I have old memories of Tangier. I experienced the city first in the early 1980s. I was on my way to France, and Tangier was the gateway to that fascinating world that the youth of my generation dreamed of as we heard incredible stories of wealth, freedom, love, and rights. Tangier, as I could see it from the train that crossed part of downtown all the way to the port, looked modest, poor even, and only the beach, located in the downtown itself, distinguished it as an interesting city. The train used to cross the Corniche and enter the port, stopping right at the ferry gate. By the time it arrived in Tangier, the train had become a currency market, with men offering to sell foreign bills, especially the French franc and the Spanish peseta. The city, by then, had a reputation for hosting contraband, dealers of all types, and sex workers and druggies. Not without foundation, these stereotypes are still widespread, and not only among Moroccans. But what Tangier did not have at the time is its reputation as host to migrants from almost every corner of Africa, including, of course, Morocco. These travelers stay for a while as they prepare for their crossing or, as some say, "burning" (lahrig) to Europe.
Since the early 1990s, the southern Mediterranean has emerged as a hub for migration, "legal" and "illegal." Here, a large number of West Africans and young Moroccans, including minors, make daily attempts to cross to Europe. The city of Tangier, because of its close proximity to Spain—only 14 kilometers—is one of the main gateways for this movement. It has also become a magnet for middle- and working-class Europeans seeking a more comfortable life. In this book, I use Tangier as an ethnographic site and focus on its three largest migrant populations: Moroccans, West Africans, and Europeans. All these communities meet in the city and share its space, albeit unequally.
The migration of Africans to Europe is not, of course, new: it is as old as European migration to Africa. In modern times, colonialism gave rise to perhaps one of the most significant human flows from Europe to the rest of the world, even as it also engendered a wholesale migration to Europe. Many of us are familiar with the colonial regime of mobility, that is, the patterned movement of Europeans to the rest of the globe. Now, and starting in the 1990s, a postcolonial global regime of mobility has arisen. These flows are not spontaneous; as Saskia Sassen writes, "Migrations do not just happen; they are produced. And migration does not just involve any possible combination of countries, they are patterned." There is indeed a pattern of flows from Africa to Europe and from Europe to Africa that is neither recent nor unfamiliar. The history of this pattern is told numerous times in narratives about the colonial adventure.
In his novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad captures the movement of the "white" man traveling to the colonies as part of the colonial machinery that was operating in full force in Africa. However, Conrad does not mention that migrants were also moving in the other direction. Africans were heading to Europe to be soldiers, laborers, students. This "reverse" movement is articulated in Tayeb Saleh's novel Season ofMigration to the North. The movement of the period—both from the metropole to the colony, and the reverse—was intense, regulated, and organized mainly by the colonial state. This colonial regime of mobility consisted of importing human labor and manned gunpowder, especially during and after World War I and World War II, and sending settlers, colonialists, soldiers, and all types of colonial agents to the colonies.
The postcolonial regime of mobility is patterned differently, even though its genealogy is rooted in the colonial flows that marked the world especially from the sixteenth century to nineteenth century, when most of the globe was ruled by a handful of European countries. Immediately after their colonies' independence, these former colonial powers initiated a process of postcolonial migration, motivated in large part by the need to reconstruct Europe after the destruction and tragedies of two world wars. Yet, by the early 1990s, the call to halt migration was backed by an array of laws and rules. In 1993, the French minister of interior affairs, Charles Pasqua, respected and feared for his tough stand on immigrants and all other "outlaws," called for zero immigration and implemented draconian laws to stop it, including the restriction of French citizenship: children of resident immigrant parents were no longer automatically granted citizenship but could apply for it when they reached age eighteen. Ironically, migration, legal and illegal, was not halted; if anything, it intensified. Neither laws nor walls stopped this process.
From the media discourse and also from the vast literature on migration, one cannot but conclude that migration is a challenge faced mainly by Europe and North America. It seems that Europe is besieged by migrants and refugees, whereas the rest of the world, including Africa, does nothing but send its youth to Europe. What is often overlooked is the fact that, especially since the 1990s, migration has intensified from Europe to the rest of the world, including to Africa and to Latin America. As I demonstrate in Chapter 5, Morocco is now a coveted destination for European migrants. The city of Tangier has become a magnet for middle-class Europeans who find the cost of life increasingly high in their countries of origin. This European mobility to the south is rarely described as migration, let alone immigration, and is often presented as evidence of the global mobility that allows people to move in a fast world. This mobility seems to highlight the very idea of Kantian cosmopolitanism, a key cornerstone of the discourse on globalization. Yet, I describe this movement as migration in and of itself, motivated by a desire to search for a new life. In a good number of cases, it can be explained by economic factors as well as by cultural ones. I seek, then, to understand its processes, dynamics, and the transformative power of the city and, by implication, Moroccan society by and large.
Once a marginal postcolonial city, Tangier has indeed emerged in the past ten or so years as a major, global city of the southern Mediterranean. In a relatively short time, it has been transformed, under the reign of King Mohammed VI (beginning in 1999), from a provincial and poor municipality to the second-largest economy in Morocco—second only to Casablanca.
Colonial Events and Postcolonial Imagination
Tangier has had a rich, complex, and long relationship with Europe, perhaps more than any other city in the southern Mediterranean. Even its early modern history is intricately linked with the politics of European nations. Ruled by the Spanish from 1581 to 1643, it was brought again under Portugal by a popular uprising in support of King John IV. The British received it from the Portuguese as a dowry—offered by the Portuguese queen, Catherine of Braganza, to Charles II. The early colonialism of the British thrived there, with the creation of the Levant and Barbary companies, long before the creation of the East India Company. For the British, the acquisition of this town, a strategic spot on the Mediterranean, became "a reassuring sign of national power and unity."
Amid an ambitious project to remake the then-town into a port, under the British, Tangier became the target of attacks from surrounding Moroccan tribes. This sustained and never-waning armed opposition, along with a Spain wary to see Great Britain gain a foothold in the Mediterranean, forced the British to withdraw in 1684. Even though it "made up for the loss" by taking over Gibraltar in 1713, Great Britain "made it a fixed policy to prevent any other European Power from seizing Tangier." It was also willing to do whatever it took to prevent any other European power from taking control of Moroccan territory.
Morocco was then independent, though still coveted by European powers, with Great Britain playing the role of a friend eager to safeguard its sovereignty. Tangier, along with all the Moroccan coastal cities, was no stranger to Europeans, nor were Europeans a stranger to it. Trade and diplomatic activities continued unabated. Historian Jean-Louis Miège considers it "the most European city of Morocco" because of its important commercial and diplomatic relations with Europe, especially France, Great Britain, Portugal, and Italy. The European population was estimated at 965 of a total local population estimated to be between 6,000 and 9,000. Miège also documents how the city was an attractive destination for European political refugees, those who fled during the French revolution and during the Napoleon wars, French and Italians, from different social backgrounds—people "with no means" and high officers of the French army. Also, the Jewish population of Tangier, most of it comprising Iberian Jews, was already Europeanized and mixed well with Muslims. "Tangier became known as the place where Jews walked freely in the streets, dressed like Europeans, displaying a newfound sense of self-worth different from Jews elsewhere in Morocco," Susan Miller notes. Yet, despite the ongoing presence of Europeans and European culture, Tangier still—and strangely—appears foreign and hostile in its depictions penned by European and American visitors, characteristics perhaps exaggerated to align with contemporary readers' expectations of travel literature in general and of the so-called Orient in particular. Consider the testimony of Edmondo de Amicis, a writer who visited in 1875 as part of an Italian delegation headed to Fes, then the capital of Hasan I (r. 1873-94):
Three hours later, and the very name of our Continent sounds strange; Christian signifies enemy, and our civilization is unknown, or feared, or scoffed at. Everything, from the very foundations of society to the most trifling details of private life, is metamorphosed, and all indication of the close proximity of Europe has completely disappeared. We suddenly find ourselves in an unknown land, without ties of any kind, and with everything to learn. To be sure the European coast is still visible from the shore, but in our hearts there is a consciousness of immeasurable distance, as though that narrow strip of water were an ocean, those blue, distant hills a delusion.
