On 30 November 2016, Hélène Neveu Kringelbach (UCL) gave the 2016 John Fage Lecture.
In Wolof-speaking Senegal, some forms of absence have long been valued, and mobilityhas been an important aspect of family life. With increasing Senegalese migration through the 20th century, these regional patterns have been extended across continents, such that transnational marriage and parenting have become part of many families’ kinship repertoire. Increasingly however, mobility has become severely curtailed by the restrictiveness of immigration policies in Europe and elsewhere. Migrants are increasingly likely to find themselves in protracted situations of undocumented status, unable to travel and fearing that a premature return might compromise mobility in the future. Senegalese migrants often end up establishing new families with European citizens where they reside, only to be caught up in a web of obligations across several households, which they struggle to manage. I this lecture I argue that these recent developments transform the experience of living in ‘scattered families’, and ultimately also transform the dialectic of presence and absence in Wolof society.