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Between Labor Migration and Forced Displacement

Wartime Mobilities in the Burkina Faso–Côte d’Ivoire Transnational Space

Jesper Bjarnesen

The significant number of involuntary returns of labor migrants to Burkina Faso is a relatively neglected aspect of the armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. Between 500,000 and 1 million Burkinabe migrants were forced to leave Côte d’Ivoire between 2000 and 2007, placing tremendous pressure on local communities in Burkina Faso to receive and integrate these mass arrivals, and causing those returning labor migrants an acute sense of displacement. Th is article analyzes the experiences of displacement and resettlement in the context of the Ivorian crisis and explores the dialectics of displacement and emplacement in the lives of involuntary labor migrant returnees; their young adult children; and Burkinabe recruits returning aft er their service in the Forces Nouvelles rebel forces in Côte d’Ivoire.

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Introduction

The Dialectics of Displacement and Emplacement

Henrik Vigh and Jesper Bjarnesen

Wars unsettle our commonsense understandings of movement and mobility. Simultaneously entropic and inertial, they conjure up images of rampant disorder and chaos as well as strained and crippled formations locked in negative tension. On the one hand, detrimental movement; on the other, deadly stalemate. Both mobility and immobility are, as such, associated with the iconography of warfare and conflicts. They may be presented as out of time through pictures of empty streets, ruins, trenches, and dead bodies frozen in contorted positions, yet, conversely, some of the most archetypical images of war connote speed, flows, and movement, seen in images of troop advances or retreats, rows of traveling refugees, and hauls of humanitarian aid shipped or flown into airports and harbors from afar. In temporal terms, conflict and violence are oft en represented in the lethargy of decay or the entropy of aggression.