Also in the midnineteenth century, another visiting writer, Mark Twain, stays true to the stereotype of the intrepid European traveler in desolate foreign lands. To him, Tangier conveys utter strangeness: "We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign—foreign from top to bottom—foreign from center to circumference—foreign inside and outside and all around—nothing anywhere about to dilute its foreignness—nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun, and lo in Tangier we have found it."
Twain sees the city as "a weary prison"; here, his "innocents abroad" find themselves in "the completest exile." He quips, "I would seriously recommend to the government of the United States that when a man commits a crime so heinous that the law provides no adequate punishment for it, they make him Consul-General to Tangier."
Twain also, in the same context, writes, "Tangier is a foreign land if ever there was one, and the true spirit of it can never be found in any book save The Arabian Nights. Here are no white men visible, yet swarms of humanity are all about us. Here is a packed and jammed city enclosed in a massive stone wall which is more than a thousand years old."
On a visit in 1845, Alexandre Dumas, the renowned French writer, describes Tangier as "dark and silent as a tomb," a place of 7,000 people living in a land wholly foreign and beastly hostile: "'How strange it is,' I thought to myself, 'you are perfectly at home anywhere in Europe, but if you cross this narrow stretch of water to Africa, you are at once conscious of a fundamental change. This morning you left a friendly country, but tonight you are in a hostile land. Those fires you see were lit by men of a race alien to your own, who regard you as their enemy, though you have done them no harm. . . . Once you set your foot in that land, even if you evade the wild beasts, how shall you escape the enmity of man?'"
In the nineteenth century, Tangier reemerged as a point of European contention after the 1880 Conference of Madrid. Disagreements between Great Britain and France were first settled by the Entente Cordiale, signed on April 8, 1904, which allowed Great Britain to secure its interests in Egypt and free passage to Gibraltar (with the understanding that the other European powers would not erect any fortifications on the Moroccan coast) and guaranteed France a free hand in Moroccan politics if it could reach an understanding with Spain on the matter. This set the diplomatic stage for Spain, by virtue of its geographical proximity to Morocco, and France, by virtue of its occupation of Algeria, to negotiate Morocco's status. An agreement between the two powers was reached on October 3, 1904, when they secretly divided Morocco. This agreement immediately stirred discord among European powers, especially Germany, which felt ignored and left out. Further diplomatic maneuverings led to another set of agreements at the Algeciras Conference (April 7, 1906). This was intended to resolve the first Moroccan crisis between colonial powers and paved the way for the establishment of a French protectorate in Morocco on March 30, 1912, and a Spanish one in November of the same year. France took the largest share, leaving the northern Rif region to Spain, which had been in possession of the Spanish Sahara to the west since 1884. Tangier became the focus of diplomatic tension between France and Spain, as well as between these two and Great Britain. Whereas the French argued that Tangier was under Morocco's sultan and thus should be part of their protectorate, the Spanish argued that Tangier was in the Rif and therefore should fall under their jurisdiction. Great Britain, meanwhile, hoped to make Tangier an international zone, on the model of Shanghai.
The end of World War I changed the dynamics of Europe's political maneuvers in Tangier. With Germany eliminated and Italy making its own claims, an agreement between France, Spain, and Great Britain was reached in Paris on December 18, 1923, and Tangier became a so-called international zone. Yet the French remained clearly privileged in Tangier, since their protectorate stretched across the rest of Morocco. This French privilege may still be strongly felt in the city today.
In the years during which it was an international zone (1923-56), Tangier was subject to the colonial machinations of several European powers, who ruled it through a municipal council. Tangier thus, along with Casablanca, experienced the full force of colonialism. But while Casablanca was characterized by what Paul Rabinow calls "techno cosmopolitanism, Tangier was marked rather by "diplomat/capitalist cosmopolitanism." As an international zone, Tangier had become part of "Europe," with its capitalist system, network of banks, European population, and its colonial dynamics of spying, trading, negotiating, and even dating and intermarrying. The city that just a century ago had looked foreign to European travelers and diplomats had now become an annex to the metropole. By the mid-twentieth century, Paul Bowles dared to compare its capitalist spirit to that of New York City: "Tangier is more New York than New York. . . . Then you must see how alike the two places are. The life revolves wholly about the making of money. Practically everyone is dishonest. In New York you have Wall Street, here you have the Bourse. . . . In New York you have the slick financiers, here the money changers. In New York you have your racketeers. Here you have your smugglers. And you have every nationality and no civic pride."
However, while capitalism thrived in the city, the local population suffered distress and saw their condition worsen under international status. Graham Stuart believes that "this condition was due partly to the lack of natural resources in the International Zone, but even more to the heavy fixed charges imposed by the Statute." The Jewish population also suffered Nazi propaganda, especially in the international zone, that damaged the Muslim-Jewish entente that was supposed to constitute a common Muslim and Jewish front against racism and anti-Semitism. Notwithstanding, the city's European immigrants enjoyed the good life. Like its sister cities in the southern Mediterranean under colonial rule, Tangier, too, was made of two parts well described by Frantz Fanon: the town of the natives, poor and wretched, on the one hand, and the town of the Europeans, prosperous and blessed, on the other. Mohamed Choukri, who ran away from his village to become a street kid in the city, would later describe it in these terms: "When I arrived, there were two Tanger: the colonialist and international Tanger and the Arabic Tanger, made of misery and ignorance. At these times, to eat, I combed the garbages. The European ones preferably, because there [sic] were richer."
Throughout Tangier's time as an international zone, the European town remained firmly attached to the capitalist network of Europe and the United States. While the city rapidly transformed into an important theater of geopolitical maneuverings, it became an attractive destination for those bourgeois who found themselves marginalized in Europe. Tangier also offered anonymity and protection to gay men of means, or the so-called remittance men, as I have heard them described, not to mention an abundance of sexual pleasure, exotic and cheap. However, the miserable city alluded to by Choukri continued to exist on the margins of the modern world that had conquered it and increased the suffering of most of its local population, reduced to the status of noncitizens in their own city.
Independence in 1956 did not change the condition of this population. Having suffered colonial rule, they now had to suffer its postcolonial effects—powerful and pervasive. During the rule of King Hassan II, the relatively few Europeans and Americans who stayed on continued to enjoy the city that privileged them. Colonial rule was of recent date and Tangier remained a point of convergence, a magnet for rich men and women from the Western world, including many celebrities. The native town, the Casbah and the medina, not to mention the shantytowns randomly built at the outskirts by migrants from rural areas, remained on the margins of the nation-state and continued to be, as in the colonial period, "a place of ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute," to borrow again from Fanon.
