HomeObjects and African migrations

HomeObjects and African migrations

Objects and African migrations

Objets et migrations africaines

Subjectivities in Exile

Subjectivités en exil

*  *  *

Published on Monday, November 14, 2022


The Seventh Meeting of African Studies in France (REAF) dealt, in particular, with questions of mobility. As a follow-up, we invite researchers in the humanities and social sciences to address the issue of African migration through the lens of objects as traces of border crossings.



File coordinated by Hinde Maghnouji and Pierre Peraldi-Mittelette


The Seventh Meeting of African Studies in France (REAF) dealt, in particular, with questions of mobility. As a follow-up, we invite researchers in the humanities and social sciences to address the issue of African migration through the lens of objects as traces of border crossings. The movement of objects has been addressed recently in the anthropology of art[1], in the sociology of things[2], and even museology[3]. While such issues continue to be studied[4], in this call we opt for an approach focused more specifically on the links between objects and migrations. We consider objects as entities that accompany people, whether they have been brought with them[5] or constructed in the course of border crossings[6] — the kind of personobjects to which one can relate[7] and which enable one to remember one’s land and identity[8]. This issue contributes to broader reflections on the condition of the migrant[9], the exile[10] or the diaspora[11]. We intend to interrogate this return to the individual and to what he/she takes with him/her by following, among others, Alexandre-Garner and Galitzine-Loumpet (2020) who have set up a collective reflection concerning objects and migration. In this call, we wish to focus on objects that link people in a migratory situation to an elsewhere left behind, regardlessof the time that separates them from their place of departure. These objects may be brought with them, created during the journey, or they may be created in the host country. We propose here to explore the ways in which these objects create bridges between a present experience (in the host country or in transit) and an elsewhere left behind.

In this issue, we would like to gain a better understanding of the multiple relationships that are forged between people in situations of displacement (diaspora, exiles, refugees, asylum seekers) and the objects that accompany these different migrations. In this context, the relationships that individuals maintain with a whole series of objects bear witness to the migratory journey as such, but also allow access to a subjective universe marked by affect and emotion. The study of these objects makes it possible to approach the phenomenon of migration from multiple angles, notably because they activate memories. However, following Agier (2020), we understand ‘objects’ as only one of the elements that circumscribe ‘the symbolic life of migration – with narratives, places and objects’ (Alexandre-Garner and Galitzine-Loumpet 2020: 27).

Pursing the link between symbolism and site-specific studies, we would like to be able to address the link between space and language, thus enabling the three aspects of the symbolic life of migration to be combined. Other topics may also be addressed. Objects are relevant to understanding processes of transmission. They thus acquire an agentive and performative dimension. The articles may deal with material objects, those imbued with magic, or the writings of loved ones that one takes with one at the time of departure, as well as objects and words that are intended to welcome.

These reflections will be articulated around three themes below, which touch as much on objects and the imaginary, as on places and on what makes society possible. In each of the three themes, it will be interesting to discuss the methodology used to collect the materials necessary to study the distance between the interviewer and his interlocutors, as well as the distance, real and symbolic, felt by the interlocutors in a migratory situation. We have in mind the approach taken by Olmedo (2021) who explores co-constructing sensory maps to highlight the migratory journey of her interlocutors and the accounts they give of it. We will thus be able to question the notions of ‘arrival’ and ‘departure’ in the accounts of the migrants and analyse how these terms refer to the subjective experience of individuals. At what point does an individual consider that he or she is away from ‘home’? Similarly, can ‘arriving’ correspond to different moments in this journey? These notions of arrival and departure can coincide with an object or a series of objects that mark the stages of the journey.

The link between the history of the objects and that of the migrants will be at the heart of the first axis. The second axis will focus on objects that highlight the multifaceted and multimodal place of language in the migratory journey and studies related to speech, language and communication. The last axis will focus on objects that create the familiar by constructing a link with the countries of origin and the host country.

