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Torin Jones

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Torin Jones

In the Field
Research Interests: 
China, Nigerian immigration, governance, intimacy, citizenship, racialization.


Young West African migrants in Italy face mounting discrimination and poverty, even as the state invests in them as ‘New Europeans.’ Their marginalization, however, does not indicate abject subjugation. It reflects one way that migrants enact transnational mobility to fulfill kinship obligations and personal ambitions. To unravel these tensions, I explore the economic and imaginative practices of predominantly Muslim young men from Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, and other countries who live in Sicilian migrant centers. They risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean to work, but legally cannot. As wards of the state, they are instructed by local officials and migrant center directors to focus on acquiring Italian language and cultural competency. The prohibition of youth migrant employment pushes many Africans toward illegal work as tomato-pickers and janitors. I examine the inequalities that solidify as certain forms of underpaid labor and poverty become racialized as black. I link the stabilization of racialized structural inequality in Sicily to the remittance expectations of West African parents and siblings. I thus situate migrants as key actors in the formation of transnational economies. This perspective allows me to question how the process of racialization itself may be fundamental to the formation of certain transnational economic relations.