ISBN 9789956616312
Pages 232
Dimensions 216 x 140 mm
Illustrations B/W Illustrations
Published 2010
Publisher Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon
Format Paperback

We Get Nothing from Fishing

Fishing for Boat Opportunities Amongst Senegalese Fisher Migrants

by Henrietta Mambo Nyamnjoh

The world is regularly confronted on television and in other mass media with dramatic images of African boat migrants. Seemingly desperate, these Africans, most of them males, are willing to risk a perilous journey at sea, hoping for a better life in Europe. And, even worse, hundreds more are believed to die each year, swallowed up anonymously by the choppy waters off Africa’s coast. This book focuses on fishermen who have played a pivotal role in boat migration from Senegal to Spain’s Canary Islands, advancing various reasons for the fishermen’s prominent role. Besides their long history of migration, their proven experience with navigating, their family’s push and investment, their perceptions and ideologies about Europe, there is also their growing marginalization as a result of the deepening crisis in the Senegalese fishing sector and the inadequate policies of the Senegalese government that prevents them from having any bright prospects of improving their standards of living. The book provides deep insights into the meaning of boat migration, and on the effects of success or failure on the migrants and their families. It goes beyond the usual economic explanations to convincingly situate boat migration within the long-standing West African culture of migration, and highlight the significance of socio-cultural and political factors. Among the fascinating findings are the perception of migration as status enhancing and a rite de passage in the Senegalese fishing communities, and the profound roles of the extended family, social networks and, above all, religion, especially the widespread influence of the marabout. The importance of information and communication technologies in sustaining transnational networks is equally highlighted.

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“After reading this book one will never again think about boat migration as a simple question of poverty and lost youths searching for greener pastures. Henrietta Nyamnjoh shows how for the fishermen of the Senegalese coast, boat sea voyages and the risks involved are simply part and parcel of living a culture of migration. This study convinces the reader that hidden behind the governance of borders and migration, are human stories that show the controversies and inequalities of our world. The book is a must read for those involved in migration policies, migration studies, and all those interested in the consequences of globalisation and the human face of migration.”

Professor Mirjam de Bruijn, African Studies Centre, Leiden

“This book deals with what happens when local livelihoods of Senegalese fishermen encounter the logic of international marine policies. The rich ethnographic accounts of the realities of fishermen do not only inform the reader about the desire to migrate to Europe, but show the diverse cultural repertoires that are actively constructed to engage with migration.”

Associate Professor Paul G.M. Hebinck, Wageningen University

 “Henrietta Nyamnjoh must be highly commended for her initiative and courage to tackle in-depth research into the hazardous and largely unpredictable reality of boat migration, with a view to erasing existing misconceptions, false and partial explanations, and to enhancing our understanding. This is an original and innovative piece of work –well-written and well-argued. It certainly deserves a wide readership even beyond the normal academic and policy-making circles.”

Dr Piet Konings, African Studies Centre, Leiden

About the Author

Henrietta Mambo Nyamnjoh

Henrietta Mambo Nyamnjoh is a Cameroonian who lived in Dakar, Senegal, from 2003 –2009. She holds an Mphil in Development Studies from the University of Leiden, and is currently doing her doctoral research at the same institution, on Cameroonian migrants in South Africa and the Netherlands.

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