A vivid ethnography of Egyptian migrants to the Arab Gulf states, Migrant Dreams: Egyptian Workers in the Gulf States (AU in Cairo Press, 2020) is about the imagination which migration thrives on, and the hopes and ambitions generated by the repeated experience of leaving and returning home.
What kind of dreams for a good or better life drives labor migrants? What does being a migrant worker do to one’s hopes and ambitions? How does the experience of migration to the Gulf, with its attendant economic and legal precarities, shape migrants’ particular dreams of a better life? What do those dreams—be they realistic and productive, or fantastic and unlikely—do to the social worlds of the people who pursue them, and to their families and communities back home upon their return?
Based on ten years of ethnographic fieldwork and conversations with Egyptian men from mostly low-income rural backgrounds who migrated as workers to the Gulf, returned home, and migrated again over a period of about a decade, this fine-grained study explores and engages with these questions and more, as the men reflect on their strivings and the dreams they hope to fulfill. Throughout the book, Samuli Schielke highlights the story of one man, Tawfiq, who is particularly gifted at analyzing his own situation and struggles, resulting in a richly nuanced account that will appeal not only to Middle East scholars, but to anyone interested in the lived lives of labor migrants and what their experiences ultimately mean to them.
A social and cultural anthropologist, Samuli Schielke works as a senior researcher at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. He is the author or co-editor of The Perils of Joy (2012), Global Horizon (2012, with Knut Graw), Ordinary Lives and Grand Schemes (2012, with Liza Debevec), Egypt in the Future Tense(2015) and Migrant Dreams (2020).
Fulya Pinar is a PhD candidate in the department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. Her work focuses on alternative economies, refugee care, and migration in Turkey.