Migration et Savoirs. Reconstruction ethnographique des itinéraires et périples de l'apprentissage sur le parcours migratoire de jeune Éthiopiennes entre l'Éthiopie et l'Allemagne


Dr. Delia Nicoué

Research Area:


Within the mosaic of migratory movement from Ethiopia, a current and significant trend is the migration of young women to the Middle East and the Gulf states. My research project will draw particularly on the case of Lebanon, which has been over the last decade one of the significant receiving countries for Ethiopian female migration. Considering this form of emigration from Ethiopia, preliminary findings in the frame of the ongoing research project: “Dynamic worlds of imagination – Learning processes, knowledge and communication among young urban migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia” reveal that the step of migration for domestic services to the Middle East is followed by further movements within the opportunities and restrictions of the international migration flows towards European welfare states.

I argue that the migration for employment in the Middle East, in this instance to Lebanon, is not necessary a preconceived "stepping stone" for a migration to Europe, but rather the result of emerging opportunities and strategies to improve oneself and the livelihoods of people stayed home. The employment and living conditions in Lebanon bring about a transformative experience within the communities of “global maids” and other migrant workers coming from different horizons to the Middle East. In these communities, the migrant domestic workers and mostly “runaways” or freelancers acquire in their everyday life a range of abilities and knowledge. As Lebanon is known as a transit place for migratory movement to Europe, the step onwards into current migratory movements on the eastern Mediterranean route (Turkey, Greece) is facilitated through a gradually involvement into transnational networks and communities as well as through the inclusion in local networks of smugglers also known as in that field as “connections”. These women will search for opportunities to improve their social status from migrant domestic workers to the well renowned “diaspora”, who are the ones returning from Europe or the US, and tend to denote more prestige in the home country than the former housemaids from the Middle East. The emerging consciousness of the unprivileged life conditions in Lebanon and the existing chance to become the successful social character “diaspora” shape new aspirations for a “secondary migration” to Europe.

To approach these dynamics in the migration of young Ethiopian women, I will try to elicit the question how the migrant’s knowledge evolves in Lebanon and along the passage to Europe. I will focus on the analysis of the transformation of imagination and knowledge and the conditions in which abilities and skills are being produced, selectively communicated, imparted, tested and acted upon. Thereby, Addis Ababa, Beirut, Istanbul, and selected cities in Bavaria (Germany) emerge as relevant stages and stations of migration where field research has been and will be conducted. This approach takes into consideration migrant’s experiences, learning process, agency, forms of communication in social environments as well as in local and translocal milieus.