Escaping the ‘diaspora trap’: A narrative of struggle and resilience by an unskilled Zimbabwean migrant in South Africa.




Return migration, Zimbabwe, diaspora-trap, South Africa, irregular-migration


Return migration and reintegration have become the latest points of discussion in the global migration studies literature. These discussions often focus on state level decision making and policy formulation without extended engagement with migrants themselves or paying attention to the everyday individual decisions made by “would-be” returnees. In this paper, we engage the notion of return migration in the African context, arguing that the return of migrants to their countries of origin is often indexed against a successful migration journey or a failed one. Such understanding takes account of structural factors outside the control of the individual migrant such as the material conditions in the origin and host countries as well as the expectations of their families and communities. We use data from a life history account of a male Zimbabwean gardener who typifies the material and cognitive struggles of migration and return. We pay attention to his lived experiences as he struggles to navigate expectations, joblessness, exploitation, and precarious work. We also discuss his resilience and determination to meet his migration goals as he meticulously plans his return to Zimbabwe where he intends to start a farming project. Through studying the experiences of this Zimbabwean migrant, we explore the agency with which he manages to circumvent structural constraints and diaspora entrapment which has been the case for many Zimbabweans in South Africa. While existing evidence indicates that skilled migrants are more prone to fall into the ‘diaspora trap’, this study gives insight into the experiences of unskilled migrants and the tools at their disposal to escape the ‘diaspora trap



Ausgabe 2/2023


Thematic Section








Copyright (c) 2023 Divane Nzima, Khangelani Moyo
Dieses Werk steht unter der Lizenz Creative Commons Namensnennung 4.0 International.