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ALMA Reviews Blog: Deviant Destinations: Zimbabwe and North to South Migration

Deviant Destinations: Zimbabwe and North to South Migration

Rose Jaji, Harare University, Zimbabwe

Published in 2019 by Rowman & Littlefield

Available at: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781793604460/Deviant-Destinations-Zimbabwe-and-North-to-South-Migration

In her recent book “Deviant Destinations: Zimbabwe and North to South Migration,” Rose Jaji, senior lecturer in Sociology at Harare University, pays attention to an unusual type of migration journey. Unusual not necessarily in the frequency it occurs, but regarding the attention received in academic studies: she analyses journeys from the Global North to Zimbabwe, a country which has experienced “political violence, poverty, suffering and despondency” (p.60) in the last two decades. Zimbabwe has long become an archetype of a country from where people emigrate. To illustrate, Crush and Tevera note that “given the ruinous state of the country’s economy, it remains a puzzle as to who, why, and indeed how, anyone could stay” (p.2) in their edited volume aptly named “Zimbabwe’s Exodus.”

Rose Jaji`s book gives an entirely new reading of Zimbabwe, showing how studying migration from the Global North to the Global South can give new insights into the common elements of migration motivations, the place of migrants in a host society and the pitfalls of a containerized understanding of the nation-state. She interviewed 35 people between 2015 and 2017 – most from Germany and the US – moving to Zimbabwe both in the pre-crisis period (1980-1996) and in the crisis period (1997-present). The group includes expats, spouses of expats and Zimbabweans as well as missionaries who live in Harare and a rural field hospital (see Introduction).

Jaji makes at least two major contributions to migration literature: first, motivations for migration are similar for migrants despite their very different external categories, and second, a static understanding of nation states as only a ‘sending country’ obfuscates a much more varied and nuanced picture. On the first point, she highlights that motivations for mobility – wealth, lifestyle – do not differ considerably between the adventurous German trying his luck in Zimbabwe and the Nigerian on his way to Europe. Thus, she describes the motivations of one migrant from Germany to Zimbabwe in the 1970s not least to avoid military conscription. She contrasts this to the totally different migration-experience from today’s Eritreans leaving for similar reasons, due to “a bifurcated nomenclature in which North-South migrants travel while people engaged in South-North movement flee” (emphasis added, p.85). The difference is in the global power asymmetries embedded in movements, legitimizing one migrants’ journey and not the other. Thus, the “common quest … for a better or meaningful life” (p. 24) is classified as lifestyle and retirement for one and as economic for others. Underlying connotations are that expatriates from the North are benefactors to the countries they go to, while economic migrants or asylum seekers from the South are beneficiaries of the countries they go to – one a resource the other a burden (see Chapter 2). Added to this asymmetrical dynamics of categorisations are racialized political connotations, which continue to be pertinent in Zimbabwe to this day.

On the second point, Jaji unpacks the categorical containers of nation states, further problematizing methodological nationalism. Regional determinism means that certain factors like political and economic stability will result in the assignment of a container or category – sending or receiving state – which simultaneously adds meaning to migration trajectories and motivations, altering the lived experience of migrants (Chapter 2 and 6). But this masks the realities of people like the ones she studies in the book, which is why Jaji, like others, advocates for methodological transnationalism (e.g. p. 49). She takes her de-containerisation of nation states further, by adding a spatial analysis of migrants who live in the low-density suburbs of Harare (expats, spouses of expats and Zimbabweans) and mostly missionaries who live in the high-density parts, linking space to socioeconomic status (Chapter 5). Parts of Harare would defy core-periphery demarcations in world system theory which would assign Zimbabwe entirely into the periphery. This reiterates that countries are not homogenous spaces, further advocating the de-containerisation of nation states.

The book uncovers many paradoxes including of security amid insecurity, with for example a low crime rate in the low-density suburbs where most of the migrants Jaji analyses live, despite the political volatility in the country (Chapter 3 and 5). Another important insight is the reverse status paradox (borrowing from Boris Nieswand) of migrants moving to Zimbabwe resulting in big houses, gardens, cheap domestic labour and frequently better-paid jobs etc.; an upward mobility experience (see Chapter 6). Jaji also highlights an important methodological lesson: sometimes a very small empirical case – North-South migration only makes up about 5% of migration patterns globally (p.40) can be instrumental to conceptual development. Jaji concludes that mobility which conforms to the norm, coexists with those that defy it (p. 160). Jaji`s deconstruction of motivations, consequences and territorialisation of common migration containers is vital reading for anyone seeking nuanced debates that go beyond the norm.
Reviewed by Franzisca Zanker

Works cited:

Crush, Jonathan, and Daniel Tevera. 2010. Zimbabwe’s Exodus : Crisis, Migration, Survival. Cape Town Ottawa: Southern African Migration Project International Development Research Centre.

Nieswand, Boris. 2011. Theorising Transnational Migration: The Status Paradox of Migration. Basingstoke: Routledge.

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