The migrant in a plotted adventure: Self-realisation and moral obligation in African stories from Istanbul

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Abstract

This article presents the cases of two migrant men, a Senegalese and a Nigerian, who spent many years in Istanbul. Although their backgrounds, personalities and circumstances were different, they both did export-related commercial work in the city. After describing sub-Saharan migration to Turkey and the literature concerning it, the text focuses on the stories these migrants spontaneously presented as they explained why they had become migrants. It was striking that with very different personal details, events and coincidences, both stories attribute the decision to migrate to Istanbul to a traumatic accident that forced the protagonists to change a life that until that point did not involve transnational migration. In the stories the protagonist's ambition, determination and will are rendered invisible and he is presented as a victim. I call this rhetorical topos 'great mishap'. It resonates with stories I have heard from other migrants. I interpret it as an expression of compunction, of social responsibility weighing on the actor for abandoning close others in favour of an individual quest for self-realisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-153
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Modern African Studies
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

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