Researcher spotlight

Guest researcher Knut Graw

Knut Graw (University of Leuven) has been a guest researcher at Centre for Women's and Gender Research this spring.

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In the spring of 2019, SKOK has had the pleasure of hosting Knut Graw as a guest researcher. With the on-going WAIT project at SKOK, and Graw’s research interest in migration topics, this was bound to be a fruitful exchange.

Divination and Migration

Graw’s research was originally focused on divination practices in a Senegalese community. During his field research, he also came to realize that divination practices was somehow connected with migration. People in the village started to leave, and increasingly talked about people they knew, or relatives, that had left.

Graw has argued that the process of migration impacts the social life even long before leaving a country or crossing a border. While many studies in migration has been focused on immigration, after migrants’ arrival in a new country (most often in the "west"), Graw’s research is more focused on migration on the local level in country of origin. This approach foregrounds the imaginations, expectations and motivations that drive the wish for, or need for, migration. According to Graw, this has allowed him to meet people whom have wishes, dreams, life-projects - and not only «immigrants» in a country of arrival. His research highlights migration from a perspective in the Global South, and the complex relationship between the global, local, history and the future. For Graw, approaching migration from a local setting in Africa, opens up the possibility to a subjective experience of migration, and the urge to «move on» - towards the horizon and the future. Migration cannot be solely understood by the events of here and now, but also the imaginaries and expressions that reach beyond the present time. 


One of the most important topics Graw mentions, is the dialogical encounter.

Acknowledging the needs and motivations of another person is an important step to actually get to know them.

The people we as anthropologists encounter during fieldwork are real people, and it is an inter-personal relationship, a two-way street - a dialogical encounter between two people. 

Knut Graw is one of the editors of the book The Global Horizon: Expectations of Migration in Africa and The Middle East (2012). One of the main arguments is that the chapters in the book «foregrounds the subjective aspect of migration and explores the impact which the imagination and practice of migration have on the sociocultural conditions of the various local settings concerned».