Ref.: SFRH/BD/84332/2012

Funding institution(s): FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia


Forced, induced and/or voluntary, displacement lies deeply rooted in the territories that today comprise Angola and its fringes. Colonial occupation and slavery, violence, forced labour and high taxes, the nationalist strife, but above all, the successive interrelated conflicts, have had tremendous demographic implications. Over time, structural uncertainty contributed to the way movement — understood as a constraint and as a strategy — became integrated in the regional social landscape. The Meheba Refugee Settlement, Zambia, was the departure point of a sprawling ethnography. By following the paths of Angolan refugees and returnees between Zambia and Angola, I sought to understand how movement is articulated and perceived. More than an element of analysis, mobility became a research resource; the elaboration of a régime de la pensée et d’action, structured according to the socio-spatial units involved, was its outcome. These socio-spatial units, whose substance is the product and producer of events, ideas and ideals of (im)mobility, constitute what I call “operative horizons”. In the present essay, these are the (refugee) “camp”, “the bush”, “the town”, “the road” and “the border”. Therefore, it is my aim to examine what takes place in these units, the meanings these horizons have attached as well as their intrinsic nature, the identities they shape and formulate, the behaviors and expectations they imply and foresee, and how they stimulate and are stimulated by the various expressions of (im)mobility.

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