23 April: Colloquium “Global African entrepreneurs – The example of Cameroonian traders and migrants in Dubai” by Michaela Pelican (University of Cologne)

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Date(s) - 23/04/14
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Grote Gracht 80-82, Spiegelzaal (Soiron Building) Maastricht


Global African entrepreneurs – The example of Cameroonian traders and migrants in Dubai 

By Michaela Pelican (University of Cologne)

Globalisation, Transnationalism and Development research program/ FASoS and MACIMIDE colloquium

Discussant: Karlijn Haagsman (FASoS, Maastricht University)

Abstract: Taking the example of Cameroonian traders and migrants in Dubai, this presentation will highlight two aspects I consider characteristic of current trends in African migration; namely, its entrepreneurial spirit and its recent geographical orientation to destinations within the Global South. So far, public and academic debates have largely focused on Western perceptions of African migrants as political or economic refugees as well as on issues of exclusion, xenophobia, brain drain, remittances etc. Accordingly, African migrants tend to be portrayed as ‘victims’ of economic decline and exclusionary policies, and their mobility is often conceptualized in a unidirectional way as people going abroad and money flowing back. In this presentation I wish to challenge and complement this rather one-sided perspective by paying attention to self-driven global African entrepreneurs who link Africa, the Middle East and Asia via their transnational business networks. Their example also illustrates the new direction of much contemporary African migration to destinations within the Global South. The latters’ attractivity may be attributed as much to the effects of the exclusionary immigration policies of the EU, as to the moral-legal frameworks of the new destinations that seem more receptive to migrants’ entrepreneurial aspirations. Nonetheless, as I will show with regard to the United Arab Emirates, also in this rather business-friendly environment, economic success and legal security are highly contingent, and only few African migrants are able to achieve them. Similar trends are observable in other destinations in the Global South, such as China and Turkey, to which I will occasionally refer in my presentation.

Michaela Pelican is Assistant Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Cologne. She is also co-director of the University of Cologne Forum “Ethnicity as a Political Resource: Perspectives from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Europe”. Previously, she was a lecturer at the University of Zurich and a researcher with the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. She received her PhD from the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and her MA from the University of Bayreuth. Her current focus is on South-South mobility and migrant transnationalism, and involves research in Cameroon, Gabon, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Concurrently, she is working on indigeneity in Africa, a topic that emerged from her previous research on interethnic relations and identity politics in Cameroon. Moreover, she has a strong interest in visual and media anthropology, and has been using methods of visual and theatre anthropology throughout her research.