Slow violence and survival economies: Migrant destitution and autonomy in Fes, Morocco

Authors: Leslie Wyrtzen*, Clark University
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Political Geography, Middle East
Keywords: migration, Morocco
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In recent years, Morocco has cooperated with the European Union’s externalized border policies through a strategy of “push-back,” in which migrants attempting to cross from Morocco’s northern border into Spain are removed to land-locked cities in the interior of the country. Once in these cities, migrants camp in empty lots, beg on the street or find informal work. This paper draws on ethnographic work ongoing among two migrant communities in Fes to consider the economies produced through migrant pushback. The structure of the paper is as follows: first, I review the EU’s policies in Morocco and strategies employed by the Moroccan state to contain migrants within its borders. Second, I examine the economics of migration management from three vantage points: 1) that of the Moroccan state looking to capitalize on its partnership with the EU through favorable trade relations and investment opportunities; 2) that of non-state actors who depend upon the fragmentation of migration journeys as a source of revenue or raison d’être, and 3) that of the migrants themselves who, using meager tools at their disposals, counter the slow violence of migrant containment through the creation of moral and fiscal economies of their own. Finally, I ask us to consider the survival economies of migrants stuck in transit as performances of autonomy in the midst of experiences of destitution. What is gained or lost with this shift in perspective? What role can researchers play in challenging the exploitative economic processes of migration management without undermining migrants’ own counter-economies?

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