For Hassan II, Tangier, along with the entire region of the Rif, was the soft belly of his rule. The Rif had a different colonial experience from the rest of Morocco. It had been occupied by Spain and had sustained a staunch armed struggle against its colonizer, which, at one point, it was able to defeat, in the Battle of Anwal on July 22, 1921, establishing the Republic of the Rif (1923-26), free and victorious, headed by the Rif's heroic figure Abdelkrim al-Khattabi. Seen by and large as more loyal to the memory of Abdelkrim than to the Alaouite monarch (whether Mohammed V or his son Hassan II), the region of the Rif was neglected, and was even brutally repressed in 1958 under the rule of Mohammed V (and again in the 1980s, when it protested the rise of food prices in what are called the bread riots). Then came more neglect and marginalization. Tangier shared the lot of the Rif. The situation looked as colonial as before. As Jean Genet reported to Mohamed Choukri, "The situation here is very unstable. Everything reeks of poverty and misery. The foreigners are the only ones here who live like human beings."
For much of the local population, as for many Moroccans, especially from rural areas, migration to Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium during the 1960s and 1970s became the alternative pathway to a better life. Their migration was at the time desired and even sought after by European nations. European firms and companies came to rural Morocco in search of human labor, offering "contracts" to recruit laborers for European factories.
The contract laborers' migration helped create an urban middle class. Also, and importantly, it created a culture of migration, meaning an entire vision of migration as the road to wealth, as the road to a new way of life, and a modern one to be sure. This vision engendered a set of practices henceforth recognized as migrant practices: clothes, cars, gifts, remittances to family members, summer weddings, and various other displays of having "made it." By the late 1970s, European factories no longer needed to recruit laborers; the laborers knew the way, and often undertook it. This was a time when several European countries, including France, did not even require a visa of visitors from Morocco. Moroccan cities, especially Tangier, the main gate to Europe, transformed drastically during the summer, when many of these migrants returned to visit their families. Cars with registration plates from almost every country in Europe—especially France, the Netherlands, and Germany—could be seen not only traversing but also filling up the city. This scene can still be seen today with the important difference that most of those who visit are no longer migrants but European citizens of Moroccan ancestry, some with several generations' roots in Europe. In short, the labor contract period was transformative, engendering a small urban middle class and a large Moroccan diaspora that impacts the dynamics not only of Moroccan society but also of European societies. The contract period also created and propagated the myth of migration as a salvation—ghâb wa jâb, the Moroccan idiom that says the migrant "left and brought back [good things]."
Tangier is the offspring of modernity; like many of the cities in Africa, it is a colonial creation, for colonialism effected a complete spatial revolution in the city, and not only a cultural and economic one. As a revolution, colonialism created a new space—as revolutions always do. The old Tangier, the precolonial one, consisting mainly of the medina, became, during the city's life as an international zone, peripheral—architecturally, culturally, and politically. Even today it has to be defined in relation to the new space, as tradition is defined by modernity. The centre ville or ville nouvelle (the center of the city, or the new city), made of modern buildings constructed by the Spanish, the Italians, and the French, with a central boulevard, wide and open, has become the heart of the cultural and economic life of the city. In addition to its buildings, there are the names—such as Boulevard Pasteur, Rue du Mexique, Rue Vasquez, Place de France, Rue d'Angleterre. These names are still in use today, even for those boulevards formally renamed to announce independence (Pasteur was renamed Mohammed V; Vasquez was renamed Khaled Ben al-Walid).
In postcolonial times and especially since the early 1990s, the Casbah and, to a certain extent, the medina have also been reinvented as Europeanized neighborhoods. Like many African cities, Tangier is divided into the old city and the new city, the Arab city and the European city. But the Western imagination, surprisingly, is captured only by the first and rarely, if ever, by the second, of its own creation. Put differently, the colonial, now postcolonial, myth of Tangier is made of images from the old city. These images have long spoken to European "expats" and visitors. They have been elaborated throughout the decades by artists and writers such as Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Mark Twain, Paul Bowles, and Roland Barthes. These images can be found in Western works of literature, art, and film and are often reproduced in global print media such as the New York Times and Le Monde.
There are several Tangiers, as there are several representations of Tangier created by its local population, or by its bourgeoisie, or its outsiders—its migrants, whether Moroccan or West African. There are also different representations of Tangier within Morocco itself, including in fiction, in songs, and in folktales. Different names and nicknames—Tangier, Tangiers, Tanja, Tingis, Tanger, ʿArûs al-shammâl (the bride of the north)—are used in different representations and in different contexts. But the image of Tangier that seems to dominate and transcend Moroccan borders is the colonial image—what I am calling the myth of Tangier. This myth consists of various images of the city as a traditional city, an Oriental one for sure: exotic, seductive, sensuously deviant, treacherous, cruel, but also open and welcoming in unpredictable ways. Images of its modernity are not part of the myth. For instance, the urban youth that constitute most of the local population are not part of the image of the city. The city appears to be not an empty space but a space of and for Europeans only. Moroccans in general, young or old, are absent except in the form of a reference to a "maid" or "servant" or as "wealthy Moroccans" in the midst of "bronzed European families and ladies." Even the West African population, now a visible component of the city, does not draw the attention of the visiting reporter. They have their place only in narratives of tragedy, images and stories of deaths at sea.
The myth of Tangier is made also of a specific representation of space. The centre ville is absent save for Café de Paris and Hotel Continental, both of which were frequented in the past by European and American celebrities, many of them writers and artists. The Boulevard Mohammed V, the heart of the city for Moroccans, their meeting place, is often absent in these writings. So is the most urban, most global part of the city, the Corniche, with its chains of American, French, and Italian restaurants and luxury hotels.
They are not part of the image of Tangier. It is as if their portrayal would unsettle the myth and would make Tangier appear almost as ordinary as any other city. Instead, Tangier exists as composed by European works of literature and art, known and obscure. This Tangier has triumphed over time. Indeed, it is unchanging in its otherness, its difference. In the print media of the new millennium, Tangier appears exotic, backward, and "dreaming of Europe." Words such as "eccentricity," "wonder," "unusual magic," "mystery" are used to paint the city. The Tangier described in, say, the New York Times in the year 2010 is made of narrow streets, the Casbah, Café Hafa, of colors, objects, and a few shadows of Moroccans—a journalist sees "someone in a tangerine-colored djellaba walking past a mint-green door with a pistachio set of tiles and it seems so natural." A woman, veiled, passes by. All this is in the background, composing the Orientalist mise en scène for daring expats from Britain, the United States, and Europe: "Deep in the Casbah and high on the slopes of Veille Montagne, you find these people [expats], these elegant, exotic plants who fill their days with lunch parties and gossip. They may be the harmless denizens of an old idea, doing it with style, living beyond their means but strictly within their taste. It is a painted city where ripe vegetables and aged spies litter the souks, where men of hidden consequence can always find a drink. Most of all, Tangier is a city where attention to detail is undivided, a place where you meet people just crazy for beauty."
Rooted in colonial creation, and elaborated by several icons of Western literature, this image still "defies the length of time," as Joseph Conrad would say. Its continuity is guaranteed even by "native" writers such as Tahar Ben Jelloun and Mohamed Choukri. It is also secured by an ongoing cultural production. For instance, a relatively recent article in Le Monde evokes the Arabian Nights, cites Twain and Delacroix, and drops a series of names that populate the Western imaginary about Tangier: Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Paul Morand, Roland Barthes, Jean Genet, Marguerite Yourcenar, Paul Bowles. There is a discursive subconscious that surfaces in present-day reporting about the city and continues to be repeated in Western literature, major and minor.
