Panel 19

A Gender Perspective on African Mobilities

Panel organiser: Amanda Gouws, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.


Neoliberalism fosters a deeply gendered and racialized modality of human mobility characterized by conditions of heightened vulnerability that affect men and women differently. In the global neoliberal capitalist economy there is growing evidence of a feminization of migration due to the continued impoverishment and marginalization of many women in developing countries and the increasing demand for female labour, among other things. The feminization of migration is viewed as involving a qualitative change in women’s migratory roles, from being dependents of male migrants to being autonomous economic migrants. As a result, gender (alongside, and inextricably intertwined with race) is increasingly recognized as key to understanding migration and its causes, consequences and implications.

However, despite these insights, women’s mobility in Africa has continued to receive little attention in migration studies, and is largely glossed over and ignored in national legislation and policy.

In this panel we want to explore in rich detail, and across disciplines, some of the questions that emerge when migration in and from Africa is viewed through the lens of gender. Such questions include, for example: how are African nationalisms articulated through ideologies of gender, covertly inscribed into immigration legislation and policy? What role does feminized migration play in shaping social orders and driving transformative social change? What does sexual violence against migrant women reveal about state formation as gendered and gendering process in African contexts? How are migrant women understood as representative of cultural difference because of their portrayal as repositories of custom and custodians of identity, and because of their location within the family?  What are the consequences of carceral politics for women who migrate illegally?

With this panel we hope to center the experiences and perceptions of African women migrants and thereby shed new light on the implications and meanings of women’s mobility in and from Africa.



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