Borders, Mobilities and Migrations

Perspectives from the Mediterranean, 19–21st Century

by Lisa Anteby-Yemini (Volume editor) Virginie Baby-Collin (Volume editor) Sylvie Mazzella (Volume editor)
©2014 Monographs 314 Pages


This book explores changes in the social, economic and political processes underpinning the mechanisms for the management of human mobility and cohabitation in the Mediterranean region, while suggesting comparisons with the situation in the Americas.
It considers the public policies that introduce such mechanisms at state, region or city level, and also explores the way that populations adapt to, breach or find ways of working around these systems.
The volume also attempts to evaluate the extent to which the reactions of the populations concerned can influence such systems. Relying on a historical perspective and covering a broad period of time from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, this book questions the increasing influence of processes born out of globalization upon present readjustments of mobility and territorial configurations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction (Lisa Anteby-Yemini, Virginie Baby-Collin, Sylvie Mazzella, Stéphane Mourlane, Cédric Parizot, Céline Regnard & Pierre Sintès)
  • Part I. Mobility and Systems of Control
  • Introduction (Sylvie Mazzella, Céline Regnard)
  • Illegal Migration of Italians from the Liberal Age to Freedom of Movement Within the European Community. Geographic Directions, Public Attitudes and the Strategies of Migrants (Sandro Rinauro)
  • Building Lines between Nations. Border-making and Police Practices at the French-Italian Frontier, 1890-1914 (Ilsen About)
  • North African Migration under Surveillance. Between Home Country and Host Country (Sylvie Mazzella)
  • Introduction of Procedures for Migration Controls in Greece. Case Study in the Aegean Islands (Laurence Pillant)
  • Part II. Mobility and the Border Economy
  • Introduction (Cédric Parizot)
  • An Undocumented Economy of Control. Workers, Smugglers and Sate Authorities in Southern Israel/Palestine (Cédric Parizot)
  • Border Economies. A Nascent Migration Industry Around Lampedusa (Heidrun Friese)
  • “Maid in Lebanon”. Lebanon and the World Domestic Service Market (Assaf Dahdah)
  • The Palestinian Olive Industry and Israel’s Separation Policy. Trading at the Border (2002-2012) (Arnaud Garcette)
  • Part III. Beyond State borders: migrants’ mobility in everyday life
  • Introduction (Lisa Anteby-Yemini, Virginie Baby-Collin)
  • Between Embodied Cosmopolitism and Sexual Humanitarianism. The Fractal Mobilities and Subjectivities of Migrants Working in the Sex Industry (Nick Mai)
  • African Asylum Seekers in Israel. New Political, Racial and Urban Borders (Lisa Anteby-Yemini)
  • Rendering People Illegal and Invisible. Illegal Migrants and Daily Life (United States, Spain) (Virginie Baby-Collin)
  • Part IV. Circulation, Frontier and Memory of Migrations
  • Introduction (Stéphane Mourlane, Pierre Sintès)
  • Migration and Nation. The Situation of Italians in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Early 19
  • Algerian Jews. How to Make the Return Journey? (Karima Dirèche)
  • “Invisibility” and Memory. Italian Immigration in France During the Second Half of the 20
  • New Geographical Mobilities on the Edges of Greece (Pierre Sintès)
  • Postface (Evelyne Ritaine)
  • Shorts Biographies of the Authors

