Home is where the heart abides: Migration, return and housing in Dakar, Senegal

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The increased interconnectedness and possibilities for travel and communication that characterise the current, global age have strongly affected scholarly ways of understanding contemporary forms of identification and belonging. Literature on the subject strongly challenges the notion of home as a fixed place, particularly where migration is concerned. The case study of Senegalese migration, however, contrasts this argument. Based upon ethnographic research and in depth interviews with migrants conducted in Senegal and in Italy between 2004 and 2007, this article shows that for many Senegalese the ultimate home still remains strongly identified with the country of origin. Questioned on the issue at stake, Senegalese migrants unanimously express the eventual goal of return to the homeland. The perceived importance of an anchorage in Senegal is expressed even more strikingly than in words, in the practices of migrant investment in housing. Migrants invest massively in the home country, significantly altering the landscape of local cities. This article shows that the intensity and features of construction activities undertaken by migrants in the capital city of Dakar are provoking a veritable process of urban makeover, which is transforming the physiognomy of the built environment. Alongside transforming the landscape of many peripheral neighbourhoods by altering mainstream architectural features of buildings and importing Western styles and taste in local construction practices, migrants are also contributing towards the creation of new symbols of success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-56
JournalOpen House International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • migration
  • return
  • urban development
  • housing
  • remittances
  • Investment
  • Senegal
  • Built environment
  • transnationalism


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