Migrants navigating a maze

The everyday life of migrants is characterised by constant uncertainty. Many move from one country as refugees or for other reasons to another place. What kind of knowledge and understanding of the world is it possible to form under these harsh conditions? That is the question posed by a new NAI study.

“I’m interested in how the migrants build knowledge through different kinds of networks. Sometimes they get accurate information and sometimes it’s completely false,” says Anitta Kynsilehto, who has a four year assignment at NAI to work with migrants in three African countries, Algeria, Morocco and Mali.

For Anitta Kynsilehto this new project is an extension of her previous research – and her previous life.

“All my time as a researcher I have been collecting stories from migrants and I might continue to do so for the rest of my life,” she says.

Makeshift camps

Actually, Anitta Kynsilehto started even earlier. At the age of 14 she met with refugees in her hometown Rovaniemi in northern Finland, and collected their stories.

In her present research, Anitta Kynsilehto will talk to people residing for shorter and longer periods in makeshift camps built by the migrants themselves and not operated by international organisations such as UNHCR. The migrants come from, for example, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal.

“I want to listen to their views, their biggest challenges, how they are received and their plans for the future. Important issues are the asylum procedure, health and education.”

 Openly involved

Anitta Kynsilehto’s project builds on anthropological “observer participation.” That means that she, the observer, is openly involved in the research:

 “I have a background in feminist research. Sometimes I’m more of an activist in my work. However, it’s OK to be a participant as long as you are explicit about it in your writing.”

 The long-term goal for Anitta Kynsilehto is two books, one with all the stories from the people she has met over the years. The second will discuss theoretical issues. In the near future she will start her fieldwork in Morocco and Mali.



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