Pursuing futures through children: Crisis, social reproduction, and transformation in Burundi’s transnational families

Based on multisited fieldwork in Kigali, Rwanda, Belgium, and the Netherlands following the political crisis in Burundi in 2015, Lidewyde Berckmoes and Simon Turner explore decisions and plans for the future among Burundians in exile. In this way, the authors contribute to research about future making and social reproduction in families in a transnational social field affected by crisis. Adding to the literature, they show the specific effects of crisis on transnational families’ practices and aspirations, such as parental efforts to prevent traumatic world views and the constant need for families to readjust their plans to ongoing crisis dynamics. The authors argue that as the violence has disrupted the migrant parents’ hopes for a better future for themselves, they redirect their efforts towards their children’s futures. They thus argue that not only future making practices but also aspirations should be seen as social and relational, particularly in times of crisis. In particular, the Burundians living in Rwanda, Belgium and the Netherlands seek to provide their offspring with the skills to become educated, social and moral beings, even if it entails sacrificing their own lives and aspirations. Moreover, adding to debates on migrants’ efforts to reproduce their own cultural values and practices in host societies, the authors find that the Burundian parents attempt to change what they perceive as a ‘culture of hatred and vengeance’ with parenting practices. As such, they argue that many migrant parents explicitly pursue social transformation through their children.

This article has appeared in Migration Studies, 2021; mnab004, https://doi.org/10.1093/migration/mnab004

Read the full text.

Author(s) / editor(s)

Lidewyde Berckmoes and Simon Turner

About the author(s) / editor(s)

Lidewyde Berckmoes is Assistant Professor Regional conflict in contemporary Africa at the African Studies Centre Leiden

Simon Turner is Associate Professor at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen

Full text, catalogue, and publisher website