"Modou modou" or "Kawman"? Figures of mobility and migration between future hopes and present uncertainties in Senegal and Europe.

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Speakers Virginia Napoli (University Federico II (Naples- Italy)) and Guido Zingari (Università degli Studi di Torino)

Title :

"Modou modou or Kawman? Figures of mobility and migration between future hopes and present uncertainties in Senegal and Europe."


Human aspiration to move and travel is projected towards the future. However, the repertoires and strategies of imagined and imaginable "futures" are rooted in the present and in the progressive change of the so-called "cultures of migration". Contemporary Senegal is an interesting ground for reflection on this issue: twenty years of interventions and policies against migration seem to have catalyzed an inter-generational conflict between social elders, "returning migrants" and younger generations. A conflict inscribed in the language and neologisms concerning the figures of mobility, particularly in the lower strata of urban and rural contexts.
In popular language, the protagonists of the first waves of the 80s and 90s, so-called modou modou, have gradually become icons of a moralization of migration meant as a model of social success inspiring youth’s visions of the future and projects. In recent years, beside these "mobility heroes", a new figure emerges: the kawman. This character is strongly embedded in a (neo)libertarian, individualistic and globalized perspective. The migrant became a moral subject increasingly "free" from the constraints and social responsibilities of past generations. Our research collected data in emigration and immigration context in Senegal and Europe, starting from the point of view of the new generations, their aspiration to mobility (social as well as geographical) and their counter-narratives of the future.

Bios :

Virginia Napoli is a postdoctoral fellow at the Humanities Department at the University Federico II (Naples- Italy) and visiting researcher à l'ULB. She obtained her PhD in 2020 in Historical Sciences with a thesis work directed by Professor Valerio Petrarca (Cultural Anthropology- Federico II in Naples) and Jean-Pierre Dozon (current director of the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris). Her dissertation work, entitled «ILA TOUBA. Le Grand Magal des mourides au Senegal,» is a historical and ethnographic study of one of the most important pilgrimages in sub-Saharan Africa. A monograph of the work in Italian is forthcoming. Her current project examines the agency of Islamic religious associations on the migrant imaginary and the transnational networks of the Senegalese diaspora.

Guido Nicolas Zingari est anthropologue et cinéaste. Il est enseignant chercheur en anthropologie sociale, visuelle et des médias auprès de l'Université de Turin. Il enseigne également géographie visuelle à l'Université de Milan. Il s'occupe d'anthropologie des phénomènes religieux, d'anthropologie du développement et des migrations au Sénégal, au Togo, en Tanzanie et au Maroc. Il est l'auteur des documentaires Il Mare (2014) et Les portes du paradis (2016) et co-auteur du web-documentaire en Réalité Virtuelle Babel - il giorno del giudizio (2019).

  • When ?

Friday 6 May 2022 from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm on Teams

Free and mandatory registration: lamc@ulb.be (registration deadline, Thursday, May 5 at 4:00 pm)