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Shifting memories and forced migrations: the Somali Zigula migration to Tanzania

  • Francesca Declich
Abstract

Forced migrations, both now and in the past, imply a process of constructing and modifying accounts of past events, which become codified in memories. Memories are constructed to negotiate and reshape identity in the country of arrival. A number of factors interact in this process, some aspects are silenced and others emphasized, and new events may be invented. One of the arguments I make elsewhere is that, along the way, memories of the past, especially if gathered and codified through writing, may lose meanings that are unknown to the people who codify them. Yet, in times of forced migration, certain aspects of the memories re-emerge from the background and gain new relevance. This was the case, for instance, with matriliny and matrilineal names, which were not recognized or emphasized by those who codified certain oral traditions of migrations at specific historical times in written form in Somalia. Yet, in the process of seeking integration in Tanzania after the forced migration caused by the 1992 war in Somalia, these aspects regained their importance in Somali Zigula memories and helped to achieve inclusion in the country of migration. Zigula memories of the past have undergone some changes. The way in which these changes have occurred is not unique: the process of modelling memories of the past that are based on idioms of kinship follows specific patterns that are part of a specific culture of mobility. Based on fieldwork carried out with refugees forced to migrate from southern Somalia to Tanzania in the early 1990s, I show how their collective memories of past events took on newly gendered features when circumstances changed and the main spoken language progressively shifted from Kizigula to Kiswahili.

Les migrations forcées, tant aujourd'hui que par le passé, impliquent un processus de construction et de modification de comptes rendus d’événements passés qui deviennent codifiés dans les mémoires. Ces mémoires sont construites pour négocier et refaçonner l'identité dans le pays d'arrivée. Plusieurs facteurs interviennent dans ce processus, certains aspects sont réduits au silence et d'autres accentués, et de nouveaux événements peuvent être inventés. Un des arguments avancés ailleurs par l'auteur est le fait qu'au cours de ce processus, les mémoires du passé, surtout si elles sont recueillies et codifiées par écrit, peuvent perdre des significations qui échappent à ceux qui les codifient. Cependant, en période de migration forcée, certains aspects des mémoires refont surface et acquièrent une nouvelle pertinence. Tel fut le cas, par exemple, avec le matrilignage et les noms matrilinéaires non reconnus ou accentués par ceux qui ont codifié sous forme écrite certaines traditions orales de migrations à des moments spécifiques de l'histoire en Somalie. Hors, dans la quête d'intégration en Tanzanie après la migration forcée par la guerre de 1992 en Somalie, ces aspects ont retrouvé leur importance dans les mémoires des Zigua somaliens et ont aidé à parvenir à l'inclusion dans le pays de migration. Des changements sont intervenus dans les mémoires zigua du passé. La manière dont ces changements sont survenus n'est pas unique ; le processus de modélisation des mémoires du passé basées sur des idiomes de parenté répond à des schémas spécifiques qui font partie d'une culture de mobilité spécifique. S'appuyant sur des travaux menés sur le terrain auprès de réfugiés contraints de quitter le Sud de la Somalie pour se rendre en Tanzanie au début des années 1990, l'auteur montre comment leurs mémoires collectives du passé ont pris de nouvelles caractéristiques sexospécifiques au gré des changements de circonstances et comment la principale langue parlée est progressivement passée du kizigua au kiswahili.

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Africa
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