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Keywords:

  • African immigrants;
  • biographical approach;
  • ethnography;
  • transnationalism;
  • race;
  • metropolitan areas

Abstract

Although not a historical immigrant destination, the Washington, DC, metropolitan area has one of the highest concentrations of African immigrants in the United States. African migration to the US has increased in recent decades due to changes in US immigration policy and the global economy, as well as an increased focus on Africa in the US refugee resettlement programme, but this does not explain why Washington in particular is so attractive to African immigrants. Framed by the growing body of literature on the multiple meanings of place in population geography and anthropology, the authors draw upon biographical interviews and ethnographic fieldwork to investigate the details of African immigrants' life histories and the transnational social networks that influence their migration decisions and their perceptions of Washington as a place. They investigate how African immigrants are adding new layers of meaning to spaces within Washington, in a dynamic and complex process that requires them to navigate local power relations and reinterpret their identities in a racialised environment. The authors' anthro-geographical approach provides a wider lens through which to analyse the ways in which African immigrants imagine Washington, and make this particular space meaningful in the context of local and global structures. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.