AEGIS European conference on African studies location:Leiden: African Studies Centre date:11-14 July 2007
In this paper I will focus on the processes of national migration, a common reality in most families in northern Ghana. I explicitly adopt the point of view of the women who stay behind in the homelands, and the relationship with their migrant daughters. My data are based on field research in the rural areas of the Upper East Region of Ghana.
Following different migrant women in their movements between rural and urban contexts, I will argue that these individual and collective trajectories generate unexpected meanings around the qualities of sociality and urbanity in a rural context. Through migrants, the city makes itself present in the realities of village life. It does so in a very visible material way, but also in an imaginary and discursive manner, and often even through the physical absence of the migrant villagers themselves.
Those who do return home invariably bring home urban goods, images, discourses and practices by means of which they permeate the villages with city life. It is often the mothers staying behind who endeavour to reconcile and negotiate the migrant daughter’s specific status of living in between different worlds.
Even when settling in an urban elsewhere, people continue to be strongly attached to their hometowns. Migrants do never stop to physically invest in the village houses of origin. In spite of their physical absence, they build their own rooms in the parental house, thereby importing a new urban material culture in the village and hence making the city very present in the village. It is in the interplay of both presence and absence as well as in the movements of words, stories, bodies and commodities that other, sometimes even new notions and images of sociality and reciprocity, of power and cohesion are produced in the village houses. The figure of the mother is crucial in this process.