Migrant Dreams. Egyptian Workers in the Gulf States

A vivid ethnography of Egyptian migrants to the Arab Gulf states, Migrant Dreams is about the imagination which migration thrives on, and the hopes and ambitions generated by the repeated experience of leaving and returning home.

What kind of dreams for a good or better life drives labor migrants? What does being a migrant worker do to one's hopes and ambitions? How does the experience of migration to the Gulf, with its attendant economic and legal precarities, shape migrants' particular dreams of a better life? What do those dreams--be they realistic and productive, or fantastic and unlikely--do to the social worlds of the people who pursue them, and to their families and communities back home upon their return?

Based on ten years of ethnographic fieldwork and conversations with Egyptian men from mostly low-income rural backgrounds who migrated as workers to the Gulf, returned home, and migrated again over a period of about a decade, this fine-grained study explores and engages with these questions and more, as the men reflect on their strivings and the dreams they hope to fulfill. Throughout the book, Samuli Schielke highlights the story of one man, Tawfiq, who is particularly gifted at analyzing his own situation and struggles, resulting in a richly nuanced account that will appeal not only to Middle East scholars, but to anyone interested in the lived lives of labor migrants and what their experiences ultimately mean to them.

"At its best, anthropology does not only make you learn about certain people. It positions you among them and makes you learn with them. You gain a sense of not only where they are, but also where they want to be and don't want to be. Thus you start thinking the world anew with the people you are reading about. Migrant Dreams is anthropology at its best."

--Ghassan Hage, professor of Anthropology and Social Theory, University of Melbourne

"Timely in its focus and innovative in its style, this book is a welcomed and valuable contribution to the anthropology of migration in general and the Middle East in particular. Moving us beyond rigid binaries between structure and agency, individual and society, and money and morals, this ethnography promises to enrich our understanding of migrants' dreams, imaginations, struggles, frustrations, and triumphs."

--Farha Ghannam, associate professor of Anthropology, Swarthmore College