Radio, mobility, and migration. A view from Kayes, Mali.
In Mali, as elsewhere on the continent, radio stations often play a key role in campaigns against “irregular migration” towards Europe. Located in an area well known for its longstanding insertion in migratory networks, the Radio Rurale in the town of Kayes makes no exception. In this presentation, I wish to go beyond the current moment to investigate the nexus between radio – as technology and infrastructure – and mobility. Taking a broad approach to mobility, I will show how the implantation of a radio station in Kayes in 1988 was intended as a tool for development in a region viewed as lacking basic infrastructures of transportation and communication; its success was in fact largely due to preexisting transnational networks as well as to practices of mobility within Mali, but it also created new circuits within and beyond the region, across the borders with Senegal and Mauritania. Tying this analysis of mobility and connectivity as conditions for the installation and duration of the radio station to a study of migration as a topic on air, I will explore how, in its first decades, the radio broadcast plural views on migration and reflected intense debates within the society – before aligning itself with a more disciplined and globalized discourse against international migration.
Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye is Research Fellow in anthropology at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), based at Institut des mondes africains. After working on literacy practices and documentary transactions in rural Mali, she conducted an ethnographic and historical study of West African migrants’ hostels in Paris. Her current research project, initiated as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow, is called “Mobility in situ: Debating emigration and return in Western Mali.”