Social Mobility and Spatialised Slowness

Imagining ‘Success’ among Sierra Leoneans Living in France

In: African Diaspora
Anaïs Ménard UCLouvain Belgium Louvain-la-Neuve

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This article analyses the individual aspirations of Sierra Leoneans living in France in relation to normative expectations related to mobility. It argues that aspirations and expectations are expressions of spatialized forms of social becoming situated within broader norms concerning socially-valued forms of mobility. Aspirations to social mobility link up distinct places in a fragmented transnational field, transform them as value-laden spaces, and inform migrants’ assessment of their own trajectory within them. Individual aspirations are formulated with regard to spaces migrants have left, spaces they live in, and spaces they would like to reach. Sierra Leoneans living in France have reached a ‘destination country’ and yet, do not experience their situation as the ideal migratory path. Their achievements are measured with regard to expectations of social mobility as imagined in English-speaking spaces, thereby reinforcing the narrative of mobility and the persistence of local idioms of ‘success’ based on historical transnational connections.

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