DS08 - Sociétés innovantes, intégrantes et adaptatives

The Integration by Religions of Migrants in Burkina Faso – Relinsert

The Integration by Religions of Migrants in Burkina Faso

This project aims to analyze the role of religions in the insertion of migrants who settle in Burkina Faso or who are from this country, in three regions characterized by important migratory and religious dynamics.

Studying mobilities and returns from migration based on religious practices

This project started from questions related to the work of the American anthropologist E.P. Skinner and from several field observations carried out previously by members of the team. In the 1950s, Skinner noted that Moose migrants in Côte d'Ivoire, who were often practicing «traditional« religions when they left their places of departure, generally converted to the dominant religion in the host society, in order to fit in socially and to ensure that a funeral would be organized if they died during migration (Skinner 1958). More than sixty years later, our aim was to reexamine this issue as many Burkinabe migrants had returned from Côte d'Ivoire since the early 2000s, and as both the migration routes and the religious offer had diversified in Burkina Faso. Given the rapid evolution of the context of the fieldwork, a collective survey questioning the integration of IDPs in the capital Ouagadougou in a more global way has also been conducted in order to better anchor our work in the comtemporary mobilities.

Anthropologists, geographers and historians have crossed their respective approaches and have crossed their methodologies to question migration and religious dynamics on common grounds. Most of the fieldwork was qualitative. They were conducted in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso ; in Koudougou, the country's third largest city ; in Bobo-Dioulasso, which was an important reception zone during the massive return of Burkinabè from Côte d'Ivoire in the early 2000s ; and in rural areas in several localities of the «Bissa country«, an important zone of emigration to Italy and Libya.
The collective survey of IDPs in Ouagadougou was implemented using the ECRIS research method (Collective Rapid Conflict and Strategic Group Identification Survey). After a preparatory workshop during several days in Ouagadougou, qualitative surveys (group and individual interviews, observations) were conducted by teams of researchers organized in pairs or triples, and the data collected was systematically discussed and pooled.

Our research has both re-interrogated familiar fields in migration studies in Burkina Faso from the perspective of religious practices and explored new forms of mobility. Mobilities within or towards the main cities in connection with religious structures or networks thus participate in urban dynamics and shed new light on the links between religions and mobilities. New destinations were investigated in the field, but return migration was a common thread in most of our research sites.


The book Migrations, mobilités et réseaux religieux au Burkina Faso (2021) brings together our main results. The report of the collective survey on internally displaced persons in Ouagadougou will be published in early 2023. The project has also resulted in the translation into English of a book co-directed by members of the ANR, 8 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 20 book chapters, 51 communications and lectures, 5 Master's theses, 4 workshops and study days, a photographic exhibition and a booklet, a film.

This project takes as starting points the religious plurality in Burkina Faso and some anthropological observations of the end of the 1950’s, which pointed the way religious conversion was a pathway of integration for the Burkinabe migrants in Ivory Coast. Then, we want to interrogate how religion can still be a way of getting integrated for migrants (returning, internals or internationals) who currently (re-) settle in Burkina Faso. The developments of the religious practices of migrants are interrogated through fieldwork researches in three regions of Burkina Faso: the capital Ouagadougou, which focuses internal, international and returning migrations; Koudougou, third town of the country and historical city of departure for migrants going to Ivory Coast; Sinikiéré and Ouarégou, two small towns of the « Bissa country », characterized by a strong migration tradition directed through Italy and Libya. The main hypothesis of that project is that religions in migration, although possibly associated with migratory logics of individuation or of emancipation, appeared until now as a factor of cohesion and of integration in the context of these four Burkinabe localities. Combining social anthropology, geography and history methodologies, we will study the migrants’ practices at a local scale (living area, family) and more globally in urban and rural public area. Integration will be interrogated in relation to the religious plurality of the context that characterized these towns. Then, it will be analysed from an articulation between spatial analysis (cartography of the places of worship) and socio-anthropological and historical fieldwork inquiries. Several entries will allow us to approach the notion of integration through religions in migration: religious conversion, by putting in perspective religious and migratory histories; the involvement of migrants in family ceremonies at a local level, as revealing their integration in local social networks; solidarity mechanisms such as zakat in Islam; the play of denominational NGOs and the associated equipment in the access to basic public services (health, education, social services); the visibility in the public area and the local governance stakes linked with religious in migration or returning migration. However, the limits of these processes of integration and the possibilities of being excluded will also be considered, especially in the national and sub-regional context presently weakened by the rise of terrorism and of violent radicalism. With this three years research project, a new team will be created around this thematic of religions and migrations in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the context of the partnership relations between the IMAF (UMR 243 IRD 8171 CNRS) and the INSS/CNRST in Burkina Faso. The researchers will do fieldwork together in the selected localities and will work in a multidisciplinary way. The dissemination of the results of the program relies on a strategy built around three main scientific events (a launch workshop, a study day at midterm and a final international conference). It is also based on training activities for students, on scientific publications and on other means more appropriated for the general public (book created in association with a photographer, film) or for politicians and decision-makers (policy brief). One of the main expected results is the proposal of another reading of the links between religions and migrations, decentring this question and considering it from the Burkinabe instance, in which these two dimensions are not necessarily understood as a cause of social exclusion or of discrimination when they are thought together.

Project coordination

Alice Degorce (Institut de recherche pour le développement)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IRD Institut de recherche pour le développement

Help of the ANR 223,400 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2018 - 36 Months

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