Brotherhood solidarity and the (re) negotiation of identity among Senegalese migrants in Durban.
Fomunyam, Bilola Nicoline.
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This thesis based on a study titled “Brotherhood Solidarity and the (re) negotiation of identity among Senegalese migrants in Durban” examined Senegalese migration to South Africa, particularly Durban, and sought to show how these migrants negotiate and reconfigure their identities within a transnational context. The study principally set out to critically examine how Senegalese Mouride migrants exploit networks of solidarity and brotherhood through ‘dahira’ membership as an important source of social capital in negotiating their transnational identities. Being one of Senegal’s four major brotherhoods, the Muridiyya brotherhood possesses a deep-rooted organizational practice and solidarity system that plays a fundamental role in influencing migrants on how they make sense of the migratory experience. It is argued that Mouride networks assist its members in the social integration in host societies in maintaining transnational identities and are very important in providing migrants with spiritual and ideological points of reference and aiding the development of entrepreneurial networks and niche formation. The study equally highlights that there are embedded cultural and religious values and beliefs that constitute stepping-stones upon which Senegalese migrants choose this entrepreneurial livelihood pattern. The study opines that migration in Senegal is a complex and multifaceted enterprise which has become an integral part of people’s cultural and social lives. The gendered subject position of the woman as ‘nurturer’ and the man as ‘provider’ constitute an important facet of Senegalese identity construction and is a fundamental determinant of who migrates. The study argues that migration in this context is not simply an economic endeavour but is profoundly influenced by the culture. The Senegalese migrants regard it as a training experience, a rite of passage, an initiation process, an art, a means of world making and self-fashioning that paves the way for them to lay claims to their masculine identities. Migration for these men is associated with knowledge, adventure and ‘becoming a man’. Such a cultural disposition highlights the importance of migration for masculinity and explains why migration in Senegal has remained a male preserve. Women do not have the same autonomy as men to migrate given the stigma often attached to migrant women. It is also contended that failing to do this through non- migration is likely to result in alienation, loss of respect and self-esteem which sometimes lead to masculine gender-role stress. The study emphasizes how in renegotiating their identities in Durban the Senegalese migrants transcend ethnic and religious differences by using the consumption of home food as a common ground for a broader Senegalese identity where all internal differences are muzzled. Food in this context is a metaphor of self, a cultural feature and a non-verbal form of communication through which migrants construct the space in which they find themselves. Cuisine and culinary ways are an essential form of expression and important outlets used by Senegalese migrants to assert, sustain and reconfigure their identities in Durban. Finally, the study shows that deeply engrained in the culture of Senegalese migrants is the spirit of ‘Terenga’ solidarity whereby new social relationships are established while those already in existence are maintained.
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