Migration and the Ripple Effect: How Chinese Mobility Prompts African Mobility

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Convener: University of Oxford China Centre, SIAS

Speaker: Dr Miriam Driessen

Migratory movements of one population can induce and facilitate migratory practices of another population in unintended and unexpected ways. In this talk Miriam Driessen looks at how a growing flow of Chinese migrants to Ethiopia has spawned Ethiopian labour migration to the Middle East. Chinese involvement in the Ethiopian construction sector has generated unprecedented employment opportunities. Especially young Ethiopian women, who take up service jobs on and off the Chinese-run construction sites that have emerged across the Ethiopian landscape, use their incomes to pay migrant brokers who help them move to such countries as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, to take up what is considered to be more desirable employment as domestic workers. By tracing the lives of Chinese men and Ethiopian women who crossed paths on a road project in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, I demonstrate the cumulative effect of migration in the context of China in Africa. Capital-rich flows of migrants cause a ripple effect at end destinations and turn receiving communities into sending communities. From these ‘migration junctions,’ mobility gains momentum and expands across time and space.

Miriam Driessen is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and Jesus College, University of Oxford. She is trained as an anthropologist. Her research focuses on migration in mainland China and beyond. A writer of literary nonfiction in her native language, Dutch, she is the author of Het Verloren Dorp (2011).