Association for Africanist Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Black trans-Saharan migrants needing healthcare along their journeys are under scrutiny from police, locals, and humanitarian healthcare personnel. These various groups question the morality and health needs of Black migrants via assessments of healthcare deservingness; locally defined understandings of who deserves care and who does not, often based on notions of citizenship, piety/morality and race. Assessments of deservingness, expressed through idioms and metaphors of geography and race, indicate how these privileged social actors, especially health workers, interact with black migrants seeking care. The transnational and racially diverse Sahara is cast as the social backdrop where these logics of race, belonging, and metaphor take place; Black Africans cross the Sahara desert through Black Niger into Arab Algeria, where “Africans” is metonymic of “Black Africa”. What effects do vernacular assessments of healthcare deservingness, along with metaphors, idioms and expressions of geographical-racial categorization in the Sahara, play in determining migrants’ care? By addressing these issues, this article attempts to shed light on how black African migrants experience humanitarian medicine, by examining the ways in which they deploy metaphor, euphemism/dysphemism, idiom and irony to describe their various encounters with humanitarian medicine and associated authorities in the Sahara. The use of these rhetorical devices may illuminate particular embodied subjectivities around racial, gendered, economic and national difference that black African migrants experience as Black medical patients in the racially diverse, but anti-Black Sahara, and may reveal the ways in which they explore and contend with the racial geographies of humanitarian healthcare.