Book Reviews

Forging African Communities: Mobility, Integration, and Belonging by Oliver Bakewell and Loren B. Landau (Eds.)[Record]

  • Susanna Fioratta
Volume 35 Refuge other’s actions and reactions. In chapter 3, she explains how ever-changing political shifts in the United States, Central America, and Mexico have shaped the migration journey. These include push-pull factors such as poverty in El Salvador vs. economic opportunity in the United States. These factors have encouraged migration from 1979 to the present day, despite the steady increase in danger for migrants as U.S. and Mexican politics have become less friendly towards migration from the south. Act 2, which encompasses chapters 4 and 5, discusses the performance of “survival plays” on the migration trail. Utilizing the survival plays, or survival strategies, of her informants, Bridgen demonstrates how migrants attempt to improvise aspects of their identity such as nationality, race, class, and gender; and what larger effects these strategies have on the social and political scenes in which they are performed. Bridgen had her informants draw maps so she could better understand “the construction of the social imagination of the route” (149). Through this exercise she teases apart ideas about the transit political economy and how migration has changed local cultures and the legal economy. She ends by discussing how helpful visualizations of the migration route can be for researchers who desire a way to understand, and thereby advocate for, vulnerable populations. In act 3, the climax and conclusion, Bridgen describes the tragedy of migration for the many migrants who are caught between their homes, the transit route, and their destination. These “permanent wanderers” offer a cautionary tale to politicians and the proponents of neo-liberalism about the real Number 2 risks, to both the imagined boundaries of the nation-state and to the lives of transnational migrants, posed by current migration policies. She argues that the “sovereign stagecraft of policymakers” can no longer ignore the humanity of migrants, as people and cultures continue to move across transnational spaces in defiance of the borders that nationstates so forcefully continue to uphold. Bridgen’s fascinating account of the improvisations that are formed by and help form the migration route through Mexico sheds light on the motivations behind migration, the increasing dangers of the migration journey in North America, and the role the United States has played in the political turmoil in Central America that pushes many migrants to face the journey north. Likewise, she explains how the “blind eye” approach to immigration practices that Mexican officials take denies human rights protections to migrants travelling within their borders who face violence at the hands of drug cartels, the Mexican police, and immigration enforcement. This ethnography would be an excellent addition to anthropological courses on Latin America, cultural anthropology, and migration studies, and would be a superb resource for shifting the sights of international relations towards a more grounded understanding of the socio-political factors of migration that shape and are shaped by globalization, global politics, and neo-liberalism today. Kimberly Sigmund is a PhD researcher in the Anthropology Department at the University of Amsterdam. The author may be contacted at Forging African Communities: Mobility, Integration and Belonging • Edited by Oliver Bakewell and Loren B. Landau London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 321 pp. T hrough human mobility, identities and communities are forged. This is the central message of Forging African Communities, and the editors use the metaphor of the “forge” deliberately, playing with the word’s double meaning. First, to forge is to build or create, “transform[ing] … existing material into new, potentially unrecognizable forms that nonetheless build on past histories” (3). This sense highlights the emergence of new possibilities, while also acknowledging the continued importance of what came ...