"Perception is the absolute knowledge of the philosopher," Maurice Merleau-Ponty once wrote. He had in mind a specific philosophy, a new one, the phenomenology that was established with Edmund Husserl as a radical critique of knowledge, that is, as an intellectual practice that subordinates discourse to perception. Given that perception is the main but not absolute knowledge of the anthropologist, one can surely say that anthropology—a discipline more "promiscuous, inconstant, and ill defined" than any other in social science—has inherited, especially with interpretive and postmodern anthropology, the phenomenological tradition Merleau-Ponty alludes to. Perception, or what is commonly called participant observation, makes ethnographic practices appear as a sort of practicing phenomenology, or at least a discipline where perception plays an important role in the making of knowledge.
About Tangier and its migrants, perception is then the main, but not the absolute, knowledge of the anthropologist. History, especially a critical history that interrogates the present, is also, to a certain extent, the other source of this book: colonial and postcolonial histories of Tangier, of Moroccan perceptions of darker bodies, of race and racism in the former colony that is Morocco, of class and education, and so on. The chapters of the book, then, discretely express a commitment to history as an important mode of sociological analysis to rethink the present.
This book shies away from the myth of Tangier, deconstructed in this introduction, and instead explores the lives of those who appear often only as the objects of sensational literature and media reporting: the migrants, both the African and the European ones as well. More specifically, it is an examination of human flows to and from the city, and the politics of these flows within and outside the nation-state. In other words, the book looks at migration in its intersection with race and the law in order to not only highlight the global dynamics of the city, but also the city's dynamics in relation to global politics as they pertain to migration, racial thinking, and legality. The book endeavors to contribute to the debate on these questions not only across disciplines, but also across geographical areas. The goal here is to look at the dynamics of migration at the border between Africa and Europe as well as within an African nation itself.
Migration, Race, and Illegality
Within the larger field of Middle Eastern studies, research on migration is nascent. With few exceptions, the migratory flows within Arab societies and across Africa and Europe have not received the attention they so much deserve. Yet, one of the most major transformations that can be noticed in Middle Eastern societies is precisely the intense migratory movements of the past twenty years or so. I hope, with this book, to contribute to the fields of both migration and urban anthropology by examining how, on the Mediterranean border, in the city of Tangier, migration is entangled with European Union (EU) law and Moroccan racial perceptions and practices.
The study of migration, as Abdelmalek Sayad noted decades ago, in the 1970s, is mainly the study of immigration, that is, the study of migrants in their host country—in Sayad's case, France. He noted the absence of research on the sending country, that is, the study of emigration, and the ways it affects those who undertake the journey. With few exceptions, the situation remains the same. Despite the fact that the countries of the so-called Maghreb, and not only Morocco, have been transformed by becoming receiving countries, migration has not drawn much scholarly attention compared with the journalistic reporting that often makes a sensation out of it, especially at the moments of large-scale tragedies that are too frequent on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The present study, as has been noted, looks at not only migrant movements to Europe but also, comparatively, migrant movements to Africa itself, to the city of Tangier. The aim is to show that migration is not one-dimensional or straightforward. By studying its multidimensionality, this study touches on larger issues as well. By comparing the situations of West Africans and Europeans in the city, for instance, this book brings the issue of race in Moroccan society to the fore. Through the situations outlined here, I show how Moroccan society thinks about itself and how it thinks about difference(s).
It should be noted, at the outset, that race and racism are inherent to modernity. For race and racial thinking form the cultural foundation not only of colonialism but of modernity itself, as Hannah Arendt powerfully argued. Since the region we commonly call the Maghreb has known and was itself transformed by colonial modernity, race was also that import that came with the project of modernity. In the case of Tangier, for instance, Susan Miller notes in passing that racism entered the city in the nineteenth century, before the colonial project but definitively with the modern project of the first European community to settle in the city.
In 1951, Claude Lévi-Strauss published a pamphlet on race that ruffled many feathers. He argued, in the tradition of Franz Boas, that race has no scientific value and instead argued in favor of the concept of culture, which is always hybrid, the product of ongoing contributions of human groups near and far. Later, Michel Foucault, his colleague at the Collège de France, lamented the absence of race in France, an absence that masks inequalities. What Foucault had in mind was race as a social construct, as a category, not race as a biological reality. In anthropology today, race is considered nonexistent (meaning biologically) and thus without scientific value. However, what does not exist biologically may well exist socially. The existence of racism in modern human societies does indeed betray the existence of race—a certain view that constructs an "other" based on skin color and/or some perceived moral and biological difference. Even if anthropology liberated itself from racial thinking, the societies that anthropologists work in may practice racial difference and express racist views that are themselves cultural practices. Anthropologists who ignore this can no longer be on the avant-garde of race studies.
As Magali Bessone notes, "The reality of race resides not only in anthropology or biology, but in the socio-historical relations produced by practices that are founded on race." By saying that "race" is real, she means that "the concept pertains to the ontology of social science where categories have a reality which is not the reality of natural science." Therefore, race remains a critical analytical category central to anthropological and critical minority studies.
Interrogating the racism that permeates a society cannot be possible without interrogating race as a social construct. As Paul Gilroy put it, "Races are political collectivities not ahistorical essences." Colonialism itself introduced the concept to the countries of the Maghreb. Early on in their encounters with the populations of the region, especially in Algeria, colonial authors observed the existence of several "races" that soon disappeared from the colonial discourse to preserve only the racial dichotomy of Arabs versus Berbers that postcolonial discourse, even in its nationalist form, has kept. Noting that races exist in these narratives does not mean that local populations saw themselves through racial lenses, but rather that racial categories became demarcated with the advent of modernity. Precolonial, local categories of difference and even identity were not racial but depended on other differences, such as religious affiliation, tribal genealogy, regional location, even city identification, among others. As Lévi-Strauss pointed out long ago when discussing the racial theory of Arthur de Gobineau, it is not that Gobineau saw people as constituting races, but rather that he put the idea of degeneration at the core of racial theory.
The present study examines the issue of race in Moroccan society both in terms of "blackness" as well as "whiteness." But what do these two concepts mean in this context, and what they do refer to, in concrete terms? In other words, what does it mean to be white in Morocco (which is part of a larger cultural landscape we call Arab societies)? What does it mean to be black? How are these constructed? By whom?
First, let us stress the fact, again following Paul Gilroy, that for a variety of historical reasons, no general theory of race and racial relations can be sustained. Gilroy further argues that races "are imagined—socially and politically constructed—and the contingent processes from which they emerge may be tied to equally uneven patterns of class formation to which they, in turn, contribute." Indeed, there is a variety of concepts of race as seen in the "social expressions" we label racist. If we consider racialized expressions to be a field of discourse, as David Goldberg suggests, then anyone familiar with Moroccan society and, by extension, Arab societies must also be familiar with a plethora of racial expressions (beliefs, epithets, slurs, jokes) used in a variety of contexts that are clearly indicative of racial thinking. The case of West Africans leaves no doubt that race and racism are important issues in Moroccan society (made explicit by an entire field of racial expressions, as I explore in Chapter 4). However, there are surely others that may be masked under other denominations. Other names, slurs, epithets, especially those that refer to regional origin, may be indicative of ethnic expressions in that, as Fredrik Barth argues about ethnicity, they refer to boundaries within society itself. However, scholars of race and racism have persuasively noted that "ethnic connotations" pertain to race and that "race sometimes takes on significance in terms of ethnicity." Therefore, several ethnic groups in Morocco are also racial, and one finds around them an entire field of racial expressions.
As a postcolonial society, Morocco experienced, with full force, the politics of race in the colonial period, when its society was ruled by a white power (i.e., France). After colonialism, the racial ideology has remained very much present in the country via its languages, its values, and an entire economy of visual images of race. The racial thinking that was at the core of colonialism and that separated the world of the colonized and the colonizer, symbolically as well as physically, could not have possibly disappeared without leaving a trace. On the contrary, race and racism, in their modern conceptions, have become part of the Moroccan imagination.
For instance, blackness and whiteness in Moroccan society are colonial categories that have passed with the project of modernity, in which whiteness is a matter not only of skin color (even though it is also that) but also, and particularly, of its originating from a center of colonial power: Europe. Blackness and whiteness are the most common categories for what constitutes the "positive" and "negative" other in Moroccan society. Whiteness (European and American), because of colonial experience and its postcolonial legacies, denotes superiority, power, and beauty. For instance, Moroccans with fair skin are classified not necessarily by their color but according to other denominations that are at the interstice between what can be construed as ethnicity (such as Fassi or Jebli) and what can be understood as racial—that is, part of a racial discourse that somehow classifies, categorizes, but also marks as positive or negative certain groups of people. By contrast, blackness constitutes the negative other, inferior and of lower status. Several other racial dominations lie ambiguously, almost hidden, between these two racial categories. These are not necessarily the colonial ones opposing Arabs to Berbers, nor the postcolonial ones differentiating Arabs and Amazighs. These remain categories embedded in the discourse of cultural and political organizations that are reproduced often uncritically by scholars. These are rarely differentiations or categories of the everyday. Most of the time, and not only in deep Morocco, people would define themselves as Shalh, or Rifi, or Gharbaoui, and so forth. And there are fields of racial expressions even between groups defined from a certain perspective as Amazigh. A Shalh may as well express slurs, epithets, and all sorts of racial expressions against a Sussi or a Rifi or a Jebli, who may express similar racial expressions against the Shalh. Similarly, while one may be categorized as "Arab" in a political discourse, in everyday life, one can be identified and self-identified as Hayani, Hawzi, Dukkali, and so forth. And there are racial expressions among these groups the way there are among groups identified by Amazigh associations as Arabs. In other words, Moroccan societies are not stratified by the categories of Arabs and Amazigh, but rather by a number of other categories whose grammar has not yet been written precisely because race studies are quasi-absent in the field of Maghreb studies (and by and large Middle Eastern studies).
For decades, in both Morocco and France, race as a category has been invisible from public discourse even though racism has been rampant. The invisibility of race in the political and legal discourse seems almost strategic, since it is all the more difficult to tackle racism (the way the absence of discussion about gender or class makes it difficult to recognize sexism and class and social divisions). Such misrecognition makes it difficult to address issues of inequality based on race (or class or gender). Yet again, racism still exists even though, precisely because of the quasi-absence of racial categories, it is hidden or rather "disguised." There is still no racial language in the law in Morocco (or in France), and the public discourse seems, at first sight, indifferent to it as well. But this is just because, often, racism has been appearing as something else; hence its invisibility. The discursive invisibility of race must have been inherited from France itself, which continues to elide race from its legal and political discourse despite tremendous racial practices and discrimination against populations from the colonies that were once categorized as races. This does not seem to be new since Fanon wrote a long time ago that "racism no longer dares to appear without disguise . . . it is unsure of itself." Maybe it is this disguise that has constituted its very force, the secret of its effectiveness, and the motor behind its longevity.
In Morocco, one of the immediate consequences of the presence of West African migrants is precisely the lifting of the veil on rampant racism against them. However, if racism exists against West Africans, it is because it has been at work against others inside Moroccan society. This is why the question of race needs to be opened not only in relation to what the media call the "sub-Saharan Africans" but also to Europeans (whites) in their relations to Moroccans, and vice versa, as well as to those Moroccans perceived as "others" by virtue of their looks, accents, and of course social status or lack thereof. In other words, we need to recognize the existence of "political collectivities," as Paul Gilroy calls them, in order to tackle questions of inequality and citizenship. When I discuss blackness in the present study, I do so not in terms of historical slavery but rather in the new terms of the black migrant—that is, illegality and outsideness. Likewise, when discussing "whiteness," I consider its articulations in the French society of colonial times as well as in its present moment. Moroccans may have only a faint memory of slavery, but they have a vivid memory of colonialism that colors their views of Europeans, West Africans, and of course themselves.
In short, my ambition in this book is to open up the discussion of race in Moroccan society and history, and also to link this discussion to issues of race in France, Great Britain, and the United States, especially in relation to migration. Whether in Europe, in the United States, or now even within Africa itself, migration is undoubtedly racialized. In Morocco, it is, too. Migration is associated with Moroccans, and illegal migration is synonymous with sub-Saharan Africans, despite the presence of an increasing number of European migrants in the country.
A 2003 law now regulates the movement and presence of "foreigners" but really targets the "sub-Saharan Africans" present in Morocco. Several recent studies examine its coherence, the conditions of its formulation, and its effectiveness (or lack thereof) in halting migration. Some of them also pay attention to the racist dimension of this law—the fact that it is produced specifically to control, exclude, and restrain the movements of a black population. Legality has undoubtedly become an important dimension of the study of migration. For the concept of migration itself seems to be a product of the law and the state that produces the law. Illegality is the flip-flop of legality.
Anthropologists have paid significant attention to the concept of illegality in their examination of migration and drawn attention to its political construction, and thus to the very politics promoted by the state. Drawing mainly from Michel Foucault and his contention that "the existence of legal prohibition creates around it a field of illegalist practices," scholars of migration have looked at how the law on migration has created what we call the "illegal migrant" and how illegal practices themselves are used, as Foucault himself argued, and controlled by means that are themselves illegal in order to achieve "illicit gains."
Despite, or rather precisely because of, the laws and treaties of nation-states, the geography of migration has expanded in this age of globalization. Morocco, once a country of emigration, is now a country of "illegal immigration." Indeed, I argue that EU policies have created a new category of "illegality" outside EU borders. Morocco has then become, in the past ten years or so, one of the main countries to host "illegal" migrants to and from Europe. This is an important development that shows the globalization of the "illegality" once confined to the borders of the nation-state in Europe. However, the topic of how these illegal practices are controlled by illegal means and how they generate "illicit gains" is beyond the scope of this study. Who controls illegal migration in the region? By what means? For what gains? These are the questions that this study hopes to open and that I hope to pursue in the future.
Here I examine how "race" participates in the making of "illegality." I especially pay close attention to how West Africans manage the laws that make them "illegal" as well as daily racism in the city. I juxtapose the experience of West African migrants with the experience of European migrants in the city of Tangier, and examine how legality/illegality is produced by racial perceptions as well as the colonial histories that have in part shaped these perceptions. This study endeavors to examine the dynamics at the borders between Africa and Europe as well as within Moroccan society and thus help break a tradition that makes migration studies a matter of relevance only to the Western world—Europe and North America.
The Shape of the Book
Migration in the region, between its parts, within the continent, and from Africa to Europe is by no means new. It is just that a new pattern has emerged since the 1990s. This book addresses this relatively new pattern of migration traversing the Mediterranean shores. More specifically, it considers what makes Tangier one of the most attractive cities for migrants preparing to cross to Europe. Many live in the city for several years before they cross, and many others return after exiting, or get stuck in the city for longer than they expect. Migrants not only live in the city, but they also live the city—they experience it, they encounter its people, engage its culture, walk its streets, and participate in its events.
My aim is twofold: on the one hand, the book is a study of African "illegal" migration to Europe and European "legal" migration to Morocco. On the other, it is a study of how a city has changed and been transformed by the flows of migrants from both Europe and Africa. It is a study of two main regimes of mobility—one African, the other European. Because the ethnographic site is the city of Tangier, the book is also an examination of how Moroccan society has been affected by the flows of migrants from Africa and from Europe. In other words, the book is as much a study of transnational migration as it is a study of Moroccan society in the so-called age of globalization.
My fieldwork in the city was marked, from beginning to end, by a major postcolonial event: the so-called Arab Spring that was triggered in January 2011 only a few weeks after my arrival to Tangier on December 24, 2010. Soon Morocco was affected by this major event that swept Arab countries. In Morocco, too, a movement of young (and not-so-young) people quickly came together to demand political reforms. I saw this as an important event that cannot be separated from the internal racism seen in Moroccan society. A revolution against this racism framed locally in terms of hogra was part and parcel of the so-called Arab Spring. Therefore, the first chapter provides the political and cultural contexts necessary to understand the system of the hogra that migrants in Tangier suffer, as well as the general political condition of the phenomenon of migration in Moroccan society. It also provides the background for the rest of the book by showing, through a series of protests in the city, the political culture of the city and, by extension, of Morocco itself. Hogra is a form of cultural violence specific to the Maghreb region. It can be defined in a variety of ways depending on the setting and the actors involved. Generally, hogra consists of visible and invisible violent practices—name calling, insults, slurs, denial of taxi or restaurant services, discriminatory practices in hiring and the provision of services, and so on. These practices are extremely harmful because they deprive people of the basic rights of citizenship (the right to dignity, safety, decent livelihoods, and so forth). Throughout the chapters, I come back to the concept to analyze it contextually.
In the first chapter, I also show that European migrants were unconcerned with the protests. The political unrest was moderate, and people on the streets did not ask for a radical change. If anything, by demanding a constitutional monarchy in which the king reigns but does not rule, the February 20 movement remained royalist. The events, too, did not concern the West Africans, many of whom were fleeing or avoiding carnage in Libya. Local politics were not part of their worries. Their focus was crossing to Europe. Anything else was a distraction, especially if it did not affect their everyday lives. By comparison with Libya, Morocco looked safe and still advantageous for crossing. Meanwhile, for the Moroccan youth set on migrating to Europe, the harraga, the political protest brought no hope: "one thief goes, another thief comes" (yamchi chaffâr, yji chaffâr). Having already lost hope in Morocco, the harraga entertain another hope, in Europe.
In their introduction to an edited volume of essays on children, Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Carolyn Sargent lament the absence of children's voices in ethnographic writings: "Children's voices are conspicuously absent in most ethnographic writing, where young people seem to behave like good little Victorians, neither seen nor heard. By and large children appear in ethnographic texts the way cattle make their appearance in Evans-Pritchard's classic, The Nuer—as forming an essential backdrop to everyday life, but mute and unable to teach us anything significant about society and culture."
Chapter 2 consists of an examination of the harraga children who gather around the port, waiting to cross to Europe by sliding under, on, or into trucks waiting for a ferry to Spain. They constitute a visible population in Tangier, especially in and around the port area. Who are these children? What do they want? How do they live? Why are they here? What motivates them to leave home, live on the street, and risk death? What are their goals and their dreams?
I further examine, in Chapter 3, how Moroccan society itself has produced the harraga. Using insights from Georges Bataille, Karl Marx, and Giorgio Agamben, I argue that Moroccan society has produced an excess of human labor that it can now not only neglect but also even "let die." Yet, the predicament of the harraga, most of them children and young adults, is a complex one. In their activity of "burning," that is, crossing, to Europe, they not only demonstrate an exceptional resilience in coping with extraordinary conditions, but also are motivated and guided by universal impulses toward freedom. The chapter describes the structural violence that Moroccan children and youth are caught up in and demonstrates how their activity, deemed illegal, is itself an exercise of freedom—freedom from the system of hogra and freedom to find a better life.
Chapter 4 looks at West African migrants in Morocco and in Tangier specifically, where preparations for crossing to Spain are undertaken. I examine the trajectory of the migrants, their status as "illegal" newcomers in the city, and the rationale that justifies their activity—deemed illegal by the EU and by Morocco but considered legitimate by the migrants themselves. I also discuss the new form of "illegality" that has transformed Morocco into not only a country of immigration but also a so-called transit state. The migrant in Tangier is a transnational and transitional being. I focus on the dynamics of racial difference in a self-identified "white" city and explore the everyday cultural violence the migrant is subjected to.
Since migration emerged as an international subject of study, it has become too closely associated with state policies, with labor, policing, and governmentality, and because of that, I contend, it often espouses its own categories. Indeed, migration has been racialized. It is often a movement from South to North, and, depending on the host nation-state, the prototype of the "immigrant" is the Pakistani, the Maghrebi, the Turk, the Mexican, or the sub-Saharan African, as with the case at hand. However, flows of humans in the opposite direction, from North to South, have also, mutatis mutandis, increased since the 1990s, in the era of globalization. But these flows are rarely referred to as immigration and thus in fact rarely studied unless they are evoked to make a point about globalization and its key concept of cosmopolitanism. In Chapter 5, I examine the conditions, motivations, and goals of middle-class and working-class Europeans who migrate to Tangier. I interrogate why European residents of the city are not called or considered migrants but instead referred to as expats or cosmopolitans. As with West Africans, the concept of race as an analytical category is essential in understanding the living conditions of these migrants, who, in comparison with the conditions of West Africans, are awash with rights and privileges. It should be made clear, however, that even as I excluded from this study those privileged Europeans who reside in the city seasonally, I also excluded the privileged West Africans who do the same. Indeed, there is in Tangier people of that global class who enjoy the privileges and rights of flexible citizenship. Surely, the racial dynamics among this class play out differently. The populations I speak of are comparable; both are working-class and middle-class migrants. Here, too, I look again at the race question by contrasting the experience of Europeans with those West Africans who are often stuck in the city while hoping to cross "illegally" to Europe. Last, I examine how Moroccan perceptions of Europeans (whites) and West Africans (blacks) shape the experience of these two populations in the city and thus within society itself.
At age nineteen, I migrated from Morocco to France as a student to join my father, who had emigrated a decade earlier. Overwhelmed by my experience of intense racism in the town of Perpignan, the hub of the then-emerging National Front, I immediately returned to Morocco. The rather short stay marked me in such a way as to spur me to return a few years later, albeit apprehensively. I went to Paris, where I chose to pursue graduate studies, rather than to Perpignan. In the epilogue, I use my personal story to reflect on the condition of migration in the 1980s and compare it with the conditions of migration I discussed in the preceding chapters. The idea here is to juxtapose two experiences: mine, and that of the young Moroccans (including minors) who I had recently researched. I conclude by asking whether the migrant can ever return home. Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, Tayeb Saleh, and Dany Laferrière, I reflect on my personal trajectory as well as the trajectories of family members, friends, and the many people who migrated to Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, to examine how migration transforms the self and creates hybrid subjects with no belonging and no "home." For home is often lost in the experience of migration. Thus, I conclude by examining the concept of the "exile of time," borrowed from Laferrière, and how it differs from the "exile of space." The conclusion also juxtaposes postindependence migratory conditions in Morocco with postcolonial ones. It explains, in clear terms, how the dynamics of migration have changed in Moroccan society from a legal labor source, sought after and mainly coming from the countryside, to an urban, young, "illegal" migration (and sequestration).
