Transition 113 - Featured Article

The Path between Two Points: Malian Adventures in France
by Julie Kleinman

Narrating the story of Boubacar, a Malian immigrant in France, Kleinman explores how French colonial fantasies of travel and adventure in Africa belie the fraught and perilous real-life "adventures" of Soninke men trying to eke out a living in the Hexagon.

Full Article / Issue 113

Read issue 113, "What is Africa to me Now?" on JSTOR


Boubacar and his friends meet most evenings after work at the Gare du Nord. Like the larger demographic of sub-Saharan immigrants, most of them hail from the border area of the Senegal River Valley that straddles Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania. Long periods of drought plagued the region in the 1970s, making it harder to subsist on village crops and commerce alone and creating what development economists call a “push factor,” something that leads to emigration and reliance on remittance from abroad. The Soninke, however, have long been what historian François Manchuelle calls “willing migrants.” That is, far from the present-focused push and pull factors that define economic models, they have embarked on migratory adventures since at least the mid-nineteenth century as part of male coming-of-age and commerce.

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