Promotionsprogramm "Transformationsprozesse in Europäischen Gesellschaften"

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Barbara Grisanti

Barbara Grisanti



University of Murcia
Faculty of Philosophy and Social Anthropology
Campus de Espinardo
Ed. Luis Vives
Murcia, 30071

Phone: +34622519284

Further Information

Dissertation Project

“África en femenino”: A comparative ethnographic study of Senegalese immigrant in Murcia and Palermo.

African migration is a complex phenomenon. Historically Senegal was not a country of origin, but rather the destination of migrants. At the beginning, migration to and from Senegal has primarily been in connection with other African States. Since the 1990s Senegal has become more and more a country of emigration and new target regions emerging for Senegalese migrants. Migration from Senegal has increased in the last decade. Since the mid-1970s Senegal has been in a state of economic crisis, which intensified in the 1990s. International migration was initially a reaction to this crisis situation and has meanwhile become the standard model of social development.
The most important destinations for Senegalese migrants within Africa are Gambia, the Ivory Coast, Mali and Mauritania. Italy (especially crossing the island of Lampedusa), France and Spain are the most important countries of destination in Europe.

Domestic work continues to be the main occupation taken by migrant girls. Depending on the countries, the kind of woman, the departure conditions and arrival status, young domestic female may receive a salary, paid monthly or not. Women do not migrate alone. Some of them migrate to join their husbands, who are often vendors in the food trade. They carry out domestic duties at the same time they help their husbands selling.

They work in private homes carrying out most of the domestic duties (cooking, laundering, cleaning, looking after children, elderly people, disabled etc,).Unfortunately they are all poorly paid and work in harsh conditions, more vulnerable and exposed to many kinds of abuse and mistreatment. Migrant women have contributed to an ethnic segmentation process of the social reproduction market and they have created the process of the rising of the “new servant class” of immigrant. (Saskia Sassen, 1998). Migrant girls have different profiles and ages according to their motivations, departure conditions, experiences, expectations and needs. The difficulty of evaluating the role of migration in women’s emancipation leads us to think more in the methodologies to use. It would be better to combine both, quantitative and qualitative approaches. It is also important to identify the relationship among the different members of the household to identify the strategies women use to analyze migration’s empowerment.


In the Senegalese national consciousness, the value of hospitality (teranga) assumes an important role. Historically, and for primarily ideological reasons, immigration has been perceived as a positive affair. In Senegal the migrant is celebrated as a hero. Italy became the most important destination for Senegalese migrants in the 1990s, after laws legalising irregular migrants were passed in 1990 and 1994. Here the new immigrants were able to find work in tourism and in the industry in northern Italy. Since the end of the 1990s Spain has also become a popular destination with its strong construction and agricultural sectors attracting Senegalese workers. The younger generation of migrants is primarily engaged in the low-paid sector.

One way to obtain legal residence status is marrying an European woman, but migrants have also been able to benefit from regularisation programmes in Italy and Spain. Once regularized, it is possible to obtain a visa to travel to other EU countries. This also contributes to the high mobility of Senegalese population in Europe.
For the socio-political interest about the news drowning migrants at Lampedusa and the Ceuta and Melilla border fence, I have decided to carry out a comparative research project about migration from Senegal to Italy and Spain and I have chosen the cities of Palermo (Italy) and Murcia (Spain).

The Research and its contribution

My research starts with a Participant observation in Spain (Murcia) and Italy (Palermo) to recollect data, interviews, life histories about immigrant’s personal perspectives, integration and the intercultural presence of their everyday lives. I will realize a Fieldwork in Senegal, participating in a NGO project and I will make a personal fieldwork diary to transform it in an ethnographic experience. Using qualitative and multi-situated methodology, the aim of the research is to analyze the Senegalese presence, identity and integration in two global and intercultural local contexts: Murcia and Palermo. Finally I would like to contribute to understand the transformation in migration with a comparative ethnographic study. My thesis is interested in researching the conditions and motivations of Senegalese when they make the decision to migrate, searching for a better training and educational opportunities, the curiosity about the outside world, and the new role they are going to play in this global society contrasting with their traditional values.

This research project tries to evaluate the presence of Senegalese in Italy and Spain, and it is focused on the construction of an ethnic identity (Visual Research Method) analysing the impact the migration flow has in Murcia and Palermo. (Culture, Family, Intercultural Marriage, Maternity, Work, Trade, Policy, Integration, Health, Human Rights). Tradition, identity and Senegalese culture are expressed through music and art. Music and dance have always played a functional role in bringing community members to a state of sharing emotional experiences. I am interested in the meaning of this phenomenon in social life and also in the flow of these artistic expressions among Africa and Europe. In particular, what is the importance of Griot people in African culture and in the Sabar dance, that has become a quasi-exclusive domain of women.

I want to investigate the relationship between “Gender and migration” through the literature and recent studies about feminism theories and the feminisation of migration. Using a reflexive and interactive approach I pretend to analyze social questions as: “Being a woman in Senegal” and “Being a woman in a Senegalese community outside Senegal” and compare those different perspectives.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Klaus Schriewer