Standing on one leg: mobility, money and power in East Africa’s Somali social networks
My thesis examines dynamics of inclusion and exclusion within Somali social networks in East Africa. It focuses on Somali mobility patterns and financial practices to draw insights on the maintenance, reproduction, and transformation of both solidarity ties and inequalities. By examining Somali communities in Kenya, host of the largest Somali refugee population outside of Somalia, and Uganda, an increasingly important recipient of Somali refugees and migrants, this thesis seeks to understand how mechanisms of social stratification rooted in Somali socio-cultural structures are reproduced in mixed migration flows encompassing both forced and voluntary migrants. It analyses sets of relationships whose continuity and changes are regulated by the interaction of structure, agency, and institutions, and argues, on the one hand, that networks are dominated by groups who hold sway over economic and political resources, precluding others from accessing key assets that may help challenge relations of subordination. On the other, that pre-existing inequalities hinder on the capability to move across both physical and institutional categories. These inequalities can be traced back to asymmetric clan relationships shaped by Somali historical trajectories before and after the implosion of the state. However, this thesis suggests also that kin relationships only partially explain why and how bonds are sustained and forged. Instead, by observing the mechanisms that animate networks, reproducing both solidarity and marginalisation, this thesis teases out how new linkages are created and how Somalis communities accommodate to specific institutional settings, either adapting to narrowing windows of opportunity or maximising the benefits that may be yielded from their widening. The thread running throughout this thesis is the argument that mobility contributes not only to accessing and mobilising strategic resources but also to shaping processes of social stratification. By using ethnographic methods of data collection, this thesis seeks to shed light on rifts in Somali social networks often masked by the veneer of trust.
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