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Darkness before Daybreak

Darkness before Daybreak: African Migrants Living on the Margins in Southern Italy Today

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Darkness before Daybreak
    Book Description:

    This riveting book chronicles the lives of a group of fishermen from Ghana who took the long and dangerous journey to Southern Italy in search of work in a cutthroat underground economy. A story that illuminates the nature of high-risk migration around the world,Darkness before Daybreakreveals the challenges and experiences of these international migrants who, like countless others, are often in the news but are rarely understood. Hans Lucht tells how these men live on the fringes of society in Naples, what the often deadly journey across the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea involved, and what their lives in the fishing village of Senya Beraku-where there are no more fish-were like. Asking how these men find meaning in their experiences, Lucht addresses broader existential questions surrounding the lives of economic refugees and their death-defying struggle for a life worth living. He also considers the ramifications of the many deaths that occur in the desert and the sea for those who are left behind.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95046-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)

    • ONE Clandestino
      (pp. 3-27)

      The municipality of Castelvolturno, north of Naples, is a rather bleak and rundown cluster of high-rises, petrol stations, a couple of gated communities set back from the road, small shops, communication centers (where one can use a phone, make photocopies, and browse the Internet), and African supermarkets stretched out along the expressway to Rome. Off the expressway, along the waterfront, lies a string of modest holiday resorts. Standing in stark contrast to the expensive and famous resorts to the south of Naples, toward Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, these are deserted for most of the year except for two busy...

    • TWO Migrant Work Situations
      (pp. 28-65)

      Finding a job that will generate a relatively steady flow of income—thus both sustaining the immigrant while he stays in Europe and allowing him to set money aside for the family in Ghana—appears to be the dream of every young man from the Guan village who comes to Europe, as does, with a view to the future, one day building a house at home. The data here are surprisingly unanimous. There appears to be no ambition to become European or even to belong to European society, possibly because in Naples African illegal immigrants perceive the prospect of becoming...

    • THREE Suffering in a Globalized World
      (pp. 66-116)

      Walking, wasting time, and having one’s time wasted characterized the experience of migrant life in Castelvolturno. Unlike Italians, West African immigrants walked along the expressway, though some would ride bicycles. The Italians would always drive in cars (sometimes ruthlessly fast), motorcycles, or scooters, unless of course they were looking for companionship or drugs. But stretches of the expressway—around Pescopagano where Sammy lived, for instance—were not intended for pedestrians, and in the hours before daybreak it was especially unsettling to walk there, as the road was unlit and cars drove by at top speed. Samuel would usually walk close...


    • FOUR The Mediterranean Passage
      (pp. 119-159)

      In talking about his decision to risk a sea voyage to Europe, Samuel recalled a news report he saw on CNN. One night in a rented room in Accra, when he was about to become a father for the first time and was struggling with the weight of looming responsibilities and with the discouragement of having doors shut in his face, he watched as a boat carrying young African men was intercepted by the Spanish coast guard (apparently a television crew had been allowed on board). Afterward he thought to himself, “If they can do it, so can I.” Knowing...

    • FIVE The Maghreb Connection: LIBYA AND A DESERT TO CROSS
      (pp. 160-176)

      Francis was sitting on his bed in a small shared room in a six-story high-rise on the outskirts of Naples, the ever-present noise of the expressway to Rome coming through the open door, the walls lined with suitcases piled on top of each other as if in readiness for an instant departure, when he surprised me by asking if I would like to see a picture of the place where he almost died in the Libyan desert. He opened a suitcase and showed me five pages torn out of an Italian travel magazine. Under the headline “Adventure Tourism” (“Turismo Avventura”)...


    • SIX The Guan of Senya Beraku
      (pp. 179-215)

      Senya Beraku, a fishing village of five thousand to ten thousand people, is about forty-five kilometers west of Accra in Ghana’s Central Region. It is reached by leaving the Cape Coast highway, following a narrow dirt road for about five kilometers, through low bushes and reddish anthills, until the road suddenly drops steeply and the Gulf of Guinea comes into view. Senya sits on this slope that leads down to fishing places—two sandy beaches separated by steep rock faces reaching into the sea. Having spent five months among the Guan fishermen in 2002, I returned here in 2006 to...

    • SEVEN The Body Stays, but the Soul Returns
      (pp. 216-258)

      In talking to John, one could glimpse the challenging process of obtaining information as to the whereabouts of relatives lost en route to Europe. John lost his older brother, Simon, while the latter was on the way to Italy three years ago. Even today, it is difficult for him to talk about the dramatic events that so severely dented the family’s future plans. “The pain is so deep, I don’t even like to recollect it,” John explained, sitting in the fort lobby. The idea was for the brother to reach Italy, make some money, and send it back for the...

    • Conclusion
      (pp. 259-269)

      Although this book emphasizes the life-worlds of the Guan fishermen, it does not focus solely on subjective experiences, if one thereby means drawing on data pertaining to inner states, thoughts, feelings, or the like. Instead, this book attempts to simultaneously describe various social, psychological, political, and existential demands on the lives of the West African informants and how these challenges both inform and give shape to subjective experiences. To capture this perennial tension, the notion of “critical phenomenology” is employed: by addressing broader social and political issues in accounting for subjective realities, I seek an understanding of the ways these...

    • Epilogue: LIVING ON THE MOON
      (pp. 270-272)

      Sammy had agreed to show me his place of work. Having obtained documents in Italy, he finally made it out of Naples and found his way to Denmark. It was well past midnight as I sat in my in-law’s car in a big deserted parking lot on the outskirts of Copenhagen. The shoppers had all gone, and bright neon signs advertising the goods you could buy at the shops surrounding the parking lot illuminated the open space. There was an ambivalence about the place: the cold, windy weather outside contrasted sharply with the warmth the neon signs radiated, like mesmerizing...

  8. References
    (pp. 273-284)