Liminal legality and the construction of belonging: Aspirations of Eritrean and Ethiopian migrants in Khartoum

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Abstract

In this paper I analyse forms of belonging and un-belonging created in a situation of permanent liminal legality in one’s place of residence. The concept of liminal legality zooms in on spaces of social existence in everyday lives in a context of legal ambiguity. The focus of the paper are Eritrean and Ethiopian migrant communities who resided in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in 2021. The majority had lived in Khartoum for decades, or were even born there, but remain without any hope for full legal status or citizenship in Khartoum.
Based on thirty in-depth interviews with Eritrean and Ethiopian migrants, I analyse the complex and ambiguous forms of belonging and un-belonging this liminal legality produces, and how aspirations are created and shaped by it. I argue that in certain aspects of everyday life, liminal legality does not hinder a social existence as quasi-citizens of Khartoum. At the same time, important aspirations are being curtailed by liminal legality. This creates forms of un-belonging that undermine social existence. I conclude that migrants are subject to the enduring power of the nation state in defining who belongs and who is excluded.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Early online date10 Jul 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jul 2024

Keywords

  • liminal legality
  • belonging
  • aspirations
  • Sudan
  • Migration
  • Citizenship
  • Urban Africa

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