This article analyzes the articulation between mobility and technology within life trajectories marked by migration, exile, and the search for economic achievement. It does so by focusing on a Nigerian couple’s (attempted) itinerary of return migration from Italy to Nigeria, and on the tensions that surround the role played by a specific transport technology, the shipping container, within this process. It highlights how, throughout the itinerary that brings the container from Italy to Nigeria, its social meaning and that of the cargo stored in it become the center of a series of tense interactions, in which diverging imaginaries about transnational mobility, migration, and life abroad come to the fore, and provoke radical transformations in the life of the people involved in the itinerary of the container itself.
Alessandro Jedlowski is a Belgian Research Found (F.R.S.-FNRS) postdoctoral fellow in anthropology at the University of Liege (Belgium). His main research interests include media and migration, urban and popular culture, and the economy and politics of cultural production in Africa. His current research project compares the economy and politics of film production in three Sub-Saharan African countries (Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Côte d’Ivoire). His most recent publications include: “Avenues of Participation and Strategies of Control: Video Film Production and Social Mobility in Ethiopia and Southern Nigeria” (in Production Studies II: The Sequel, Routledge, 2015); and “Migration, Prostitution, and the Representation of the Black Female Subject in Nigerian Video Films about Italy” (Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies 4, no. 1, 2016).