← 10 | 11 → Introduction1


Globalization, as a process of accelerated commercial exchanges between different types of universality, is a long-term phenomenon that is often seen as part of the 15th century’s Age of Discovery (Grataloup, 2006; Boucheron, 2009). This was the period when ‘world economies’ first began to be organized structurally through trade which led to the launch of international commerce as a form of capitalism with the Mediterranean as one of the main marketplaces (Braudel, 1993a, 1993b). In the 19th century, colonization and new industrial revolutions provided the bases for greater and more concentrated movements of people and goods (Wallerstein, 2006). The economic and political upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries (industrial revolutions, colonial empires, war, decolonization, etc.) were accompanied by European migration and mobility which in turn led to the migratory phenomenon we see today. Simultaneously with intra-European labour migration and north-south migration across the Mediterranean, the movement of people ensured the settlement of colonial empires, and later of decolonialized countries. War and conflicts have also caused large displacements of populations. Over the last half-century, globalization has led to an unprecedented acceleration of mobility and trade, encouraged as much by major technological revolutions in transportation and communications as by the arrival of global capitalism. Globalized migration (Simon, 2008), defined as an unprecedented process of diversification and intensification of population flows, has transformed not only relations with otherness – as incarnated by the Other – but also with space and has thoroughly reconfigured the territories that it has brought into contact (Sassen, 1991; Lévy, 1999; Urry, 2000; Beck, 2003; Baduel, 2008).

← 11 | 12 → At the same time, with the consolidation of nations during the 19th century, the paradigm of the nation-state led to the installation of frontiers and establishment of mechanisms for controlling territories and identifying individuals in Europe and colonial empires (Foucher, 1986; Noiriel, 1992; Schnapper, 2001, About and Denis 2010). Tensions caused by increased movements of persons and goods and the closure of frontiers are again part of our reality today, as can be seen in current control and surveillance systems, often considered as the outcome of post-modernity, including biometric identification systems. Paradoxically, acceleration of mobilities is paralleled by a proliferation of controls that restrict movement and are made acceptable by doxa on the ‘risk’ that migration represents (Beck, 2003). Contemporary controls of mobility have drastically concentrated the operation and manifestations of national frontiers and frontier lines (borders) at strategic points (airports, maritime straits, islands). Extending both without and within the limits of national territory, frontiers are now flexible and multiple, pixellized and networked (Cuttita, 2006; Bigo, Bocco & Piermay, 2010). Control mechanisms at frontiers increasingly focus on the status of migrants (‘illegal’, ‘without papers’, asylum seekers’, clandestine workers’, visa holders, ‘legal’ or legitimate, etc.) and thus make it possible to detach the frontier from the territory and attach it to the individual. Thus, to a certain extent, each person carries the frontier ‘on the sole of their shoes’ and sets it down at the place where they take up residence.

This collection challenges the paradoxical articulation between, on the one hand, generalized mobilities and, on the other, processes by which controls are reinforced along frontiers profoundly transformed in their manifestations and operations, as part of long-term dynamics from the 19th to the 21st century. The Mediterranean in which this reflection has been constructed is a rich laboratory for observing these tensions between circulation and closure, and their consequences for practices as well as for construction of identities for the principal actors: migrants.

