European attempts to govern African youths by raising awareness of the risks of migration: ethnography of an encounter
Contemporary EU governance of migration outside its territorial borders aims to control mobility through policing measures, but also to shape the subjectivities of potential migrants so that they ‘discipline themselves’ to fit European immigration priorities. This is illustrated by the organisation by intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies, in several African countries, of ‘information’ campaigns and participatory activities to convince youths to stay rather than emigrate. Through an ethnographic account of my encounter with the leaders of a youth group involved in participatory activities in Dakar (Senegal), this article explores the assumption that youths can be governed in this way. I argue that awareness-raising initiatives had little hold over the thoughts of local youths, and were reappropriated by the association leaders I met. This was largely due to ‘discontinuities’ between agencies’ and local youths’ perceptions of migration and development, as well as NGOs’ past and present work with youth group leaders. Theoretically, these conclusions add to research emphasising the force of human mobility over EU policing measures, whilst also highlighting the agentive role of local dynamics.