Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Jeanne Garane

Abstract

Building on a diverse array of research on Senegalese migration and on the supernatural, I argue that the supernatural is an important aspect in Senegalese migration that reveals the reliance on superpowers to buttress migrants’ success as well as the dire need to not only sensitize but make people come to realize the consequences of their choices of migration.

The supernatural has been present in Senegalese literature and films for many decades, yet little attention was given to it, especially in connection with migration studies. To investigate this subject, I analyze texts and films on migration from the following Senegalese writers and directors: Abasse Ndione’s Mbëkë mi (2008) and its film adaptation La Pirogue (2012) by Moussa Touré to present the supernatural as a source of strength. I provide an overview of Fatou Diome’s Celles qui attendent (2010) in order to emphasize how women use the supernatural to support their male migrants, and Mati Diop’s expressive supernatural feature film debut Atlantics (2019) along with her documentary Atlantiques (2008) to unveil the function of scaring viewers into the realization of the causes and consequences of people’s choices of migration.

I show that appearance of the supernatural in these works embodies a socio-economic and cultural critique that situates and targets the responsibilities of the Senegalese government and other employers towards those who migrate as well as towards those (usually women) who wait for them to return. In its different manifestations, the supernatural becomes a source of strength and a means to improve one’s destiny. It also takes on a frightening function, which serves to raise the consciousness of proponents of migration as well as government officials concerning the negative consequences that this massive displacement has on the countryside, on the women who are often left behind by migrating men, and on Senegalese society in general. The appearance of supernatural elements in the works that I study also brings hope that critique can encourage more policies that sensitize and accompany the youth of Senegal to practice the Wolof (Senegalese language) theory of “tokk fi tékki” (stay home and succeed).

Available for download on Thursday, May 15, 2025

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