Hustling your way forward. A study on the trajectories and social networks of West African migrants moving towards and within the European Union

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Building on the mobility turn in social science, which emphasised the study of the movements of people, objects and ideas, this study aims to explore the journeys of West African migrants en route towards and within the European Union. As migrants' networks are seen as one of the main explanatory factors for their movements, this research investigates the influence of social contacts on migrants' trajectories in particular. This thesis draws on the personal migration stories collected among fifty-four migrants in Catalonia Spain, during four months of ethnographic fieldwork in 2015. The analysis of the empirical data provides two overarching insights. First, it becomes clear that the changeability of migrants' migration aspirations and destinations needs to be stressed. Their trajectories do not have an endpoint, instead their journeys should be seen as an open-ended, evolving process, in which periods of mobility and immobility alternate. Second, we learn that the possession of a social network, in itself, should not be viewed as the determining factor for migrants' movements. As is the case for migrants' trajectories, their networks are continuously in motion as well. Furthermore, network efforts are required in order to accumulate the social capital that may help them get ahead. As such, I plea for a focus on migrants' personal network dynamics in order to better understand the relation between their individual trajectories and their social connections.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen