Author:Laia Soto Bermant (University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
This paper draws on an ethnographic account of everyday life in the North African border enclave of Melilla to explore the moral economy of illegality in remote crossroad areas such as exclaves, offshore territories and other forms of buffer-zones and spaces-in-between.
Paper long abstract:
Building on an ethnographic account of everyday life in one of the most "remote" and
controversial borders of the EU, the Spanish enclave of Melilla in North Eastern Morocco, this
paper explores a framework to think about enclaves, offshore territories, buffer zones and
other forms of spaces-in-between that are politically and often economically dependent on a "central" location somewhere else. These are spaces of exception that have been carved out within or in the interstices between different political, economic and social orders, and where transit, trade and travel are organised and managed in particular ways. In these places, the legal and the illegal intertwine in peculiar ways and money moves constantly between a visible, licit domain and an invisible and illicit one, establishing continuities and discontinuities between different people and locations.
The paper will draw on ethnographic fieldwork in Melilla to explore the different fictional narratives and spaces of performance that emerge in this uncertain and morally ambiguous economy, and show how the circulation of rumours, gossip, hearsay and conspiracy theories is socially productive, creating simultaneously a theatrical space where social, religious and moral identities are publicly performed, and a parallel but invisible "underworld" of riches and criminality where persons, locations, relations and activities are connected in unexpected ways.
The roads most travelled: ethnographic approaches to buffer zones, crossroads and spaces in-between