In order to study this paradox, we must take into account the ways in which the players evolve. In Europe, the tightening of external frontiers plays an integral role in complex processes that include not only national tactics, but also regional Euro-Mediterranean economic strategies and issues relating to European integration (Ritaine, 2012). In mobilizing supra- and infra-national political and institutional actors, the installation of control systems can no longer be analyzed uniquely from the perspective of a single nation (Wolff, 2008). Nevertheless we must recognize that, even if the role of nation-states remains essential today, nations are no longer masters of their territories and frontiers (Brown, 2009). The construction of the European area for free circulation goes ← 12 | 13 → hand-in-hand with the process of internalization and externalization of frontiers. Although European citizens are able to travel freely throughout the EU, ‘others’ are obliged to submit to controls which have become increasingly rigorous because of the technology and resources allocated to this purpose and more widespread throughout the region. Checks on ‘clandestine migrants’ can be carried out anywhere, and even in the streets of major cities, proof of the existence of these forms of internalized frontiers, one of the most tangible manifestations being detention centres. Externalized frontiers are set up through the transfer of identity controls to southern and eastern Mediterranean countries, which allows the modification of migrant flows – a phenomenon seen in other regions around the world (Audebert and?Robin, 2009). Given the changes occurring in the construction of the European community and in the acceleration of economic growth in Northern Mediterranean countries, certain emigration regions became attractive regions for immigration since the 1980s (Wihtol de Wenden, 2009) – notably Spain, Italy and Greece, today facing a serious economic crisis – and moves towards tightening and externalizing Europe’s outer frontiers contributes to the consolidation of zones where migrants gather on the Southern Mediterranean coast and in North African and Middle Eastern countries. These countries are not only transit zones but also, increasingly, areas for long-term settlement for migrants, creating holding ‘nets’ in ‘buffer countries’ located at the gates of Fortress Europe (Bredeloup and Pliez, 2005; Bel Air, 2006). In conflict zones, the multiplication and growing sophistication of control systems used to control and filter the passage of people provides opportunities for new forms of mobility, the Israeli-Palestinian zone being the most obvious example (Latte Abdallah and Parizot, 2011). The frontiers of the globalized world are therefore transforming control territories in the Mediterranean, not only because new systems are being deployed, but also because they must be constantly readjusted in order to take into account changes in crossing practices and the reorientation of flows adopted by migrant groups. The methods and practices used by migrants for crossing or avoiding frontiers have become more complex with each change in control systems (movement of frontiers, creation of inland detention centres, etc.) and with the evolution of crossings and passages in line with the greater sophistication of control systems (biometric, profiling, etc.) (Bigo, 1996). Areas defined by frontiers cannot be observed without taking into account the practices and reality of the actors involved. And yet the journeys taken by migrant are becoming less linear (from the point of departure and the point of arrival) and more complex in terms of time required, as they are forced to retrace their steps, wander in search of alternatives, or settle in transit zones, all the while multiplying and renewing points of departure, transit and arrival.

← 13 | 14 → Finally, this collection of papers highlights the transformation of spatial and temporal perceptions and practices by migrant populations. The introduction of increasingly complex and many-layered processes of control has had a fundamental impact on their experience. The way that they perceive and understand territories varies according to the status of each person, their rights and their ability to travel, whether in the urban area where they live or at international frontier crossings. Further, these differences highlight the emergence of new categories of mobile and immobile, legal and illegal migrants (Bauman, 1999). The establishment of different and specific forms of restriction and mobility contributes to growing differences in the way they experience territorial spaces, because of their personal bio-social profile. When their mobility is restricted or blocked, actors will sometimes react by developing various ruses, skills, tactics (de Certeau et al., 2002) and strategies of adaptation, avoidance, resistance or combat: adopting new itineraries, taking different routes, becoming invisible in order to avoid changes in control points. They are forced to be inventive and innovative in order to overcome geographical obstacles and navigate their way through the various types of status defined by legislation or regulations, and this in turn leads to the presence of new intermediaries at the frontiers (smugglers, mafia, recruitment agencies, producers of false papers, etc. (Andreas, 2001)). Thus new business opportunities emerge for trafficking using informal actors and activities that seek to circumvent sophisticated systems for controlling the passage of migrants and to turn them to their advantage through retroactive dynamics (Shamir, 2005). In their daily life, migrants need to develop new strategies of mobility in order to overcome fear, isolation, and invisibility in response to the location and disposition of control points. They must deal with shifting territories, find new groups that will allow them to integrate the society in which they land, or to discover new opportunities for moving on by developing or making use of renewed transnational links.

Increased transnational circulation of migrants, experienced by those who are sometimes unable to find their place to settle anywhere, challenges current theories about social integration. It questions the too long-dominant paradigm that immigrants can be assimilated and will identify with the diaspora, and invites empirical research into how transnational social fields are constituted by taking advantage of the very abundant literature produced by Anglo-Saxon research since the 1990s (e.g. Basch et al., 1994; Glick Schiller and Wimmer, 2002). The process of memorial reactivation within migrant groups is based on the dynamics of circulation between areas of departure and of settlement and on the process of reshaped identities that are inherent with uncertainty over personal origins.

← 14 | 15 → With this collection of articles, we find ourselves at the interface where we can observe the transformation of frontiers and controls of passage, on the one hand, and the nature of reactions, transgressions, re-appropriations, and innovations used by migrants, societies and the economic opportunities that they generate, on the other.

