Of Sub-Saharan Clandestine Migration: Emotions, Spectrality and Hospitality in World Cinema

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Of Sub-Saharan Clandestine Migration: Emotions, Spectrality and Hospitality in World Cinema

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This project analyzes the representation of increased human mobility from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe in contemporary films. The politicization and control of movement through closed borders, travel documents and anti-immigration laws have relegated the humanity of those concerned to the background. I explore how (would-be) migrants conceive of their journeys across the sea, desert, and transit countries to their desired European destinations. The analysis also considers events on the routes used by these subjects and in the places they go to as well as the impacts of these happenings on them. Given the history of colonialism and its newer forms of neocolonialism and the contradictions of the globalization epoch, Sub-Saharan Africans face systemic obstacles to international movement (owing, for example, to their racial identities and Europe’s posturing as a Fortress). Thus, those aspiring to move abroad resort to clandestine migration as a form of protest to the denial of legal access to foreign territories. I argue that this mode of movement evinces both a search for better opportunities (economic, health, safety etc.) and a quest to challenge the asymmetry vis-à-vis the right to mobility as well as constitutes a form of haunting to or in societies of immigration. I contend that the strategies adopted by undocumented migrants, including sea crossing and desert passage, as they are confronted with the securitarian logic of border control forces them to become “invisible” while rendering them susceptible to hostile smuggling and governmental practices that dehumanize them. Given the tensions between unauthorized migration and strict anti-migration control, border surveillance and irregular migrants’ journey instrumentalize their in/visibility, making both ghosts of a kind and thereby raising questions of (in)hospitality in transit and host nations alike. Moreover, undocumented migrancy engenders mutable emotions that precede and manifest themselves during and after clandestine passages. To this end, the performance of hospitality – the offering of human solidarity to the Other in need – as ethics can be a process of (re)humanization for clandestines, despite their being uninvited guests.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2021. Major: French. Advisor: Hakim Abderrezak. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 290 pages.

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Lamptey, Abraham. (2021). Of Sub-Saharan Clandestine Migration: Emotions, Spectrality and Hospitality in World Cinema. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/224579.

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