Married to the Mobile: Migration, Gender, Class, and Kinship in Contemporary Senegal Open Access

Hannaford, Dinah Rebecca (2014)

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Across the world, neoliberal transnationalism engenders new forms of kinship and

marriage. At the same time, rising inequality, both within and among countries, and the

privatization of public wealth inform the perceived need and the opportunity for new

kinds of kinship and marital flexibility. This dissertation examines a reflection of these

trends in contemporary Senegal in the form of transnational marriages between

Senegalese migrant men and non-migrant women back in Senegal

Limited finances and lack of jobs make it increasingly difficult for Senegalese

men and women to find opportunities for social stability much less financial advancement

within Senegal. Increasingly, they reach outside the country in an attempt to procure

means for building successful social lives within Senegal. For many Senegalese men (and

some women) this entails migration in an attempt to find work abroad --while continuing

to invest in social life at home. Investment at home frequently includes marrying and

forming families with women back in Senegal. For Senegalese women, these same

pressures not infrequently lead them to willingly marry men from Senegal who are

overseas migrants. Many married couples spend years at a time separated by thousands of

miles, with no immediate plans for relocation and reunification.

This dissertation is based on multi-sited, transcontinental research that explored

the phenomenon of transnational marriage through extensive transnational fieldwork and

in-depth interviews among Senegalese migrants living in France and Italy and migrants'

wives in Senegal. Transnational marriages continue to be desirable to both parties,

despite their many challenges, because of a general shift in Senegalese culture that

connects and prioritizes transnational goals with longstanding patterns of Senegalese

kinship and gender relations.

Transnational marriage in Senegal provides a fascinating window into the

entanglement between neoliberal economics and global labor restructuring and local

ideologies of kinship, class, and romance. The emergent transnational connection

between international remittances, kinship, class, and gender makes this dissertation an

important contribution to contemporary cultural anthropology and our wider

understandings of migration, class, and relationships between kinship and neoliberal


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction...1

Chapter 2: Your Happiness is Your Homeland...25

Chapter 3: Class and Courtship in a Culture of Migration...54

Chapter 4: Sang, Dëkkal, Dëkkoo...80

Chapter 5: Close Kin...114

Chapter 6: Technologies of Intimate Surveillance...138

Chapter 7: The European Reunion...168

Conclusion ...195

Appendix A...201

Appendix B...208

Works Cited...214

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