Marriage Without Borders
Transnational Spouses in Neoliberal SenegalUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Contemporary Ethnography
In popular songs, televised media, news outlets, and online venues, a jabaaru immigré ("a migrant's wife") may be depicted as an opportunistic gold-digger, a forsaken lonely heart, or a naïve dupe. Her migrant husband also faces multiple representations as profligate womanizer, conquering hero, heartless enslaver, and exploited workhorse. These depictions point to fluctuating understandings of gender, status, and power in Senegalese society and reflect an acute uneasiness within this coastal West African nation that has seen an exodus in the past thirty-five years, as more men and women migrate out of Senegal in hope of a better financial future.
Marriage Without Borders is a multi-sited study of Senegalese migration and marriage that showcases contemporary changes in kinship practices across the globe engendered by the neoliberal demand for mobility and flexibility. Based on ten years of ethnographic research in both Europe and Senegal, the book examines a particular social outcome of economic globalization: transnational marriages between Senegalese migrant men living in Europe and women at home in Senegal. These marriages have grown exponentially among the Senegalese, as economic and social possibilities within the country have steadily declined. More and more, building successful social lives within Senegal seems to require reaching outside the country, through either migration or marriage to a migrant. New kinds of affective connection, and disconnection, arise as Senegalese men and women reshape existing conceptions of spousal responsibility, filial duty, Islamic piety, and familial care.
Dinah Hannaford connects these Senegalese transnational marriages to the broader pattern of flexible kinship arrangements emerging across the global south, arguing that neoliberal globalization and its imperative for mobility extend deep into the family and the heart and stretch relationships across borders.
"In its totality, this book is a finely constructed examination of transnational Senegalese marriages . . . The author seamlessly transitions from discussions on socially constructed myths of wealthy migrants to in-depth analyses of surveillance from abroad and the tensions that arise within the domestic sphere. The scope of the book is impressive, as it covers a diverse set of complex issues like gender, class, kinship, economic standing, and cultural understandings of prestige and power, all under the conceptual framework of 'transnational marriages . . . ' This book is an excellent piece of scholarship,"—African Studies Quarterly
"In Marriage without Borders, Dinah Hannaford takes us into the intimate, complex domain of transnational Senegalese marriages: the expectations, accomplishments, caring, complicity, compromises, disappointments, waiting, suspicions, and conflicts that result from spouses' separation across continents . . . Hannaford draws a vivid picture of the intricacies of the social, economic, moral, religious, caring, and sexual aspects of transnational marriage . . . [A]n engaging, illustrative, and instructive book."—International Migration Review
"Deeply researched and engagingly written, Marriage Without Borders traces how new forms of transnational kinship emerge as increasing numbers of Senegalese men migrate abroad in order to sustain their relatives who remain back home. Equally attentive to the 'women who wait' and the men who go abroad, Dinah Hannaford offers a moving portrait of what happens to conjugality when couples live separated by vast distances. Her book makes clear that we've turned a corner in studies of transnational family life, one where it is no longer possible to celebrate the interconnectedness made possible by new communications technologies without also taking into account the terrible human cost of this new way of achieving social reproduction in the contemporary world."—Jennifer Cole, University of Chicago
"Marriage Without Borders is a richly evocative account of the multiple costs of mobility under conditions of neoliberal inequality. Although focused on Senegal and Senegalese abroad, it tells a story relevant to all for whom migration has become a necessity."—Sara L. Friedman, author of Exceptional States: Chinese Immigrants and Taiwanese Sovereignty
"Marriage Without Borders engages a very important topic and Dinah Hannaford successfully communicates the problems faced by young male migrants who seek to establish their place in the world and the challenges endured by the wives they leave behind in Senegal."—Wendy Wilson-Fall, Lafayette College