Accepted paper:

Irregular belonging and adventurous morality


Sebastien Bachelet (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork with migrants in Morocco, this paper analyses the interplay of belonging and morality. It explores tensions between reciprocity and selfishness, individual and collective, by engaging with the problematic notion of adventurers – as irregular sub-Saharan migrants self-identify.

Paper long abstract:

As Balibar puts it, 'no individual is a man or woman 'without qualities' but always a particular individual with social and moral properties' (2004: 27). Yet, when discussing solidarity and reciprocity among 'irregular' migrants, an Ivorian man questions whether there 'can be any solidarity when we have nothing to share'. This paper engages with the problematization of morality and belonging posed by irregular migrants 'stranded' in Morocco. Drawing on my fieldwork (2012-13) in a marginal neighbourhood of Rabat with a visible presence of 'irregular' sub-Saharan migrants attempting to cross to Europe, this study seeks to address the following interrogative: How does morality manifest itself in such context? Migrants referred to themselves as 'adventurers' on a quest for a shared 'objective': to 'look for their lives' elsewhere. As such, they formed an 'imagined community' of heroic travellers from diverse socio-economic contexts. Juridically and economically marginalized, irregular migrants relied not only on relatives at home and in intended countries of destination, but also on each others to attain their objective(s). By exploring aspects such as the sharing of food, information, work opportunities, this paper analyses the tensions between the individual and the collective, reciprocity and selfishness, amongst irregular migrants in Morocco. My proposed study contends that adventurers do not form an unproblematic 'communitas', nor do they constitute some Hobbesian nightmare similar to Turnbull's 'mountain people'. In examining the liminal context of irregular migrants in Morocco, this study seeks to contribute to the analysis of the complex interplay of belonging and morality.

panel P66
Community, belonging and moral sentiment: is to belong to be a moral person?