The Challenge of the Threshold. Border Closures and Migration Movements in Africa

The Challenge of the Threshold. Border Closures and Migration Movements in Africa

Edited by Jocelyne Streiff-Fénart and Aurelia Segatti

 Publisher: Lexington Books, Lanham, Md, USA.

 Hardback November 2011: $95.00 (£59.95)

 ISBN : 978-0-7391-6510-2

 288 pages

 Paperback November 2013: $37.99 (£22.95)

 ISBN : 978-0-7391-6511-9

 eBook November 2011: $37.99 (£22.95)

 ISBN 978-0-7391-6512-6

 Contributions by: Julien Brachet; Lorenzo Gabrielli; Paolo Gaibazzi; Elise Palomares; Anaik Pian; Philippe Poutignat; Catherine Quiminal; Joris Schapendonk; Aurelia Segatti; Amandine Spire; Jocelyne Streiff-Fénart; Mahamet Timera and Dominique Vidal.
Publisher’s webpage


The recent containment policies aimed at regulating immigration flows towards Europe have profoundly altered the dynamics of migration in Africa. The impact of these policies is apparent in the redefinitions of the routes, itineraries and actors of migration. But their effect can also be felt in migrant categories and identities and in the perceptions of migrants in the societies through which they transit or the communities which they have left behind. By placing the problem of border control at the very heart of the migration issue, the policies aimed at the restriction of migration flows have changed the meaning and significance of migration. More than ever before, both migrants and institutions in charge of border control construe migration mostly around the challenge of border-crossing.

In the Global South, the transit situation in which would-be border jumpers are retained blurs the distinction between temporary migration and settlement. This contributes to change, in various ways, the relationship to strangers, from renewed forms of solidarities to the reactivation of latent xenophobic sentiment, whether around the Mediterranean or en route towards South Africa, the other migration hub on the continent.

The editors of this volume have decided to work on the notion of “threshold” as an operative concept for addressing the multiple dimensions of the issue: the discursive and conceptual frameworks that constitute the backbone of threshold policies aiming to keep undesirables beyond borders; the constitution of stopping places, intermediate areas and relay towns, which all represent threshold spaces that challenge local urban equilibria; and the experience of liminality, in which individuals caught for a time between two states (as migrant on the road and as immigrant, the state to which they aspire), experience the typically ambiguous situations characteristic of éhreshold people’ (Turner). While ambitioning to innovate theoretically and methodologically, the volume is above all.


How does one live when one is ‘stuck’ in a transit space and situation? European national policies to control and reject transient people have created these spaces and left people trapped in inbetweenness. By focusing on transit spaces and time, this collaborative research initiative speaks to liminality itself. The volume encourages readers to question the more and more ambiguous relationships between individuals and the Nation-State, and the socio- political arrangements taking shape on the margins of states.

 Michel Agier, Centre d’Etudes Africaines

How does the development of an EU restrictive immigration policy affect the migration processes in Africa? In this volume, a group of European scholars provide convincing answers to that pressing question based on a thorough theoretical work but also on very solid empirical research. Definitely a must-read for all of those interested in understanding contemporary human mobility.

 Martiniello Marco, Université de Liège

This is an unusual book, drawing scholars with divergent interests, perspectives, and geographical expertise to consider the nature of migration into and out of Africa. Every reader will find individual chapters that are provocative and empirically rich. Readers who spend time reviewing all the chapters will undoubtedly come away with new perspectives on human mobility. No longer will we speak about migration in Africa as a singular or insular process. Nor will we accept simple, mechanical or economistic explanations. If nothing else, this book tell us that mobility on the continent is at once highly localized, deeply personal and shaped by global political processes.

 Loren B. Landau, University of the Witwatersrand

Table of Chapters


Part 1. Threshold Policies: Discourses and Practices of Control and Closure

 Chapter 1. European Immigration Policies Outside the Union: An Impact Analysis on Migration Dynamics in North African Transit Areas

 Chapter 2. Regional Integration Policy and Migration Reform in SADC Countries: Whether to Move beyond Bilateralism?

 Chapter 3. The Manufacture of Transit Border Control, Urban Trends and Migrant Trajectories in Nouadhibou (Mauritania)

 Chapter 4. The “Discursive Framework” of Development and the Repertoire of Actions of Senegalese Deportee Associations

Part 2. Threshold Spaces: Itineraries, Stages and Places of Transit

 Chapter 5. Stuck in the Desert: Hampered Mobility among Transit Migrants in Northern Niger

 Chapter 6. Time-Spaces of Transit Migration in West Africa: Life Transitions and Urban Transformations in Lomé (Togo) And Accra (Ghana)

 Chapter 7. Beyond Departure and Arrival: Analyzing Migration Trajectories of Sub-Saharan African Migrants from a Mobilities Perspective

 Chapter 8. Migration in South Africa: Tensions and Post-Apartheid Inter-Ethnic Compromises in a Central District of Johannesburg

Part 3. Threshold People: The Experience and Imaginary Dimension of Travel, Migrant Sociability and Routes to Individuation

 Chapter 9. Ambiguous Europe: Repertoires of Subjectivation Among Prospective Migrants in Bamako, Mali

 Chapter 10. Home as Transit: Would-Be Migrants and Immobility in Gambia

 Chapter 11. Migration at the Level of Individuals. Life Trajectories in Mauritania and Spain

 Chapter 12. Migrations between Transit, Settlement and Redefinitions of Identity: A Case Study of Senegalese Migrants in Morocco and Nigerian Migrants in Senegal

 Chapter 13. The Mozambican Miner and the Aventureiro from Maputo: Figures of Individuation Between Southern Mozambique and theVicinity of Johannesburg