Emotions of Belonging and Playing Families Across Borders in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Khanyile Mlotshwa


Intra-migration between South Africa and other African countries has been an emotional investment dating back to 1886 when gold was found in what was to later become Johannesburg forcing husbands to abandon their homes and families to seek work in the colonial mines. The growth of new media and social media technologies has brought to our attention how migrants connect with relatives and friends to create a sense that home and family are both, “here”, in South Africa, and “there”, the country of origin. As a result of rising xenophobia, belonging has become an emotion that conditions how migrants embrace or are alienated from the idea of South Africa as home. Through discussing four case studies of African migrants living in Johannesburg, this chapter contribution considers ways in which emotions manifest themselves in the African Diaspora in post-apartheid South Africa. The four cases emerge out of ethnographic qualitative interviews conducted in Johannesburg among African migrants between July and December 2018.


  1. Ahmed, Sara, Claudia Castaneda, Anne-Marie Fortier, and Mimi Sheller. 2003. Introduction: Uprootings/Regroudnings: Questions of Home and Migration. In Uprootings/Regroundings: Questions of Home and Migration, ed. Sara Ahmed, Claudia Castaneda, Anne-Marie Fortier, and Mimi Sheller, 1–19. Oxford and New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  2. Alinejad, Donya, Laura Candidatu, Melis Mevsimler, Claudia Minchilli, Sandra Ponzanesi, and Fernando N. Van Der Vlist. 2019. Diaspora and Mapping Methodologies: Tracing Transnational Digital Connections with ‘Mattering Maps’. Global Networks 19 (1): 21–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anzaldúa, Gloria E. 1987. Borderlands/La frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.Google Scholar
  4. Asher, Kiran. 2017. Spivak and Rivera Cusicanqui on the Dilemmas of Representation in Postcolonial and Decolonial Feminisms. Feminist Studies 43 (3): 512–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Atkinson, Paul, and Martyn Hammersley. 2007. Ethnography: Principles and Practices. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bailkin, Jordanna. 2014. Decolonising Emotions: The Management of Feelings in the New World. In Science and Emotions After 1945: A Transatlantic Perspective, ed. Frank Biess and Daniel Gross, 278–299. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauman, Zygmunt. 2000. Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bauman, Zygmunt. 2018. Between Separation and Integration: Strategies of Cohabitation in the Era of Diasporization and Internet. Popular Communication 16 (1): 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2014. Postcolonial and Decolonial Dialogues. Postcolonial Studies 17 (2): 115–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boccagni, Paolo. 2013. Migration and the Family Transformation It ‘Leaves Behind’: A Critical View from Ecuador. The Latin Americanist 57 (4) (December): 3–24. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boccagni, Paolo, and Loretta Baldassar. 2015. Emotions on the Move: Mapping the Emergent Field of Emotion and Migration. Emotion, Space and Society 16: 73–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brah, Avtar. 1996. Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Castles, Stephen, Hein de Haas, and Mark J. Miller. 2014. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clifford, James. 1994. Diasporas. Cultural Anthropology 9 (3): 302–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dekker, Rianne, and Godfried Engbersen. 2014. How Social Media Transform Migrant Networks and Facilitate Migration. Global Networks 14 (7): 401–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diminescu, Dana. 2008. The Connected Migrant: An Epistemological Manifesto. Social Science Information 47 (4): 565–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Douglas, Mary. 1991. The Idea of Home: A Kind of Space. Social Research 58 (1): 287–307.Google Scholar
  18. Duyvendak, Jan W. 2011. The Politics of Home: Belonging and Nostalgia in Western Europe and the United States. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Georgiou, Myria. 2018. Does the Subaltern Speak? Migrant Voices in Digital Europe. Popular Culture 16 (1): 45–57.Google Scholar
  20. Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Gomez-Estern, Beatriz M., and Manuel L. de la Mata Benitez. 2013. Narratives of Migration: Emotions and the Interweaving of Personal and Cultural Identity Through Narrative. Culture and Psychology 19 (3): 348–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grewal, Inderpal. 1996. Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire, and the Cultures of Travel. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gunew, Sneja. 2009. Subaltern Empathy: Beyond European Categories in Affect Theory. Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 35 (1): 11–30.Google Scholar
  24. Hall, Stuart. 1996. When Was the ‘Postcolonial’? Thinking at the Limit. In The Postcolonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons, èd. Ian Chambers and Lidia Curti, 242–260. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Helm, Bennet W. 2001. Emotional Reason: Deliberation, Motivation, and the Nature of Value. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hoffman, Eva. 1989. Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  27. Kaplan, Caren. 1996. Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of Displacement. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kofman, Eleonore. 2004. Family-Related Migration: A Critical Review of European Studies. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 30 (2): 243–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kraler, Albert. 2011. Preface. In Gender, Generations and the Family in International Migration, ed. Albert Kraler, Eleonore Kofman, Martin Kohli, and Camille Schmoll, 9–12. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kraler, Albert, Eleonore Kofman, Martin Kohli, and Camille Schmoll (eds.). 2011. Gender, Generations and the Family in International Migration. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kvale, Steinar. 1996. Interviews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing. Thousand Oaks, London, and New Delhi: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Leurs, Koen, and Sandra Ponzanesi. 2018. Connected Migrants: Encapsulation and Cosmopolitanization. Popular Culture 16 (1): 4–20.Google Scholar
  33. Lowe, Lisa. 1996. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. 2007. On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept. Cultural Studies 21 (2–3): 240–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. 2017. On the Coloniality of Human Rights. Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais 114: 117–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mallet, Shelley. 2004. Understanding Home: A Critical Review of the Literature. The Sociological Review 52 (1): 62–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mignolo, Walter D., and Cathrine E. Walsh. 2018. On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics and Praxis. Durham and London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. 2013. Why Decoloniality in the 21st Century? The Thinker 48: 10–14.Google Scholar
  39. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. 2018. Decolonising Borders, Decriminalising Migration and Rethinking Citizenship. In Crisis, Identity and Migration in Post-colonial Southern Africa, ed. H.H. Magidimisha, N.E. Khalema, L. Chipungu, T. Chirimambowa, and T. Chimedza, 23–37. New York: Springer. Google Scholar
  40. Neocosmos, Michael. 2006. From ‘Foreign Natives’ to ‘Native Foreigners’: Explaining Xenophobia in Post-apartheid South Africa. Dakar: Council for the Development of Social Science Research. in Africa.Google Scholar
  41. Ponzanesi, Sandra, and Koen Leurs. 2014. On Digital Crossings in Europe. Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture 5 (1): 3–22.Google Scholar
  42. Robinson, Jenefer. 2005. Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Simecek, Karen. 2018. Affect Theory. The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory 26 (1): 205–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Simecek, Karen. 2015. Beyond Narrative: Poetry, Emotion and the Perspectival View. British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (4): 497–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wright, Sarah. 2015. More-Than-Human, Emergent Belongings: A Weak Theory Approach. Progress in Human Geography 39 (4): 391–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wynter, Sylvia. 2003. Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument. CR: The New Centennial Review 3 (3): 257–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zlotnick, Hania. 1995. Migration and the Family: The Female Perspective. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 4 (2–3): 253–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khanyile Mlotshwa
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)PietermaritzburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations