Emigration and social inclusion in Cape Verde and Canary Islands. Historical analysis towards identity building in contact areas


The current migratory crisis has stirred up among the international community an important debate around the political strategies for border control and the order of these flows. The measures to be taken to favour social inclusion have to be hand in hand with a redefinition of the traditional concept of border and give recognition to the individuals who made these spaces flexible. The project will study the 'agency' of historically invisible communities which acted in the South-North contact areas in order to identify the elements of a border social model and the cultural derivations of this combination.



This project starts from the hypothesis that in traditional contact societies the term border has been marked by a fundamentally social and inclusive character, thus, studying this concept in a permeable community will enable to the project to understand the development of the current identities and put forward new approaches to make social inclusion easier in current border territories. The project will address this idea analysing the historical migratory processes and the social integration procedures in Canary Islands and Cape Verde, traditional border spaces, with strong historical ties and linked to the African societies in the Atlantic coast. In order to address this issue the project is structured on four goals:

    1) To examine the characteristic elements in each social group. Beyond national communities, the project is interested in analysing the historical background of inclusive processes to make other groups visible: Africans, Americans, New Christians, slaves... In addition to this it intends to enhance the value of women as an indispensable component in the migratory process. This approach will enable us to rebuild the social organization and identity classification in the island from different communities. As well as the relationships and internal conflicts in the forming society.

    2) To organize the strategic elements which made these islands a supporting space in Atlantic relationships. In order to know the motivation which triggered human mobilities towards the islands, the project will collaborate with other projects addressing international conflicts, national dynamics and current social determinants with the aim to understand the impact of these facts on the social structure of the archipelagos.

    3) To know the cultural and ideological lines contributed by these human groups to the host society. The project opts for a transcultural and cross border approach which will enable us to envisage both technical and ideological transfers from these social and economic mobilities.

    4) To figure out the relationship between the institutional discourse about these mobilities and the islanders' interests. In contrast with the national constructs, the project suggests examining the communicative structures created for the survival in a permeable region and how these local strategies affected the established legal order.

    In order to know the historical background of the current South-North migratory movements, the project will go back to sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a consolidation period of the Atlantic space. Chronologically, this investigation starts from the year 1592, when the Portuguese crown granted the Madeiran the ability to intervene in the Atlantic slave trade from Cape Verde. From this moment on, these islands became a strategic transcontinental platform. It ends in 1663, when the English Staple Act was passed, banning direct trade between Canary Islands and the British Colonies, while exports from Portuguese islands were encouraged. As a result, Atlantic migration itineraries were reshaped.

Expected outcomes

    1) Scientific dissemination. 
    2) Multidisciplinary collaboration.
    3) Science for society.
    4) Payback to society. 
    5) Contribution to Africa.


Start: 2018

Duration: 79 months

Principal Investigator: Javier Luis Álvarez Santos (CHAM)




- Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Main Research Unit

- CHAM — Centro de Humanidades / Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa | Universidade dos Açores

- Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa