Research Fellow





Affiliated People


Former members of staff



Dr Paolo Gaibazzi

Phone: +49-(0)30-80307-220

Research Interests l Regional Focus | Current Project l Qualifications l Academic Positions | Research Projects | Publications | Grants, Awards and Scholarships | Teaching | Organization of Scientific Events


Research Interests Top

African Migrations – Mobility and Immobility Theory – Border Regimes – Islam and Muslim Subjectivities – Fate and Fortune – African Post-Slavery– Rural Youth – Trade and Entrepreneurship – History and Memory – Social Movements – Visual Culture and Photography.


Regional Focus Top

West and Southern Africa (esp. Gambia, Senegal and Angola); the Mediterranean Region (esp. Italy and Tunisia)


Current Project Top

Diamonds, Dollars and Dynasties. A West African Muslim Trade Diaspora in Angola's Boom Economy


Qualifications Top


Qualification (Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale) as Professor in Social Anhtopology (Scienze Demoantropologiche), granted by the Italian Ministry of Education


PhD, Anthropology of the Contemporary World, University of Milano-Bicocca

Dissertation: “Soninke Young Men, Migration and the Dynamics of Staying Behind, The Gambia”


MSc, Visual Anthropology, University of Oxford


BA, Social Anthropology (First Class Honours), University of Kent at Canterbury



Academic Positions Top

2012 - present

Research Fellow, ZMO–Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient, BerlinWorking Group “Progress: Ideas, Agents, Symbols”

May 2017

Visiting Fellow, Academy of Advanced African Studies, University of Bayreuth

Oct 2016 -
Mar 2017

Guest Lecturer, Humboldt University, Institute for Asian and African Studies (IAAW), Berlin

Aug - Sept 2016

Guest Professor of Anthropology, University Agostinho Neto, Faculty of Social Sciences, Angola

2010 - 2012

Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and Philology, University of Latvia, Riga

2009 - 2010

Programme Coordinator of Postgraduate Specialisation Degree in “Anthropology of Migration”, University of Milano-Bicocca



Research Projects Top

2006 – present

Research Associate, Ethnological Mission in Benin and West Africa (MEBAO) (PI: A. Bellagamba), University of Milan-Bicocca. Clusters: “Historical Legacy and Current Practices of Mobility”; “Memories of Slavery”.

2013 – 2016

Research Associate, PRIN Project “State, Plurality, Change in Africa” (PI: P. Valsecchi), University of Pavia

2012 – 2013

Research Fellow, responsible for the project “The Making of Non-Migrant Entrepreneurs in a West African Muslim Trade Diaspora”, BMBF-funded programme “Muslim Worlds – Worlds of Islam? Conceptions, Practices and Crises of the Global, ZMO.



Publications Top



Bush Bound: Young Men and Rural Permanence in Migrant West Africa. Oxford, New York: Berghahn.


Edited Work


Gaibazzi, P, Bellgamba, A. and S. Dünnwald (eds.), EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management: Political Cultures, Contested Spaces, Ordinary Lives. Series in African Borderlands Studies. New York: Plagrave.


Gaibazzi, P and M. Gardini (eds.), ‘Special Issue: Fate and Fortune in Africa’, Critical African Studies 7(3).


Journal Articles (Peer-Reviewed)


‘From Expulsion to Extortion: Deportability, Predatory Policing and West African Migrants in Angola’ Citizenship Studies. doi: 10.1080/13621025.2017.1380604.


‘Sovranità e Controllo Diffuso della Mobilità nel Regime dei Visti’ [Sovreignty and Diffused Control of Mobility in the Visa Regime], Antropologia 3(2): 47-60.


‘Post-Slavery Refractions: Subjectivity and Slave Descent in a Gambian Life Story’, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 86(3): 405-424.


Gaibazzi, P. and M. Gardini. ‘The Work of Fate and Fortune in Africa: an introduction’, Critical African Studies 7(3): 203-09.


‘The Quest for Luck: Fate, Fortune, Work and the Unexpected among Gambian Soninke Hustlers’, Critical African Studies 7(3): 227-42.


‘Visa Problem: Certification, Kinship and the Production of ‘Ineligibility’ in the Gambia’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20(1): 38-55.


‘Diaspora Without Homeland: Slave Descendants and the Cultural Politics of Ancestry in the Upper Gambia River Valley’, Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales 29(1): 23-43.


‘Cultivating Hustlers: the Agrarian Ethos of Soninke (Im)Mobility’, Journal of Migration and Ethnic Studies (Special Issue ‘Mobilities Across the Globe’guest edited by N. Glick-Schiller and N. Salazar) 39(2): 259-75.


