A Different Kargo: Sub-Saharan Migrants In Istanbul And African Commerce

Mahir Saul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This ethnographic description and analysis of West and Central African migration to Turkey is based on fieldwork conducted mostly in Istanbul. Sub-Saharan migration to Turkey developed full-fledged in the past 15 years. A theoretical discussion of global development and some migration literature leads to an examination of the rising economic growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey's developing economic, diplomatic, and educational ties with it, two macro-level circumstances that can be understood as the springboard of migration. The article offers an extensive description of the work, living, and housing conditions of the migrant population and its links with the business world. It concludes that West and Central African migration is primarily a middle-class movement of urban traders and white-collar workers who want to improve their condition. Their objective is to return to their birth country with wealth and take up a more ambitious project. Turkey's production and export boom is feeding the hopes of these migrants, subjective factors overlooked under the blinders of the refugee and transit literatures in migration studies. The migrants are a heterogeneous set, not only in ethnic, religious, gender, and national terms, but also in levels of education, and even such factors as class standing. Despite this diversity, entrepreneurial ambition is a constant among the actors and provides a key to understanding the forms under which this migration is realized.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-203
Number of pages61
JournalUrban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Urban anthropology
  • international migration
  • freight
  • business entities
  • migrant communities
  • trade
  • men
  • Turkey
  • countries


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