Author:Sebastien Bachelet (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
The category of "transit migrant" has been criticized for its theoretical ambiguity and ties with hostile migration policies. This paper problematizes it and engages with the terminology used by sub-Saharan migrants entrapped in Morocco: "adventurers" on a quest for their "objective".
Paper long abstract:
The figure of the transit migrant has been ubiquitous in contemporary Mediterranean migrations studies. Initially celebrated for providing an alternative to dichotomies such as origin-destination, it has recently been the focus of scholarly debates about its theoretical ambiguity and intrinsic connection with hostile and misleading policy discourses (Düvell 2012). As for "illegal" migration (De Genova 2002), the notion of "transit" also needs to be denaturalized and its production analysed. For İçduygu et al. "transit migration today is not only an ontologically recognized phenomenon, but also an epistemologically debated concept" (2012: 454). However, the notion of transit overlooks migrants' epistemological metaphors to make sense of their own entrapment; ignoring those categories constitutes a "theoretical choice" (Collyer and de Haas 2012: 468) as much as dismissing transit altogether.
Based on fieldwork conducted with sub-Saharan migrants entrapped in Morocco, this paper mobilises and challenges understandings of the 'transit' migrant. It examines migrants' self-representation: Sub-Saharans did not talk of "transit", they self-identified as "adventurers" on a quest for an "objective", often elusively defined as "looking for one's life". Usually embodied by a distant Europe, the objective did not only entail space, it implied an existential dimension, a life without "limits" (Jacksons 2011), beyond both spatial and metaphorical borders. These im/mobile adventurers, talking of "suffering as a school of life", problematize the notion of transit as a middle passage between departure and a fixed destination. Migrants' pursuit of "chance" entails entrapped but pervasive agency and the renegotiation of their mobility.
Moving people: anthropologists adopting, interrogating and refuting governmental categorisations (ANTHROMOB)