‘The Rank Effect: Post-Emancipation Immobility in a Soninke Village’, Journal of African History 53(2): 215-34.


‘Qui, nell’Altrove: Giovani, Migrazione e Immaginazione Geo-sociale nel Gambia Rurale’ [The ‘there’ in the ‘here’: migration and geo-social imagination in rural Gambia], Mondi Migranti (3): 117-29.


'The Sabi Youth Committee: State, ‘Age Groups’ and Civic Participation in a Gambian Soninke Village', Mande Studies 10: 25-48.


Working Papers (Peer Reviewed)


Bromber, K., Gaibazzi, P., Roy, R., Sounay, A. and J. Tadesse. ‘“The Possibilities are Endless”: Progress and the Taming of Contingency’. ZMO Programmatic Texts n. 9.



Other Articles


‘Agriculture and the lure of migration: will West African youth stay on the land?’ Mulemba - Revistra Angolana de Ciências Sociais.


Book Chapters


‘Une "Mosquée pour les Esclaves"? Statut, Autorité Religieuse et Avancement dans une Localité Soninké Gambienne’  in J. Schmitz, A. Wedoud Ould Cheikh and C. Jourde (eds), Le Sahel Musulman entre Soufisme et Salafisme: les Défis de la Subalternité et du Transnationalisme. Paris: Karthala.


‘The Migration-Slavery Nexus: Questioning Spatial and Social Mobility in the Upper Gambia River Valley’, in A. Bellagamba, S. Greene and M. Klein (eds.), African Slaves, African Masters: Politics, Memories, Social Life. The Harriet Tubman Series of the African Diaspora. Trenton: Africa World Press.


Gaibazzi, P., Bellagamba, A. and S. Dünnwald. ‘Introduction: AfroEuropean Views on EurAfrican Borders’, in P. Gaibazzi, A. Bellgamba and S. Dünnwald (eds.), EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management: political cultures, contested spaces, ordinary lives. New York: Plagrave.


‘Frontiers of Exodus: Activists, Borders and Euro-Mediterranean Encounters after the Arab Spring’, in P. Gaibazzi, A. Bellgamba and S. Dünnwald (eds.), EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management: political cultures, contested spaces, ordinary lives. Series in African Borderlands Studies. New York: Plagrave.


‘The Homing of the Diaspora: Ancestral Households and the Politics of Domestic Centering in Rural Gambia, West Africa’, in D. Carment and A. Sadjed (eds.), Diasporas as Cultures of Cooperation. Global and Local Perspectives. New York: Palgrave.


‘Cultivating Hustlers: the Agrarian Ethos of Soninke Migration’, in N.B. Salazar and N. Glick Schiller (eds.), Regimes of Mobility: Imaginaries and Relationalities of Power. London: Routledge (Reprint of JEMS article).


‘Two Soninke “Slave” Descendants and their Family Biographies’, in A. Bellagamba, S. Greene, M. Klein with C. Brown (eds.), African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade. Volume 1: the Sources. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


‘“God’s Time is the Best”: Gambian Youth and the Wait for Emigration in the Age of Immobility’, in Graw, K. and Schielke, S. (eds.), The Global Horizon: Expectations of Migration in Africa and the Middle East. Leuven: Leuven University Press.


‘Home as Transit: Immobility and Migratory Imagination among Gambian Soninke Young Men’, in Streiff-Fénart, J. and Wa Kabwe Segatti, A. (eds.), The Challenge of the Threshold. Border Closures and Migration Movements in Africa. Lanham: Lexington.


‘Migrazione, Coesione e Translocalità nell’Unità Domestica Soninke (Gambia Orientale)’ [Migration, cohesion and translocality in the Soninke household (Eastern Gambia)], in A. Bellagamba (ed.), Migrazioni. Dal Lato dell’Africa. Pavia: Altrativista.


‘“I’m Nerves!”: Struggling with Immobility in a Soninke Village (The Gambia)’, in T. Grätz (ed.), Mobility, Transnationalism and Contemporary African Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


Gaibazzi, P. and A. Bellagamba. ‘Babilonia, oppure? Mobilità Internazionale e Logiche dell’Appartenenza nella Repubblica del Gambia [Babylon, otherwise? International mobility and logics of belonging in the Republic of The Gambia], in A. Bellagamba (ed.), Inclusi/Esclusi. Prospettive Africane sulla Cittadinanza. Novara: Utet.


