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Migrants in French Sudan – Gender Biases in the Historiography

Marie Rodet, Institute for African Studies, University of Vienna, Austria

In this paper, I will examine the invisibility of Female Migrations in the historiography of French Sudan (1900-1945). I will try to deconstruct general concepts such as ‘labor migration’ as built on the binary opposition ‘wage-paying jobs’ vs. ‘domestic work’ in order to show how this concept contributed to a gender-blind analysis of African migrations during the colonial time. The colonial analysis of migration tended to take the maleness of the labor force for granted and to tuck women’s work into family and domestic labor. Women were mainly described as those left behind in the rural areas, reproducing the labor force, whilst males were absent migrants with wage-paying jobs in urban centers. The focalization of the androcentric colonial administration on male labor led the colonizers and later most scholars to regard male labor migration as the only noteworthy form of migration. Some scholars still only refer to ‘labor migration’ and concentrate on the economic motivations for migration. However, by focusing only on economic factors, the complexity and multiplicity of the migration experiences risk being overlooked. The study of African female migration during the colonial time can help us to question the centrality of ‘labor migration’ in the historiography of migration. ‘Labor migration’ appears to be ultimately a masculinist concept since ‘labor migration’ is considered as the central/neutral/universal reference where the referent is actually a male one.



Africa Conference 2006: Movements, Migrations and Displacements in Africa
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