Axis 1: Stories of objects and stories of migrations

One rarely migrates empty-handed, i.e. without “objects”. When one moves, one often takes objects: clothes, souvenirs, protective gear, one or more photos. To this must be added the objects that one finds and those that one creates during the migratory journey, and once one has “arrived”. Firstly, there is the logic of the suitcase, a collection, sometimes scattered, of things that we take with us, and then the objects that accumulate as we travel. In this axis, we will deal with the history of these displaced objects as they are lost, stolen, or given, and what they tell us about the journey of individuals. These objects give rises to reflexions about otherness, selfrepresentation, and the links that allow one to be attached to one’s origins and identity. Yet at the same time they mark a kind of separation. Here our concern will be with material, concrete objects that people carry with them, and which are the singular markers of an equally singular history. 

Axis 2: Words in migration

In this axis we choose to deal with speech that is fixed in objects. It will thus be a question of analysing objects that allow speech to be broadcast and transmitted, such as telephones, computers, photos, audio cassettes (Sayad 1985) and paper. It is a question of understanding language as a set of verbal and non-verbal signals, written and oral, fixed on photographs, memory cards or videos that can be preserved on paper or on a smartphone for example. To put it differently, the language object will be treated here as a mediation that retraces or evokes elements of the migratory journey. The aim is to propose articles that take into account the place of written words (blessings or curses, expressions, prayers, etc.) that migrants take with them when they leave. We must address the place of social networks and the various call and messaging platforms (Whatsapp, Signal, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), which are indispensable tools for continuing to maintain a link, a relationship with the rest of the world (those who have remained in the country, those who have been lost during the crossing, the new links, etc.). These words that are carried or sent by message represent a fundamental line of reflection as we seek to better understand the subjectivities at stake in these different migratory journeys. We wish to focus on the place of spoken and written words and their impact on both individual and collective trajectories.

Axis 3: Material and immaterial links

Finally, this third axis will deal with the different forms that allow migrants to maintain links with the host country by recreating the familiar from certain evocative objects. These objects, sometimes hidden or barely visible, enable people to inscribe or reinscribe their subjectivity, their past, their origins in their new everyday life. In order to be able to enter a new territory, one must, most often, try to reconstitute a familiar space in which life is possible. Proposals should explore and evoke the mechanisms individuals and groups put in place to contain a feeling of strangeness. When moving to a particular neighbourhood or shopping for products used in the country, it is often a question of looking for spaces and objects that connect to a part of oneself. The tangible and intangible things that we array around ourselves (for example, ambiance, food, smells, but also modes of dwelling and of establishing oneself, creating links, putting down roots) can be read as attempts to recover a sense of the familiar. It is through this whole series of material objects, and objects that refer to immaterial notions, that one can be “at home” elsewhere.

These different axes will allow us to approach how migration feels and is experienced through the analysis of objects and their representations. Why do people keep, create or transmit objects? Which objects rather than others? What do these objects bring with them? What do they say about the background of the people interviewed? What do they say about community ties? These various questions call for meticulous methodological approaches from any and all disciplines. Proposals for articles may address, on the basis of specific and situated cases, themes such as – and this list is not exhaustive – language teaching, object transmission, accounts of what has been lost, how place is created, reproducing the ambiance that recalls an elsewhere, eating habits and food, the appropriation of stereotypes and everything that touches on the imaginary.


  • Hinde Maghnouji, ethnologist, doctor at IMAF (Ehess), clinical psychologist with asylum seekers in Paris.
  • Pierre Peraldi-Mittelette, ethnologist, doctor at LESC (UMR 7186), affiliated to the Convergences Migrations Institute (2021-2025).

Submission guidelines

Abstracts of proposed papers (350 words) are expected before 05 February 2023.

They should be sent by email to Pierre Peraldi-Mittelette (peraldimittelettepierre@yahoo.fr) and Hinde Maghnouji (hinde.maghnouji@gmail.com). Authors whose proposals have been selected will be informed in April 2023. The deadline for receipt of articles is 15 October 2023. Papers may be submitted in either French or English.

Articles are evaluated by two experts, on a double-blind basis. Manuscripts are sent to specialists who assess it according to the evaluation criteria established by the journal. The evaluation and annotated manuscript are then returned to the authors. The authors revise their articles, which is then submitted once again to at least one of the specialist evaluators.


Almenara-Niebla Silvia, 2020, « Making digital ‘home-camps’: Mediating emotions among the Sahrawi refugee diaspora », International Journal of Cultural Studies 23 (5) : 728–744.