Bellagamba, A. and P. Gaibazzi. ‘Nient’Altro da Votare. Dinamiche di Partecipazione Politica e Disillusione nella Repubblica del Gambia (Africa Occidentale)’ [Nothing else to vote for. Dynamics of political participation and disillusion in the Republic of The Gambia (West Africa)]’, in F. Viti (ed.), Dipendenza Personale, Lavoro e Politica. Modena: Edizioni Il Fiorino.




‘Book Review of “Buggenhagen, Beth (2012), Muslim Families in Global Senegal: Money Takes Care of Shame. Bloomington: Indiana University Press”’, Journal of Religion in Africa 43(4): 480 – 481.


Media Articles


‘Die Reisefreheit der Andereren: Wie Beantragt Man Eigentlich in Gambia ein Visum für den Schengenraum?’ [The freedom of travel of others: how does one obtain a Schengen visa in the Gambia?], Revised Version, Le Monde Diplomatique Magazine, September ed.


Undocumented Sorrows: How (not) to Apply for a Schengen Visa in West Africa’. Border Criminologies.


‘Die Reisefreheit der Andereren: Wie Beantragt Man Eigentlich in Gambia ein Visum für den Schengenraum?’ [The freedom of travel of others: how does one obtain a Schengen visa in the Gambia?], Le Monde Diplomatique (German edition), 13 December, pp. 4-5.



Grants, Awards and ScholarshipsTop



Grant for Workshop “The Production of Possibilities: living and governing potential futures in Africa”. Fritz Thyssen Foundation.


Travel Grant from PRIN Project “State, Plurality, Change in Africa” for the Workshop “Understanding and Managing Migration in Africa. Multidimensional Perspectives”, 16-17 June, University of Pavia

Jan-Feb 2014

Travel Grant for Fieldwork in the Gambia from MEBAO

Aug-Sep 2011

Exchange Visit Grant from the European Science Foundation (ESF) as ABORNE Visiting Fellow at the Centre of African Studies, ISCTE, Lisbon

Oct-Dec 2012

Research Grant from MEBAO for Fieldwork in the Gambia

2010 – 2012

Fellowship from Latvia’s University Fund for Lectureship in Anthropology, University of Latvia

2006 – 2008

Research Grant from MEBAO for Fieldwork (13 Months) in the Gambia

2006 – 2010

Doctoral Scholarship from Unicredit Foundation, University of Milano-Bicocca


Dissertation Award from University of Kent at Canterbury


Teaching Top


Humboldt University, Institute of Asian and African Studies (IAAW), Berlin
BA Course: African Mobilities (Winter Semester)


University Agostinho Neto, Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences, Angola
PhD Seminar: Anthropological Theories


University of Latvia, BA and MA Programmes in Social Anthropology
BA Courses

  • Economic Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Kinship
  • Ethnographic Methods (with I. Raubisko)

MA Courses

  • Self, Experience and Agency
  • Transformations of Borders
  • Ethnography of Africa
  • Visual Anthropology

Ethnographic Cinema


University of Milan-Bicocca, BA Programme in Social and Cultural Anthropology

BA Course: Anthropology of Migration (with A. Bellagamba, B. Pinelli)


Organization of Scientific Events Top

Jul 2016

Panel Convenor (with S. Schielke, A. Elliot), ‘Mobility, Power and Possibility: the Search for a Liveable Life’, Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan.

Jul 2015

Panel Convenor (with J. Tadesse), ‘Taming Contingency, Anticipating Progress: African Youth’s as Leaders and Targets of Collective Mobilisation’, ECAS 6 – European Conference on African Studies, IMAF (Institut des mondes africains) and LAM (Les Afriques dans le monde), Paris

June 2014

Roundtable Convenor, ‘Migration and Bordering in and around Africa’, First World Conference of the Association for Borderlands Studies, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu.

June 2013

Panel Convenor (with M. Gardini), ‘Work Ethics, Labour and Subjectivity in Africa’, ECAS 5 – European Conference on African Studies, ISCTE, Lisbon

Jan 2013

Roundtable Convenor, ‘Borders and Knowledge Production: comparative perspectives’, EastBordNet Annual Conference, Humboldt University, Berlin

June 2012

Panel Convenor, ‘Borderland Traders’, CAS@50 Cutting Edges and Retrospectives, University of Edinburgh

Sept 2011

Panel Convenor, Fifth Annual Conference of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE), ISCTE, Lisbon

  • Panel 4 (with S. Dünnwald): Forced migration and the role of borders
  • Panel 6: Border regimes and migrant practices: citizenship, belonging and the making of migrant subjectivities