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Towards an Approach to Borders and Mobility in Africa

Timothy Mechlinski


As the interdisciplinary field of migration studies has tended to ignore borders, and studies of borders are unevenly developed across regions of the world. In general, they are poorly elaborated for the case of people moving across the African continent. Based on the notion that borders are socio-economic, cultural, and political formations, and that they are experienced differently by people of different statuses, this paper argues for an approach to studying borders and crossborder movement in Africa. Combining a review of the migration and borders literatures, with ethnographic evidence gathered traveling over 10,000 miles in four West African countries, and observations of 169 security checkpoints in the region, this paper reveals some of the unique aspects of how Africans experience border crossings. A primary contribution is considering how borders function for migrants traveling longer distances, not only for borderlanders, on whom the literature on African borders is most often based.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229