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Palgrave Macmillan

Tahriib – Journeys into the Unknown

An Ethnography of Uncertainty in Migration

  • Book
  • © 2023


  • Presents an innovative approach to migration by exploring Somali youths’ journeys into the unknown, known as tahriib
  • Illuminates the ways young Somalis gather information, create hope and manage their time
  • Examines changing policies, political agendas, and other political initiatives impact migrants and refugees

Part of the book series: Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship (MDC)

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Table of contents (9 chapters)


About this book

This book offers an innovative approach to migration by exploring Somali youths’ tahriib, their ‘journey into the unknown’. When young Somali men and women refer to the ‘unknown’, they recognize the uncertainty of their journeys. This uncertainty is partly due to the laws and policies that restrict the right to cross national boundaries and define their movements as illegal. Based on fieldwork conducted with Somali youth, mainly from Somaliland, the book details their perceptions of the journey and their practices on the way. The author shows how they position themselves in a constantly changing world before and during the so-called migration crisis that began in 2015. A vital part of tahriib is the constant search for information on possible routes ahead, a search that intensifies as the journey progresses. Specific policy responses, such as biometric registration, influence practices of gathering and sharing information. They have implications for the creation and shattering of hope and the experience of time en route. The book demonstrates that tahriib is ultimately about spending one’s time wisely and about creating and maintaining hope in what may seem hopeless situations.


A timely contribution to refugee and migration studies in the era of border fortifications across the developed world. Tahriib showcases the resilience and agency of Somali refugees. Simonsen opens a window to the formidable ingenuity and expertise Somali refugees develop to make sense of the multiple messages and immigration policies (both factual and fictional) that they gather across the globe and also the devastating vulnerabilities that often render individual and family dreams further afield. - Cawo Abdi

'Anja Simonsen does something original and important in this book. By exploring the concept of tahriib with her interlocutors she situates the drama of young people heading for Europe in a fierce intergenerational debate over what it means to be Somali, what it means to be a Muslim, and, indeed, what it means to be human.' -Jonny Steinberg, author of A Man of Good Hope

In this wide-ranging and evocative book, Anja Simonsenfollows young Somalis through a hostile yet at times also hopeful migratory landscape stretching from the streets of Somaliland to Mediterranean waystations and further afield. Through poignant testimonies, Simonsen offers us a profoundly humane picture of how migrants’ search for security clashes and connects with European security projects – in the process raising fundamental questions of policy-makers while offering rich analytical insight into our times of (in)security. –Ruben Andersson

Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Anja Simonsen

About the author

Anja Simonsen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her research focuses on topics such as migration, social invisibility, mobility, Somalis, future prospects, temporality, information, uncertainty, insecurity, clan- and family relations within and across borders, diaspora humanitarianism, European search & rescue operations and biometric technologies.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Tahriib – Journeys into the Unknown

  • Book Subtitle: An Ethnography of Uncertainty in Migration

  • Authors: Anja Simonsen

  • Series Title: Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-27820-4Published: 09 June 2023

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-27823-5Due: 10 July 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-27821-1Published: 08 June 2023

  • Series ISSN: 2662-2602

  • Series E-ISSN: 2662-2610

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVIII, 228

  • Number of Illustrations: 12 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Migration, Ethnography, Anthropology, Public Policy, African Culture

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