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Title: Mobility in crisis : Sub-Saharan migrants' journeys through Libya and Malta
Author: Achtnich, Marthe
ISNI:       0000 0004 6495 7477
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis is a multi-sited ethnography of sub-Saharan migrants' journeys through Libya and by boat to Malta. Its overall aim is to understand how undocumented migrants make and conceptualise their complex journeys through shifting regulatory landscapes. The thesis draws upon, and consequently develops, understandings of migrants' mobilities, both within anthropology and wider migration studies. Over the course of their journey through Libya and Malta, sub-Saharan migrants move across uneven topographies in place and time, from the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert to the turbulent Mediterranean Sea, from situations of detention to everyday houses in society, from the hands of smugglers to the arms of the law. To this end, the thesis is guided by three wider objectives. First, investigating how different forms of mobility are part of migrants' journeys. Second, examining how migrants navigate such journeys. And third, understanding the ways in which migrants encounter and negotiate borders en route. These objectives are engaged with through a multi-sited ethnography tracing migrants' journeys through five contexts: sites of confinement and detention in Libya, everyday spaces of Libyan society, the boat crossing, and finally the legal framework in Malta. These varying contexts prompt comparisons across particular sites, processes and practices on a journey, highlighting elements that might be generalized and those that are specific. The ethnography is presented in five chapters, their sequence mirroring the overall journey of migrants through Libya and Malta. Unpacking the journey and mobility, this thesis develops a set of interrelated arguments. First, it deconstructs the notion of migrants as a homogenized group of people on a linear trajectory aimed at Europe. It goes beyond typologized understandings of migrants, such as legal, illegal, refugee or asylum seeker, that fix migrants into static categories linked to the state or specific crisis situations. Second, it front-stages the journey as a focal point of inquiry, thereby addressing a theme under-acknowledged in the anthropology of mobility and migration. This enables a move beyond state-centric and isolated understandings of migrants' mobilities to one that accounts for the multiplicity of journeys and processes en route. Third, this emphasis on the journey highlights the importance of thinking through relations involving multiple actors and bordering encounters. Taken together, these arguments advance important insights into the anthropologies of mobility and migration. The thesis makes wider contributions by conceptualizing an 'architecture' of the journey, constituted by three inter-related components: mobility, navigation, and borders. They offer a more nuanced understanding of migration and mobility in (post-)conflict settings, one that not only has implications for understanding sub-Saharan migrants' journeys through Libya and by boat to Europe, but one also relevant to other crisis contexts as well.
Supervisor: Carrier, Neil ; Parkin, Robert Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Migration Studies ; Social Anthropology ; Mobility ; Journey ; Libya ; Migrants ; Asylum ; Borders ; Detention ; Multi-Sited Ethnography ; Malta ; Mediterranean