Anstett Elisabeth, Gélard Marie-Luce (dir.), 2012, Les objets ont-ils un genre ? Culture matérielle et production sociale des identités sexuées, Paris, Armand Colin.

Agier Michel, 2013, La condition cosmopolite. L’anthropologie à l’épreuve du piège identitaire, Paris, La découverte.

Alexandre-Garner Corinne, Galitzine-Loumpet Alexandra (dir.), 2020, L’objet de la migration, le sujet en exil, Nanterre, Presses universitaires de Nanterre.

Ammouden Amar, 2012, « L’exil dans la chanson de l’immigration », Études et Documents Berbères 31 : 63-72.

Appadurai Arjun (dir.), 1986, The Social life of Things, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Barthes Roland, 2000, Mythologies, Paris, Seuil.

Belalimat Nadia, 2019, « Réseaux sociaux, nouveaux médias et territoires au Sahara », in Boulay S. et Fanchette S. (dir.), La question des échelles en sciences humaines et sociales, Versailles et Montpellier, Éditions Quae et IRD Éditions : 123-140.

Bensa Alban, 2006, La fin de l’exotisme. Essais d’anthropologie critique, Toulouse, Anacharsis.

Bondaz Julien, 2016, « Masques passeports et antiquaires migrants. La marchandisation de l’art africain en Afrique de l’Ouest », in Jean-Philippe Garric, Fictions et frictions culturelles : 77-103.

Bordes-Benayoun Chantal, 2012, « La diaspora ou l’ethnique en mouvement », Revue européenne des migrations internationales (28-1) : 13-31.

Bornand Sandra et Leguy Cécile, 2016, « Des “paroles d’Afrique” dans un musée : de la valorisation à la transmission », Journal des Africanistes 85(1-2) : 44-78.

Boyer Florence, 2005, « Le projet migratoire des migrants touaregs de la zone de Bankilaré : la pauvreté désavouée », Stichproben. Wiener Zeitschrift fur Kritische Afrikastudien : 47-67.

Canut Cécile, Mazauric Catherine (dir.), 2014, La migration prise aux mots, Mises en récits et en images des migrations transafricaines, Paris Le Cavalier Bleu.

Canut Cécile, Sow Alioune (dir.), 2014, Les mots de la migration, n° thématique (213-214) des Cahiers d’études africaines.

Ciarcia Gaetano, 2001, « Croire aux arts premiers », L’Homme 158-159 : 339-352.

Ciarcia Gaetano, 2013, « L’oubli et le retour », L’Homme 206 : 89-119.

Daum Christophe, Dougnon Isaïe, 2009, « Les migrations internes au continent africain », Hommes & Migrations 1279 : 6-11.

De Gourcy Constance, Chachoua Kamel, 2018, Mobilités et migrations en Méditerranée : Vers une anthropologie de l’absence ?, n° thématique (144) de la Revue des Mondes Musulmans et de la Méditerranée.

Debary Octave, 2019, De la poubelle au musée : une anthropologie des restes, Grane, Créaphis.

Deprez Christine, 2006, « Nouveaux regards sur les migrations, nouvelles approches des questions langagières », Langage et Société 2 (116) : 119-126.

Dia Hamidou, 2014, « Globalisation et mobilité pour études », Hommes & migrations 1307 : 6-7.

Donabedian-Demopoulos Anaid, 2001, « Langues et diasporas : enjeux linguistiques et enjeux identitaires. Réflexion à partir du cas de l’arménien occidental », in Bruneau M., Hassiotis I., Hovanessian M. et Mouradian C., Arméniens et Grecs en diaspora : approches comparatives, Actes de colloque de l’École d’Athènes, Grèce : 523-538.

Douville Olivier, 2020, « De l’objet rituel à l’objet exilique trouvé-créé », in Alexandre-Garner C. et Galitzine-Loumpet A. (dir.), L’objet de la migration, le sujet en exil, Nanterre, Presses universitaires de Nanterre : 135-143.

Dubois Vincent, 2008, La vie au guichet. Relation administrative et traitement de la misère, Paris, Économica, « Études politiques ».

