Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Migration and Refugee Movements in the Middle East and North Africa

Publication Date



In this paper, I argue that a central feature of Somali contemporary migration is a transnational way of life, which an increasing number of diasporic Somalis and their families are leading. Transnational families become an important space in which Somalis strategize with their relatives, pool resources, share obligations, and arrange for the movements of individual family members. This kind of transnational way of life becomes a fairly effective mechanism through which diasporic Somalis seek security, protection, opportunities for a better life, and different forms of capital for themselves and their relatives in the homeland and elsewhere. However, living transnationally is not free from tension and has its uneven consequences on different family members. First, I will give a brief overview of contemporary Somali migration. Secondly, I will outline the main dimensions of what I call a transnational life. Finally, I will end the paper by situating the case of Somali Diasporas within the debate on the usefulness of transnationalism both as an object of study and as a methodological approach towards understanding contemporary migration movements. The ethnographic material which I quote in this paper is drawn from various field studies that I carried out among diasporic Somalis in Egypt and North America from the period of 2001 to 2005.

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