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About this presentation

Skilled professional migration constitutes an integral component of globalisation processes and global labour markets that connect and transform people and places. Yet, less attention focuses on the return flows of skilled African professionals, with their subjective narratives often subsumed under dominant discourses on the migration–development nexus where return movements are conceptualised as constituting part of the broader ‘brain drain’ and ‘brain circulation’. However, there is often a disjuncture between the expectations of return among returnees and the realties and challenges they encounter in assimilating after years away. Drawing on their narratives, this paper examines how skilled professional Ghanaian return migrants articulate and navigate the challenges of readjustment. I focus particularly on how socio-spatial and cultural processes operate to underpin and refigure their everyday economic experiences – in the workplace and as entrepreneurs – and how they mobilise necessary resources and strategies to navigate those challenges. In a globalised world, facilitated by time-space compression, return migrants are simultaneously and multiply situated in networks constituted across multiple states. These play out in interesting ways in an increasingly transnational workplace for many return skilled professionals who are often recruited by local and transnational companies to work in Ghana. In this lecture I address three facets of their experiences: first, I examine the informal and subjective processes by which skilled return migrants interact with and counter dominant workplace cultures in and across transnational spaces; second, I consider the gender dimensions of their experiences to illustrate the ways in which hegemonic practices in the workplace – e.g. patriarchal norms – are navigated and contested in gendered ways. Third, I draw on Bourdieu’s work, to analyse the ways in which different forms of capital – human, social, and cultural – between different groups and individual actors create intersections of inequality and privilege in the work place setting for these migrants.

About the seminar series - Migration to, through and from Africa: An ‘African’ conversation

Scholars of African descent have increasingly contributed to the growing body of knowledge on African migratory flows, even though Africans have often been depicted as ‘objects’ rather than ‘subjects’ of scholarly inquiry. In this seminar series, we ‘reverse the gaze’ by showcasing cutting edge research conducted by African scholars who examine migration to, through and from Africa.

From early career researchers to more established academics, the presenters in our series demonstrate the geographic diversity of African migration patterns by showcasing how Africans on the move are part and parcel of broader processes of social, political and economic development across the continent and beyond. In doing this, they prove that “Africans have always produced knowledge about their continent, even though their contributions have been ‘preferably unheard’ in some cases and ‘deliberately silenced’ in others” (Pailey, 2016).

The 2017 Hilary term seminar series is convened by Robtel Neajai Pailey and Marie Godin.

Download the seminar series poster