Interweaving the fabric of urban infrastructure. The emergence of a Senegalese presence in Rio de Janeiro
in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR)
This article reveals how newcomers weave their own threads into the fabric of urban infrastructure. Entangling their own assemblages with other urban assemblages, newcomers generate multi-layered dynamics situationally to render possible the lives to which they aspire. They forge openings where there seemed none before and keep negative potentialities in check. To offer an ethnography of how the Senegalese presence in Rio de Janeiro has grown dynamically between 2014 and 2019, I draw analytical strength from the double meaning of agencement: assemblage and agencer—the action of interweaving varied socio-material components so that they work together well. Two case studies act as a starting point: how Senegalese came to inhabit an urban architectural landmark and how they regularise their residence status. The necessary transformative power is generated through (1) the mutual intertwining of a dahira, a religious group of Senegalese migrants, and a diasporic Senegalese association and (2) the Senegalese’ ways of interweaving themselves and their institutionalised collective forms with ever more socio-material components of the urban space. Beyond the better-known transnational embeddedness of the Senegalese, their complex infrastructuring practices upon arrival become constitutive of new urban realities, moulding the city fabric of which they are becoming part.