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Migrants or Masters? New book on postcolonial migration to Angola

News: May 03, 2018

In recent years, more 100 000 people have migrated from Europe to primarily Angola and Mozambique. Who are they, and why do they move?

Many of these European labour migrants come from Portugal and they have migrated to former colonies in Africa in search of employment and a more stable life, in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008.

Lisa Åkesson, associate professor in Social Anthropology at the School of Global Studies, has studied this migration in a postcolonial context, exploring in particular the everyday encounters at workplaces between Portuguese migrants and their Angolan “hosts”.

In her new book, Postcolonial Portuguese Migration to Angola: Migrants or Masters? she describes the Angolan-Portuguese relationship as being characterised not only by hierarchies of power, but also by ambivalence and hybridity.

“The Portuguese come to Angola as migrants, which means they have to have their papers in order. And some of them don’t,” says Lisa Åkesson.

“Because of this, they are sometimes targeted by the police in for example traffic stops. They are also very dependent on Angolan business owners… I would say that many Portuguese are a bit scared of Angolan state representatives.”

At the same time, when looking at the person-to-person relationships at workplaces, Lisa Åkesson found that many Angolans want the Portuguese to integrate, to feel like they belong. And some expressed disappointment that some Portuguese tend to keep a distance.

According to Lisa Åkesson, colonial stereotypes and expectations still have a strong hold on how people interact with one another.

“Some Angolans speak of the Portuguese migrants as dominant and arrogant, at the same time as they say, they’re such good teachers, so knowledgeable. Whilst the Portuguese tend to talk about Angolans as ignorant, unskilled, as unwilling to work.”

“It’s 500 years of colonial history, which is something you can’t leave from one day to another. So these colonial discourses, even if the macro-economic and political situation has changed significantly, the colonial heritage is still apparent in identities and expectations.”

Find the book here.

Read more about Lisa Åkesson and her research

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Originally published on: globalstudies.gu.se

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