From Africa to Europe: Migration as a Claim for Reparations

Lea Coffineau, CUNY Graduate Center

Could the individual practice of migration from Africa to Europe be thought of as a claim for reparations—a claim for justice and a fair share of the spoils of colonialism? What would be the implications of such a perception for the migrant’s political status in contemporary public discourse? Taking the specific case of postcolonial France, and building on the works of scholars from fields as diverse as law, geography, black studies, and decolonial anthropology, I support the thesis that migration from South to North should be regarded as “a right born of debt —an imperial debt" (Joseph Nevins, 2019). At a time when the “migration crisis” is on everyone’s lips, migrants’ motivations for border-crossing and their choice of destination country are too often misconstrued and fantasized, if not simply disregarded. Yet these motivations matter because they might help us to recognize the African migrant as a fully political agent, responsible for and master of their own fate.

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 Presented in Session 226. Migrant Voices, Agency, and Resilience