Migrating for a Better Future: ‘Lost Time’ and Its Social Consequences Among Young Somali Migrants

  • Anja Simonsen


Based on fieldwork conducted in Somaliland and Turkey, this chapter explores the tension between time and existential uncertainty as young Somali male migrants make the risky journey toward Europe. Many young Somalis find themselves in a state of existential uncertainty in the sense of a constant state of “mind or minding, when we are unable to predict the outcome of events or to know with assurance about something that matters to us” (Whyte and Siu, 2015, p. 19). For Somalis, this uncertainty is created by insecurities such as not knowing which future steps might enable them to move ahead in their lives, what moves, physically and socially, they involve, and when to attempt to undertake them. For Somali migrants, or more specifically young Somali men wanting to migrate, this experience of uncertainty as a constant state is closely linked to the notion of wakhti lumis (‘losing time’, present tense) or wakhti lumay (‘lost time’, past tense)—which refers to an inability to make sense of the time spent in the past and the present. It was exactly when they had nothing but time that they referred to time as ‘lost’. Losing time involved a certain kind of meaningless waiting, with little if any control over what was coming and a feeling of making no progress in life. Individuals made constant attempts to minimize the experience of ‘lost time’, yet the success of their efforts was conditional on events and on relations with others that were beyond their control. Thus, this chapter will illuminate the attempts by young Somali male migrants to minimize ‘lost time’ in Somaliland and Turkey. By examining their everyday life, I show how experiences of ‘lost time’ created certain kinds of strategies, including attempts at onward migration, illuminating a search for the right kind of time. In other words, the interlocutors attempted to change their location as a way to gain time—a time that was measured and experienced socially. Locations, therefore, signified not only geographical places, but social and economic landscapes as well.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anja Simonsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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