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It is not surprising that conflict and crisis are often seen as the dominant features moving across the across the socio-political landscape in the African Great Lakes. As a result, many areas of life are analysed in its shadow – politics, economics, cultural norms, and, most pertinent for this paper, mobility. Here, we propose a framework that examines the extent to which crisis and conflict overlay, contravene, and inform mobility in the African Great Lakes; and that tentatively explores these underlying mobility dynamics, which might be expected to remain when conflict and crisis subside. The framework draws from sociological theories of ‘normal’ life and agency to examine mobility by looking along three analytical dimensions: aspirations, norms, and practices. It is then tentatively applied to analyse migration associated with three underlying social processes that continue within the Great Lakes: migration relating to education, urbanisation, and family formation. The paper concludes with a reflection upon the challenges of applying this framework for empirical research in the Great Lakes region. We argue that adopting a life-course approach that views movement related to ‘key, transitional events’ during the span of a person’s life may be particularly suited to operationalising this framework.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



African migration, African Great Lakes, Democratic Republic of Congo, Norms, Aspirations, Capabilities, Mobility, Forced Migration, Conflict, Crisis, Migration theory, Lifecourse