Migration as hope and depression: existential im/mobilities in and beyond Egypt

Harry Pettit*, Wiebe Ruijtenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Recent scholarship has asserted that prolonged periods of ‘waiting’ or ‘stuckedness’ are becoming the condition of modern capitalism for many people. This article complicates this assertion by interrogating the affective life of migration, an act which offers the possibility of overcoming, but also reinforces, existential stuckedness. Using two ethnographies with young aspiring male migrants in Egypt, and older migrant men in the Netherlands, we reveal how migration, both before and after physical movement, is experienced through constant existential oscillation: between ‘‘amal’ (hope) that the good life is arriving, and ‘ikti’āb’ (an Egyptian understanding of depression) when a new blockage is met. Developing existing understandings of migratory experience and governance, the article argues that oscillation emerges out of ‘cruel’ migratory regimes which perpetually offer up the promise of the good life to aspiring migrants, while inhibiting the means of achieving it for the majority.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-744
Number of pages15
Issue number5
Early online date3 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


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