African trajectories across Central America

Dynamics of displacements, transitory emplacements, and ambivalent migration nodes

This research project aims to gain insight into the emerging trajectories of displaced African migrants who traverse severely challenged Central American countries in an attempt to reach North America. On an empirical level, the project responds to the recent increase of African migrants and refugees in Central America and situates their understudied experiences in a context of globe-spanning yet lopsided migration routes, crises and industries. On a theoretical level, the project builds on and further elaborates critical understandings of the dynamics between migration, displacement and (im)mobilities. In particular, the project asks to what extent novel conceptualizations of the displacement/emplacement dialectic can be applied to the increasingly drawn-out and volatile migrant trajectories across the Global South. To do so, its ethnographic focus lies on migrant journeys as well as on what will be referred to as “migration nodes” of smuggling, surveillance and solidarity throughout largely understudied yet key Central American sites. Offering an ethnographic understanding of migrant trajectories through these interconnected journeys and nodes, this project contributes to the theorization of ambivalent, entangled, and localized displacement dynamics. By employing a processual view of displacement experiences and showing what happens before migrants reach the expanding borders of the Global North, the project counters simplistic, managerial interpretations and representations of migrants and refugees en route within the Global South.

Drotbohm, Heike and Nanneke Winters (2018): Transnational Lives en Route: African Trajectories of Displacement and Emplacement across Central America. Working Papers of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, 175.

Winters, Nanneke (2018): Redrawing the Central American Migrant Caravan: How Other (African) Trajectories Cross Its Path. Border Criminologies, Blog (06.11.2018).

Winters & Mora Izaguirre (2019): Es cosa suya: entanglements of border externalization and African transit migration in northern Costa Rica.