If a project neared completion unusually quickly neighbors would whisper about

If a project neared completion unusually quickly

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one built and the type and viscosity of the flow. If a project neared completion unusually quickly, neighbors would whisper about the migrant’s activities in Europe. Was he involved in selling drugs or some other illicit activity? A close friend, who had recently returned from Europe to live in the house he had built, often made reference to these emergent houses to demonstrate his point that many migrants were involved in illicit activities abroad. “Even if they are eating only rice in Paris,” he once said, “there is no way that they could build such a grand villa so quickly.” At the same time, if the construction of a house took an inordinate amount of time, the builder was susceptible to scathing critique of his spending habits abroad. Accusations of “squandering” ( gaspillage ) of money on women, alcohol, or personal consumption were likely if a house sat for many years without a new layer of bricks. While many resi- dents wanted to migrate for the explicit purpose of building a house, they none- theless blamed these houses for the risks taken by hopeful migrants. At the same time that non-migrants describe themselves as excluded from urban (and thus diasporic) belonging, they also continually carve out a space for future presence. Migrant building practices, in fact, often open up unex- pected and paradoxical opportunities for rural Senegalese to inhabit the city and to access its resources and markets, as was the case for Cheikh. These new- comers often explained that they had come to work and save money before heading abroad. Even men with family members abroad insisted that they I N S I D E - O U T H O U S E S 61
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would join their brothers or friends in Europe and would build a house for their families. Many women, too, spoke of their preference for finding a husband who worked abroad, since they would gain economic credit and social prestige through their husbands’ projects and expenditures. Other women spoke of seeking educational opportunities or employment abroad, as female friends had done. Regardless of their financial circumstances or contingent presence in the city, my male and female interlocutors often imagined a different future, one that would give them access to spaces and resources not available at present. Seen from this perspective, urban belonging is necessarily a process, an ongoing, shifting, and complex relationship to transnational mobi- lities of labor and capital. C O N C L U S I O N The emergent houses of absent migrants that I have described are not excep- tional or aberrant. In so-called “sending” communities throughout the world, transnational migrants and their families engage in construction practices that shape the contours of communities and that stake claim to home. The ethno- graphic details presented here underscore the need to analytically separate “house” and “home,” to consider the role that building, rather than just dwell- ing, plays in the construction of belonging as a process, as always on the horizon. Economic uncertainty and the irregular rhythm and volume of trans- fers sent from the diaspora mean many houses linger in various stages of com- pletion for many years. The aesthetics of these houses—where insides and
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  • The Land, Senegal, Dakar, urban residents, inside-out houses

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