The book, then, ventures into some new territories. For this same reason, it proceeds cautiously. Its goal is not necessarily to provide definitive answers but rather to present new questions that might help both reconfigure migration as a postcolonial phenomenon (that needs to be liberated from policy studies) and interrogate how Moroccan society responds to new cultural processes involving waves of migration from Europe as well as from western Africa.
Notes on the Fieldwork
This book is based on extensive fieldwork I conducted in Tangier every summer from 2008 to 2016, and also for the full year from December 2010 to January 2012. The book is thus the result of twenty-four months of fieldwork. My approach to the field was mostly what Clifford Geertz calls "deep hanging out" with three migrant populations: Moroccans, West Africans, and Europeans. I conducted individual and group interviews and engaged in long conversations with members of these three communities. I also observed and participated in their events and activities. This long fieldwork resulted in real friendships with several young Moroccan migrants, West Africans, and Europeans. My choice of these communities was motivated by the fact that they constitute the most (and only) visible migrants in the city. Arab migrants, such as the Syrians, who constitute the largest group, tend to blend with the Moroccan population. Tangier hosts several communities from many parts of the world, including from Taiwan, Indonesia, and India, but these are quite small.
It seems that nothing could be easier for a Moroccan than conducting fieldwork in Morocco, ensuring easy and constant access to contacts and interviews in one's native language. True, "being from there" facilitated certain aspects of the fieldwork, but it also made others more complicated, sometimes in unexpected ways. First, with the Moroccan harraga, there was always a stage of deep suspicion that could be long or short, depending on the person, the circumstances, and maybe even my skill in dissipating the doubt. I had to convince them, not just by words or by showing them papers, that I was not an undercover police officer, a spy for the government, or even a journalist who would get them arrested or expose them in local newspapers. They needed to have that sense of trust that only intuition can provide. Second, even when the trust was gained, the social world of these youth is not mine. I left the country in 1985, before most of them were born. Their ages ranged between six and twenty-eight years, with only two of them thirty-four years old. They were a different generation. They were also all male. Women harraga do not exist, even though one may hear from a woman that she wishes to "burn." The port area and the Moroccan streets at night are more dangerous places for women than men. Burning requires hanging out in the streets and in the port for months and even years. Women of course do migrate, too, but by different means such as marriage (real or fake); they never hang out in the port randomly, as male migrants do, in search of an opportunity to cross.
In any case, with these harraga, speaking their "language" and understanding their motives, explications, and sometimes even jokes was not a self-evident task. There is nothing more dangerous for research, I believe, than the sense that we understand something we do not understand. An awareness of one's ignorance is the sine qua non of acquiring knowledge. Familiarity and, in this case, my Moroccan bond with these harraga made me at the beginning believe I could understand if only I listened. To enter their social world was a humbling experience that required patience and perseverance.
Within the city, there were different sites for this research. Moroccan harraga, children and young adults alike, hung out mostly in the port area of downtown Tangier. They ate leftovers donated to them by the fish restaurants in the area. There were those who picked up the food themselves, from the restaurants' garbage cans. There were also those who could eat in one of the cheap restaurants in the medina, paying with money earned from begging. They slept on the fishermen's nets or on piles of cardboard boxes next to the port's mosque. Some of them slept under carts or even on top of them. Nights were time for relaxation and entertainment. They played cards, told stories, or just chatted. In the large area of the port itself, there were around five hundred harraga. This number increased during the summer. But even in the middle of winter, one could still see a couple hundred harraga hanging out there. With time, the port area, including its inside, became as familiar to me as it was to them. I conducted sixty in-depth interviews with male harraga in 2011 and 2012 in addition to thirty interviews I conducted during the summers of 2008, 2009, and 2010. Most of the interviews lasted a couple of hours. During the month of Ramadan 2011, I spent almost every night at the port conversing with ten harraga from around 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. Eight harraga became my confidants, and thanks to them, I was able to enter their social world. In the early months of January and February, I used a tape recorder, but I quickly noticed that it took away the spontaneity of the conversations.
The harraga (youth and children alike) are almost as familiar to me as family members. I speak their language, meaning their own brand of Moroccan. They are shantytown kids, and so was I. Their milieu was once mine, and it constitutes my home (both in my memory and in the physical space I still call home despite years of exile resulting from a decision to leave). Moroccan shantytowns are alike: no water, no electricity, no hope, no prospects; only an extraordinary effort, and a real coup of luck, can get you out of there. My father, too, was a shantytown kid. I heard his stories many times, especially as he aged. At age thirty-eight, when he had nine children, he was able to leave his hometown, Meknès, for France—Perpignan. He came back only years later, rather prosperous even by French standards of the time. Very loyal to his roots, and a son of the people, he maintained an unbelievable loyalty to the shantytown such that, despite his increasing prosperity, he kept us in it even as he bought a house in a more prosperous neighborhood, a house with water, electricity, and all the necessary amenities. I inherited this loyalty, not because I am deeply attached to that neighborhood, with its bad reputation, known even beyond the city, but because I am attached to its people, to memories that shaped my childhood and remain with me. My contact with the harraga was then as natural as my contacts with the children of my neighborhood. I recognized the signs of their misery as they must have recognized that I was a member of the family despite the fact that a coup of destiny, initiated by a father's act of migration, so drastically changed the course of my life. Their narratives were familiar to me; I still hear them whenever I visit Morocco. Often I am asked, "Can you take me with you?" "How?" I ask, "I do not own the key to the country." "Ghīr shûf ki diīr li-nâ" (you can find a way to help us), I am told; my negation does not seem to convince anyone.
Yet, despite the shared roots, in the field, I had to find strategies to connect. When hanging out in the port, I dressed in plain sportswear, sandals, and a T-shirt, not very different from many of the harraga themselves. This was not because I wanted to make the effort to show that I belonged to their world (for I surely did not, even if I still recognized it) but rather to be able to function in such a dirty space, teeming with bugs and vermin. I was infected with a skin disease for several weeks as a result of sitting on fishermen's nets night after night. It is true that my means were also of great help. The fact that I could help them with money, with advice, and even with information about that "other world" that I came from cemented the connection, and that, in turn, facilitated interviews, dialogues, and conversations. I should also acknowledge that my friend and initially my research assistant, Chakib, was instrumental in introducing me to the world of the harraga. Chakib was young, a twenty-six-year-old man, from Tangier itself. Not only did he introduce me to the harrag's world, but Chakib also introduced me to the culture of Tangier. For Tangier is a different city for a Moroccan from elsewhere. It has its own way, its own language, and its own cultural practices. In navigating these, Chakib was my guide.
With West Africans, the situation was different. A stranger to them, as they were to me, by virtue of the fact that I was perceived as a local Moroccan, there were still connections. All of them first approached me on Boulevard Mohammed V or while I was sitting in a café, and would ask for sadaqa (alms) using rudimentary Moroccan phrases, accompanied by gestures to be understood. From the outset, the relation I established with them was a monetary one. The sadaqa might be returned in words, that is, in stories, especially when requested. But not always. Some of the migrants, especially women, would intuitively know that their words had value and ask for a payment upfront, putting a high price on them. Often, I was asked to pay their rent, an amount between $50 and $70 a month. Even when I bargained down the price, my interview experiences with these women were often disappointing as they would confide very little. Because of the gender dynamics, it was also not possible to hang out longer or invite them to a café or a restaurant, as I often did with men. "Deep hanging out" with West African men was possible but not with the women, who very much kept to themselves. I met several West African migrants who told me that they were accompanied by their wives. The woman stayed at home whereas the man went out on the street, making a living and searching for ways to cross to Europe. I was able to gather information about these women but from the perspective of their male companions.
