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Bush Bound

Young Men and Rural Permanence in Migrant West Africa

Paolo Gaibazzi

232 pages, 16 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-779-4 $90.00/£64.00 Hb Published (August 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-780-0 eBook

Hb   Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Buy the ebook from these vendors

“A very interesting and significant study of young men in The Gambia illustrates the mutual dependence of those who migrate and those who 'sit' in the village and farm, arguing that both are valid forms of 'looking for money' in the modern world and that the village helps maintain social solidarity while inculcating values and skills that are as appropriate for migration as for village life.” · Anthropology Review Database

Bush Bound is, to my knowledge, the only scholarly monograph to examine so extensively the effects of mobility (and restricted mobility) on a migrant-sending community. As such, it offers a crucial complement and counter-weight to the many case studies of migrant communities in the social science literature.” · Bruce Whitehouse, Lehigh University

“This is a very welcome, interesting, and original study . . . Rather than concentrating on the economic circuits of work and consumption or on the cultures of consumption — a frequent preoccupation in the research on young migrants — the emphasis is on young men’s selfhood, identity, subjectivity, and active social imaginaries.” · Ann Whitehead, University of Sussex

“The chapters . . . convince the reader that sitting, or immobility, is part of the migration stories from Africa. The theoretical discussions in between the ethnography are interesting, as is his way of weaving in older ideas of anthropological thinkers.” · Mirjam de Bruijn, Leiden University

Whereas most studies of migration focus on movement, this book examines the experience of staying put. It looks at young men living in a Soninke-speaking village in Gambia who, although eager to travel abroad for money and experience, settle as farmers, heads of families, businessmen, civic activists, or, alternatively, as unemployed, demoted youth. Those who stay do so not only because of financial and legal limitations, but also because of pressures to maintain family and social bases in the Gambia valley. ‘Stayers’ thus enable migrants to migrate, while ensuring the activities and values attached to rural life are passed on to the future generations.

Paolo Gaibazzi is a Social Anthropologist and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies (ZMO). His work has been published in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Journal of African History, and Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Subject: General Anthropology Refugee & Migration Studies
Area: Africa

LC: HN834.G35 G34 2015

BISAC: SOC005000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Customs & Traditions; SOC007000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Emigration & Immigration; SOC002010 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/Cultural

BIC: JHMC Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography; JFSF Rural communities


List of Illustrations
Notes on Transliteration


  • From Ploughing the Sea to Navigating the Bush
  • Soninke Migration and the Young Men Who Stay Put
  • ‘Sitting’: Creating and Inhabiting Immobility
  • The Onus of Rural Permanence
  • On Bush-bound Ethnography    
  • Overview of the Book
  • A Brief Note on The Gambia

Chapter 1. Peasants by Other Means:(Im)mobility and the Making of a Village Mooring

  • ‘Sitting’ Sabi, Creating Movement, 1902 – ca.1945
  • The Farmer-trader
  • New Routes and Roots in the Post-war Period
  • Parting Sedentary and Migrant Livelihoods: 1970s – Present
  • Bush Troubles: the Decline of the Rural Economy
  • The Rise of International Labour Migration
  • Barriers to International Migration
  • Diasporization, Transnationality and Urban Homes
  • The Traveller, the ‘Sitter’ and the Urban ‘Sitter’

Chapter 2. Being-on-the-land: The Agri-culture of Migration

  • Of Bushmen and Moneymen
  • Earning Calloused Hands: The Embodiment of Rural Suffering
  • Cultivating an Agrarian Ethos
  • From Bush to Travel-bush
  • The Alienation of the Farmer?

Chapter 3. Looking for Money: Livelihood Trajectories in and out of Mobility

  • The Social Currency of Money
  • Locating the Bounty: Routes and Destinations
  • Two Hustlers
  • Navigating the Political Economy
  • Stranded in Circulation: From Spurious Travel to ‘Sitting’
  • Wind in the Sails: the Economy of Support

Chapter 4. Just Sitting: The Spectre of Bare Immobility

  • Ghetto Youth: (Em)placing Male Sociability
  • Stilled Bodies and Burdened Heads
  • The Nerves Syndrome
  • Waiting: The Stilled Time of Sitting
  • The Virtue of Patience: Temporal Fixes to Spatial Problems

Chapter 5. Hesitant Patriarchs: Becoming a Household Head

  • The Ka
  • Becoming a Kagume: Ascent to Power or Buck Passing?
  • In a Meal Bowl: Ensuring Subsistence in an Extraverted Domestic Economy
  • Around a Meal Bowl: Creating Conviviality and Male Authority
  • Governing Change: Cooperation, Conflict and Translocality in Household Formation

Chapter 6. Civic Leaders? Reviving the Age Groups, Recapturing Permanence

  • The Sappanu
  • Youth, in the Active Voice
  • The Sabi Youth Committee
  • Quiet Ceremonies: Legal Innovation and Socio-moral Reforms

Conclusion: Possibilities

  • If…
  • Placing Immobility in Migration
  • Trailing on


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