You are using Internet Explorer.
This site is best viewed on Chrome/Firefox.
Please consider viewing the site in another browser.

Networks Beyond Borders

an exploration of economic and religious ties in Chinese and Senegalese diasporas

a project of the NYU Development Research Institute

works best with headphones on an updated browser

based on research by Cheikh Anta Babou and Hui Kian Kwee
site development under direction of William Easterly
site concept by Kellie Leeson and Madeline Blount
media fieldwork + design/development by Madeline Blount

Begin >

Migration is an old practice.

We've been doing it for 2 million years...

Today's migrants often build strong networks in their new lands, connecting with the people and cultural practices they left behind. These mutual aid networks can foster vibrant independent economies — and their success has little to do with economic development planned at the national level.

It is migrants themselves who build these networks.

We find that migrants bring success where they settle, despite unfounded rhetoric to the contrary.


been here? skip ahead >
We started this project after observing street vendors from Senegal throughout NYC, like M here, who sells in Union Square.
Most Senegalese merchants tend to belong to same religious group: the Murid, a Sufi Muslim sect with business networks where members have moved around the world.

The Murid network helps M succeed: his cell phone cases were most likely sourced from Murid in Asia, and he spends half the year in the Murid holy city of Touba.


been here? skip ahead >

In researching the Murid, we asked: what kind of economic networks are fueled by migrants' cultural connections? How do individuals succeed within these networks, and why do they migrate?

We extended the study to include the Bai, a Chinese surname clan with networks throughout Southeast Asia. In both groups, we found stories of great success - important to add to the debate on migrant economic contributions worldwide.

Meet the Murid and the Bai