West Africans lead lives separate from the Moroccans in general and from the Moroccan harraga in particular. They do not gather inside the port, as the Moroccans do. They usually hang out on the benches of the Corniche. They also frequent Khadra at the entrance of the medina from the port side, a popular café, with a big screen projecting Hollywood films amid the intense smoke of cigarettes and hashish. There are several Senegalese outside the café at a crossroad between the old medina and the port area through Boulevard Mohammed VI. One can see these Senegalese men selling art objects and knock-off sunglasses and luxury watches. The second site where I conducted research is a popular neighborhood called Masnana, a twenty-minute drive from downtown Tangier. Masnana is home to many West Africans, who rent rooms with other West African migrants (often from the same country) or are given garages for free or for a small fee (around 500 dirhams a month, the equivalent of $50). They hang out in an open field that looks like a park with an open stadium where they can watch soccer games between Moroccans from different neighborhoods.
"You speak English well," my interlocutors from Nigeria or Liberia would say, showing surprise that a Moroccan spoke English. The surprise often triggered curiosity and more exchange with migrants from anglophone countries. With those from francophone countries, there was also the connection of language, combined with the connection of religious affiliation—Islam—which often facilitated our dialogue. Of course, not all of them were Muslims. Many also pretended to be. We had to find bases upon which to establish a contract of trust for the exchange of information and provision of help. The frequent greetings of "Salam," "Hamdou Allah" (praise be to Allah!), and "khouya" (brother) were meant to facilitate these encounters. Yet, my interlocutors also could connect with me as an African. Often, they would say, "We in Africa" and "We Africans," which created that "rapport" that George Marcus speaks about as important and necessary in fieldwork.
From 2008 to 2016 (including yearlong fieldwork in 2011-12), I interviewed over eighty West African migrants. These interviews took place in cafés and shops or on a street corner in one of the neighborhoods I mention in Chapter 4. Each interview took from two to four hours. I could rely on a handful of interlocutors I met regularly during the entirety of 2011. They were still in Tangier in the summer 2016 when I last conducted interviews. I was only interested in those who came to Tangier to cross to Europe. I also used a snowball technique to recruit my interviewees and study participants.
The phenomenon of so-called illegal crossing remains a fundamentally male activity for both harraga and West Africans mainly because migration, as I explain in Chapter 4, is a family project, and usually it is the men who undertake it to help those left behind. There are also other factors such as the high risk of rape on migratory routes and the extraordinary hardship and physical endurance required. Few women take up the challenge—with or without a male companion. The handful of women I encountered were often more discreet and more cautious, gave less information, and asked for a higher payment for the interview. All of them were accompanied by their husband and had children. Only one, Sandra, a twenty-three-year-old woman, was by herself because her husband had been deported by the Spanish to Nigeria. She stayed in Tangier hoping one day she would cross.
In Europe, this population is often referred to as sub-Saharan Africans. Moroccan francophone media use the same name. However, in Morocco during the entirety of my fieldwork, all those who I encountered were from West Africa. I believe that those from central and eastern Africa usually take the Libyan, the Tunisian, or the Egyptian roads, not the Moroccan one—or at least rarely. The fact that all my interlocutors were from West Africa led me to abandon the more general label of "sub-Saharan African."
The biggest challenge of my fieldwork, at least initially, was with the European community. My "Moroccanness" seemed to be the problem. Postcolonial relations tend to make connections between Moroccans and the French awfully complicated—whether in France or in Morocco. I discuss some of these complications in Chapter 5. Suffice it to say that at first it was difficult to conduct research in this community. The level of mistrust was high, and as I learned later from those who became friends, they had been told to be very cautious with Moroccans. As with most fieldwork experiences, fortunate moments of breakthrough are often accidental. By pure coincidence, I rented an apartment downtown, in a neighborhood called Hayy al-Shayâtîn with many bars, discothèques, and cafés attended by sex workers—hence its name (the Quarter of Devils). Two stores away from my building, there was a new French bookstore called Les Insolites. It turned out to be a major meeting place for Europeans. The owner, a young French woman, organized weekly or biweekly cultural events—usually a reading by an author, French or francophone, and sometimes art exhibits, usually by a French or a francophone artist. The events were open to the public, though most of the attendees were Europeans with a small number of Frenchified Moroccans. Even though I introduced myself to the owner, talked to her about my research, and was included in the email list of invitees, distance was a rule between me and the Europeans. The American way of introducing oneself (by mentioning your name and trying to shake hands) seemed bizarre. One needs to be introduced by someone trusted, not introduce oneself. My difficulties in meeting European migrants drastically eased when I met Elena Prentice in the same bookstore. She was an American and director of the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM) who had been living in the city for twenty-five years. Thanks to her incredible warmth and generosity, my day-to-day life in the city became more productive. My interactions with Europeans became easy, and several of these connections were the results of a dinner or a gathering prepared by Elena. I continued to frequent the bookstore, also regularly frequented by Elena. Here, too, there was snowballing. I was introduced to others, and eventually I became part of a social network.
There are 7,000 registered French men and women in Tangier and 3,000 Spaniards. There are a few hundred Italians and dozens of British men and women. I conducted over forty interviews with French, Italian, and Spanish men and women. The majority of my interviews were in French. I also had a handful of key interlocutors who, with time, became friends. Also, with time, I became part of this social group and participated in their cultural and social events.
Conducting ethnography about migration and illegality could not leave me indifferent to what was happening around me. My fieldwork was marked from beginning to end by the protests and political unrest that were part of the Arab Spring that started in Tunisia just as I returned to Tangier in December 2010. This is the most important political event to happen in the city since its independence in 1956. I participated in every event of this revolution that seriously worried the makhzen, the political elite, as they saw governments, leaders, and regimes fall in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and Libya—some of them tragically. I decided to include this experience because it explains in large part, if only indirectly, the conditions of the Moroccan youth and children trying to leave the country at the risk of death. I also include it because it offers background to the entire book: this ethnographic narrative is itself a historical narrative of the then present of the city.
For reasons that should be clear by now and will surely be clearer in the chapters to follow, my interviews and conversations with Moroccan harraga were in Moroccan Arabic. With West Africans, they were conducted in French with those from francophone Africa (such as Mali, Senegal, or Cameroon) and in English with those from anglophone Africa (such as Nigeria or Ghana). With the French, the interviews and conversations were naturally in French. Interviews and conversations with people from Spanish-, Portuguese-, or English-speaking countries were conducted in English. I took notes while I was interviewing these people. My early interviews, from January 2012 to March 2012, were also recorded.
The digital age in which we live has drastically changed the ways fieldwork is now conducted. The influx of information from virtually every corner of the globe at the drop of a hat is incredible. One can follow developments in the field through videos posted on social media as well as through direct, speedy, and easy communication with interlocutors in the field. Several of the people I interviewed are now my friends on Facebook. With others, I could regularly communicate via Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook. Several friends and interlocutors continued, through social media, to update me about the protests in the Rif I discuss in Chapter 1.
I changed all the names of my interlocutors to protect their identity. Whenever it was possible, I also altered any indication of profession or activity or nationality that may reveal who they are. As much as I could, I followed the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) system for transliterating Arabic except in cases where that was impossible because of the peculiarities of the phonetics of Moroccan Arabic. An alternative sound was given to make the transliteration as accurate as possible. Also, all translations in this book are mine unless otherwise indicated. I use the standardized, English names of Moroccan cities, towns, and regions. And of course, any shortcomings in this book are my sole responsibility.