Centripetal Forces: The Construction of Hometown Loyalty in a West African Migrant-Sending Community

Bruce Whitehouse, Brown University

While much energy has been devoted to identifying the forces contributing to migration from rural communities of the Third World, comparatively little has been devoted to exploring the forces drawing migrants back to those communities. When mentioned at all, these pull-factors emanating from migrant-sending communities are typically glossed as "cultural" or "family-related." This paper, drawing on ethnographic research and interviews with returned migrants in a Malian sending community, offers a more penetrating analysis. It identifies a set of significant social practices and beliefs which influence migrants' decisions to return, and which contribute to the construction of an ideology of hometown loyalty. The discussion of centripetal forces suggests that definitive return is just one out of many different forms of demonstrating loyalty to one's hometown, and not necessarily the most important; it further suggests that a deterritorialized identity is vital to the survival of rural sending communities.

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Presented in Session 29: Non-Economic Consequences of Migration for Origin Communities