Fassin Didier, 2001, « Quand le corps fait loi. La raison humanitaire dans les procédures de régularisation des étrangers », Sciences Sociales et Santé 19 (4) : 5- 34

Fassin Didier, 2018, « Une épreuve de vérité. La reconnaissance par corps des demandeurs d’asile », in Fassin D., La raison humanitaire. Une histoire morale du présent. Suivi de Signes des temps. Paris, Seuil, « Points Essais » : 177-209.

Foucault Michel, 2009, Le corps utopique, les hétérotopies, Fécamp, Éditions Lignes.

Fogel Frédérique, 2007, « Mémoires mortes ou vives. Transmission de la parenté chez les migrants », Ethnologie française 37 (3) : 509-516.

Galitzine-Loumpet Alexandra, 2013, « Pour une typologie des objets de l’exil », HAL, FMSH n°46.

Galitzine-Loumpet Alexandra, Saglio-Yatzimirsky Marie-Caroline, 2018, « Face à l’exil au risque des subjectivités », Journal des anthropologues [Hors-Série] : 7-17.

Gélard Marie-Luce, 2010, « De la perception sensorielle d’autrui dans le Sud marocain », Communications 86 : 175-193.

Georgiou Myria, 2010, « Identity, Space and the Media: Thinking through Diaspora », Revue européenne des migrations internationales 26 (1) : 17-35.

Girard-Muscagorry Alexandre, Goni Marian Nur, 2022, Patrimoines africains : les performances politiques des objets, n° thématique (165) de Politique africaine.

Grognet Fabrice, 2008, « Les objets, témoins d’un exil », Hommes et migrations 1271 : 132-136.

Gruson Luc, 2017, Le Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration : Genèse d’un musée, Paris, La documentation française.

Gutron Clémentine, Skounti Ahmed, 2018, Patrimonialiser au Maghreb, n°thématique 19 de L’année du Maghreb.

Hatzfeld, Hélène, 2015, Regards décalés sur des patrimoines silencieux, Paris, Ateliers Henry Dougier.

Heinich Nathalie, 2002, « Les objets-personnes. Fétiches, reliques et œuvres d’art », in Edelman B., Heinich N., L’art en conflits. L’œuvre de l’esprit entre droit et sociologie, sous la direction, Paris, La Découverte : 102-134.

Héran François, 2018 Migrations et sociétés. Leçons inaugurales du Collège de France. Paris, Fayard.

Hovanessian Martine, 2005, « La notion de diaspora : les évolutions d’une conscience de la dispersion à travers l’exemple arménien », in Anteby-Yemini L., Berthomière W., Sheffer G. (dir.), Les diasporas. 2000 ans d’histoire, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes : 65-78.

Kane Momar Désiré, Mazauric Catherine, 2013, « l’Afrique en mouvement imaginaires migratoires et dynamiques sociales au sud de la Méditerranée », Horizons maghrébins 68 : 9-14 et 100-102.

Kauffman Jean-Claude, 1997, « Le monde social des objets », Sociétés contemporaines, 27 : 111-125.

Kiyindou Alain, Miéré Pélage Théodora, 2012, « Réseaux virtuels, reconstruction du lien social et de l’identité dans la diaspora noire », Études de communication 38 : 189-201.

Latour Bruno, Sur le culte moderne des Dieux Faîtiches, Paris, La Découverte.

Leclerc-Olive Michèle, 2018, « Transmettre l’expérience : une priorité ? De la subjectivité du migrant à celle du chercheur », Journal des Anthropologues 2018- 5 (hors série) : 31-57.

Mary Kévin, 2014, « Le retour difficile des jeunes Maliens formés en l’Amérique du Nord », Hommes & migrations 1307 : 39-46.

Mattelart Tristan, 2007, Médias, migrations et cultures transnationales, Rosny-sous-Bois, De Boeck Supérieur.

Matthey, Marinette, 2010, « Transmission d’une langue minoritaire en situation de migration : aspects linguistiques et sociolinguistiques », Bulletin suisse de linguistique appliquée 1 : 237-252.

Nouss Alexis, 2015, La condition d’exilé. Penser les migrations contemporaines, Paris, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.

