Association for Africanist Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Migration has become in the Senegal River valley a great vector of economic and social success. The wealth that migrants accumulate over their life course can translate in urban context like Dakar into real social mobility in the small but growing middle class.. However, in small towns and rural villages of the Senegal River Valley where social status is much more determined by birth. migrants from socio-professional groups at the bottom of the social hiearchy face challenges in translating their economic success into tangible social success for themselves and their families. The success of migrants who accumulated wealth is socially valued, but does not alter the dynamics of social relations articulated around the normative principles of the social hierarchy in which one is born "noble" but does become noble through economic success. This paper looks at returned migrants from France and the United States and their negotiations of social status as well as their behavior towards the social limitations of what their accumulated wealth can and cannot buy. No matter how big and tall a mansion low-status migrants build at home in their rural community, they cannot aspire to marry up, even among the poorest of "noble families." In urban areas, there is a growing trend for migrants of low social status to go after second generation girls of Haalpular (sedentary Fulani) origin who tend to consider the socio-professional divide insignificant in their choice of a partner. A brief, focused ethnographic presentation will make room for a moderated discussion.