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Constructing Maritime Geographies: The Pragmatic Mobility of Senegalese Fishermen

Hallaire, Juliette

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Juliette Hallaire


Senegalese fishermen have significantly expanded their mobility into the eastern Atlantic Ocean since the early 1980s. Fishermen have been crossing international maritime borders and organising long sea journeys, in part as a response to the decrease in fishing resources in Senegalese waters. From the early 2000s, they began carrying West African migrants on the maritime routes from Senegal to Spain, diversifying into irregular maritime migration or ‘people smuggling’. Fishermen’s fishing techniques and the migration flows they have facilitated are well documented. We have a good understanding, too, of the push-and-pull factors shaping these maritime migration patterns. Thus far, the social and political meanings of fishermen’s maritime mobility and cross-border movements have been comparatively neglected. This thesis argues that these mobility patterns are connected, revealing links between regional fisheries and mobilities and international migration flows that create distinctive maritime geographies.
Drawing on participant observations and narratives collected in 69 in-depth interviews, my analysis explores the ways in which power and knowledge shape the at-sea experiences of Senegalese fishermen. For them, mobility is more than a response to the decrease in fish resources.
By deploying their mobility, fishermen seek to recover control over their maritime and social environments. To map the maritime geographies this mobility co-creates, I examine three spaces. First, I chart the social and political mechanisms of fishermen’s mobility in Senegal, examining the gendered and local meanings of their movements. Second, I examine these mechanisms at the
regional level – at the Senegal–Mauritania border and in the waters off Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
Finally, I track fishermen’s routes to the Canary Islands. By attending to fishermen’s accounts, I
demonstrate the many ways in which they appropriate the ocean space, shape the geographies of maritime borderlands and rationalise their navigation. I reveal how their maritime mobility opens up multiple opportunities for fishermen to negotiate with – and reshape – the power relations that structure their social, political and natural environments.


Hallaire, J. (2015). Constructing Maritime Geographies: The Pragmatic Mobility of Senegalese Fishermen

Keywords Maritime migration, mobility, borders, Atlantic Ocean, Senegal, artisanal fishermen, power/knowledge, fishing crisis


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