Migration, African migrants, and the world: towards a radical political economy

Publication Type:
Journal Article
African Identities, 2016, 14 (4), pp. 396 - 408
Issue Date:
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© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. In what ways does class shape the migration of Africans? How have Europeans in Africa been treated and how does such experience compare with how Africans in Europe have been treated historically? If migration in the past was an instrument to underdevelop Africa, are Africans and Africa now using migration to develop the continent as advocates of neoliberal and neocolonial growth-led development suggest? Political economists have long grappled with these issues and debated mainstream responses over the years. Yet, with the so-called ‘migration crisis’ of recent months, we need fresh perspectives and responses to these questions. John Arthur’s Class Formations and Inequality Structures in Contemporary African Migration; Afe Adogame and Andrew Lawrence’s collection, Africa in Scotland, Scotland in Africa: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Hybridities, and Lisa Ǻkesson and Maria Eriksson Baaz’s edited volume, Africa’s Return Migrants: The New Developers? bring precisely such freshness of insight and perspective. In doing so, they draw on critical sociological analyses of class, historiography and ethnography in ways that provide the ingredients for a radical political-economic alternative to mainstream migration research and narratives. Curiously, all the books under study founder in not relating their analyses back to the global capitalist system. Combined, however, the books show that analyses of migration in and about Africa and Africans that draw on a variety of evidence and concurrently emphasize the three social forces of class, race, and neocolonial neoliberalism reveal that migration largely emerges from, contributes to, and is constrained by uneven development under capitalism, ideas that can help to make political economy more postcolonial; and postcolonialism more political economic.
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