Olmedo Elise, 2021, « Archives sensibles. La cartographie sensible comme méthode d’enquête collecte au Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MUCEM, France) », in Véronique Dassié, Aude Fanlo, Marie-Luce Gélard, Cyril Isnart et Florent Molle (dir.), Collectes sensorielles. Recherche-Musée-Art, Paris, Pétra : 251-284.

Pénicaud Mélanie, 2017, « Expérience migratoire et exil social dans la migration congolaise : de l’enjeu d’un corpus littéraire en sciences sociales. Biyaoula, Mabanckou et N’Sonde », Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales 33 (1) : 65-89.

Peraldi Michel, Terrazzoni Liza (dirs.), 2016, Mobilités et migrations européennes en (post)colonies, n° thématique (221-222) des Cahiers d’études africaines.

Rasmussen Susan J., 2003, « When the Field Space Comes to the Home Space: New Constructions of Ethnographic Knowledge in a New African Diaspora », Anthropological Quarterly 76 (1) : 7-32.

Raulin Anne, Cuche Denys, Kuczynski Liliane, 2009 (dir.), Numéro « Anthropologie et migrations », Revue européenne des migrations internationales 25 (3).

Revolon Sandra, Lemonnier Pierre, Bailly Maxence, 2012, « Objets irremplaçables : Une introduction », Techniques & Culture 58 : 14-27.

Ricoeur Paul, 2006, « La condition d’étranger », Esprit 2006 (3-4) : 264-275.

Rigoni Isabelle, 2010, « Éditorial. Les médias des minorités ethniques. Représenter l’identité

collective sur la scène publique », Revue européenne des migrations internationales 26-1 : 7-16.

Sayad Abdelmalek, 1985, « Du message oral au message sur cassette, la communication avec l’absent », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 59 : 61-72.

Sayad Abdelmalek, 1999, La double absence. Des illusions de l’émigré aux souffrances de l’immigré, Paris, Le Seuil.

Schinz Olivier (dir.), 2021, Regards sur le patrimoine, n° thématique (15) des Cahiers L’Ouest Saharien.

Stavo-Debauge Joan, 2017, Qu’est-ce que l’hospitalité ? Recevoir l’étranger à la communauté, Montréal, Faber.

Tassin Étienne, 2017, « Philopsophie /et/ politique de la migration », Raison publique 21 : 197-215.

Thomas Olivier, 2014, « Les objets et la condition de migrant », Géographie et culture 91-92 : 175-195.

Tololyan Khachig, 2006, « A General Introduction to Exile », in Berthomière W et Chivallon C. (dir.), Les diasporas dans le monde contemporain, Paris, Karthala : 195-209.


1 Bondaz 2016 ; Heinich 2002 ; Kauffman 1997 ; Latour 2008.

2 Appadurai 1986 ; Barthes 2000.

3 Bondaz 2016 ; Debary 2019 ; Gruson 2017 ; Hatzfeld 2015 ; Revolon, Lemonnier et Bailly 2012.

4 Canut et Sow 2014 ; De Gourcy et Chachoua 2018 ; Girard-Muscagorry et Goni 2022 ; Gutron et Skounti 2018 ; Peraldi et Terrazzoni 2016 ; Schinz 2021.

5 Kauffman 1997 ; Galitzine-Loumpet 2013 ; Thomas 2014 ; Grognet 2008.

6 Douville 2020.

7 Heinich 2002.

8 Anstett et Gélard 2014.

9 Agier et Le Courant 2022 ; Canut et Mazauric 2014 ; Leclerc-Olive 2018 ; Raulin, Cuche et Kuczynski 2009 ; Tassin 2017.

10 Alexandre-Garner et Galitzine-Loumpet 2020 ; Galitzine-Loumpet et Saglio-Yatzimirsky 2018 ; Nouss 2015 ; Sayad 1999.

11 Tololyan 2006.


  • Sunday, February 05, 2023


  • objet, migration, Afrique


  • Pierre Peraldi-Mittelette
    courriel : peraldimittelettepierre [at] yahoo [dot] fr

Information source

  • Pierre Peraldi-Mittelette
    courriel : peraldimittelettepierre [at] yahoo [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Objects and African migrations », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, November 14, 2022, https://calenda.org/1029332

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search