Circular Nomadism: youth and work in post‐war Liberia and Sierra Leone

Research leader: Mats Utas
Co-researcher: Emy Lindberg (PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology)
Post-Doc: Luisa Enria (based at NAI)

Funded by: Swedish Research Council 2015-2017

This project is picking up where many current studies on African youth have left off: at wars end. Where demographic studies simply use abstract statistics to identify youth bulges and give woeful predictions of renewed conflicts driven by armies of disenfranchised youth, this study concretely investigates how young people make a living in some of the poorest countries in the world. Youth in Sierra Leone and Liberia fought ten years of civil war. Socio-economy remains much the same in both countries after the war – poor remain poor. But does it mean that history will repeat itself, or will youth benefit from the new African growth - so much talked about. Through in-depth studies and long-term engagement we answer questions such as: How are labor structures manifested, and how do they change? How do young people find work in post-conflict landscapes and what does this mean for the societies they are part of? In particular, what impact do labor market experiences and the mechanisms for finding employment have on longitudinal relationships of dependence? This project aims to explore youths´ navigation of employment trajectories, and more particularly the role of young labor migration in the functioning of labor markets in Liberia and Sierra Leone. As such, it is an urgent study of a contemporary phenomenon in Africa; combining the fashionable topic of youth unemployment with the under-researched area of post-conflict labor markets and circular migration within countries.

To the top