Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Caroline Melly ─ Bottleneck: Engaging Infrastructures in Dakar, Senegal

Thursday, November 9, 2017

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Reception to Follow

In Senegal, a relatively small African country with few profitable natural resources, transnational migration has kept household budgets and the national economy afloat for generations. Today, both state agendas and popular conceptions of belonging are seen as contingent on migratory circulations to destinations like the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. At the same time, however, migration abroad has become increasingly impossible for the vast majority of Senegalese. This talk examines this critical paradox and its effects on everyday urban life and development policy. It does so by retooling a vibrant cultural term — embouteillage (bottleneck) — that circulated during research years there. Drawing together ethnographic research conducted on Dakar’s traffic clogged roads and in bustling bureaucratic offices, this talk considers what insights the bottleneck concept might afford in our quest to understand migration, state practice, and everyday urban life in Africa and beyond.

Africa Initiative

Caroline Melly is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Smith. Her research interests include citizenship and the state, transnational migration, urban mobility and space, neoliberalism and development, science and technology, and gender studies. She has conducted ethnographic research in Senegal, Europe, and the United States. Her book, Bottleneck: Moving, Building, and Belonging in an African City was recently published by the University of Chicago Press.