage to a European citizen or resident, and by the moral economy of kinship in Senegal, which requires that migrants remain abroad long enough to support their families back home. In these instances of “transnational polygyny”, the migrant must navigate between parallel households, where it is often the case that only one part may know of the existence of the other. Such parallel arrangements generate different degrees of agency and entitlements on the part of spouses, extended kin, and the migrants themselves. In this process, wives back home become may no longer receive the attention they feel entitled to as first wives, whereas extended families are separated spatially and but reinforced economically. This paper examines broader relations of care and love within transnational families between Senegal and France to shed light on the ways in which enduring kinship practices, gender, class-based aspirations, migration and recent immigration policies intersect to shape new family forms.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars series.

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