The originality of the volume is threefold. First, it makes it possible to sidestep the opposition of, on one side, the study of institutional systems and political processes involved in the construction of frontiers and territories to, on the other, the study of the daily practices of ordinary people who must travel differently by showing how the two interact. It is these interactions, whether they represent dialogue or conflict, between ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ dynamics where reconfigurations of territories and methods and practices for their management occur. Second, the dynamism of these processes, as a move towards setting them within the context of the last two centuries, also permits a discussion of the theoretical novelty of processes thought to be long term structures. Finally, and the third originality of our approach, the Mediterranean region in its broadest sense, to which this volume is mainly dedicated, allows us to adopt a perspective that, if not strictly speaking comparative, is at least a strong dialogue in that it offers an opportunity to demonstrate how these processes, as identified as shared forms of comprehension, operate at the local level. Through the studies presented here describing historically and locally different dynamics, the reader will be able to distinguish aspects that are specific to the various local, national and regional contexts identified from those that are specific to the Mediterranean region or, more widely, to manifestations of contemporary globalization. The question is, therefore, how to put into perspective what is ‘new’ and what is ‘global’ in these transformations (Beaujard et al., 2009), in order to re-establish the value given to the specificities of their local manifestations, as part of their historical definition, and to avoid the pitfalls of making generalizations without ignoring the theoretical opportunities. Our observation of the daily readjustments by ordinary people demands that we re-evaluate any approach based on ‘top-down’ diversity as part of a process of globalization that often becomes too engulfing when seen ‘from above’.

In order to respond to these aspirations, this volume has been compiled on the basis of a multidisciplinary reflection bringing together historians, geographers, sociologists and anthropologists who have participated in a transversal research programme within the Maison méditerranéennne des sciences de l’homme (MMSH), Aix-en-Provence (France) in 2009-2012. This is thus one of the group’s publications.2 The ← 15 | 16 → fifteen contributions presented in this collection have been grouped under four themes which confront, without seeking to be exhaustive, by taking different references in terms of perspectives and temporalities, a variety of local contexts in countries in the Northern (France, Greece, Italy, Spain) and Southern (Morocco, Tunisia) Mediterranean as well as in its Eastern region (Israeli-Palestinian region, Lebanon) and, for the purposes of comparison, the United States.

The first section, Mobility and Systems of Control, analyzes changes in institutional practices in controlling frontiers. Moving from a regime of free circulation to one of permanent controls, during the period (1880-1930) of the development of nation-states, these practices have given rise, in Europe since the mid-1990s, to new forms of externalized and negotiated political controls in the Euro-Mediterranean region. These recent changes included systems that became more and more elaborate and which are analyzed in the second section: Mobility and the Border Economy. Based on field studies in small local communities, this group of articles seeks to explain how mobile frontier populations bypass and re-appropriate the inherent weaknesses within frontier control systems and how these have an influence on the way these same systems are then readjusted. It also puts into perspective the wide range of institutional and non-institutional, formal and informal actors who are involved in the current operation of control systems at the frontiers of Europe and the Mediterranean. Taking a lateral approach to the urban areas where ‘illegal’ migrants tend to settle, the third section, Beyond State borders, migrant’s mobility in everyday life, shows how frontiers have become part of individual migrants’ corporal existence and defined by their status (irregular, asylum seekers, clandestine minors, etc.). The practices, commentaries and representations of vulnerable migrants lie at the heart of these contributions which analyze, with their relations with the ‘other’, the tactics and strategies used to overcome the many legal, symbolic and moral frontiers they face in everyday life and the ways in which they contribute to the reconstruction of identity and ← 16 | 17 → society. And finally, the role of memorial events in the construction of identity, appropriation and territorial dynamics of countries of origin and of destination is the theme for the last section, Memory and Migration, Memory of Migrations, in which different spatial and temporal contexts are examined through the prism of a polyphony of identities invoked by memories of the past.


About I. and D. Vincent 2010. Histoire de l’identification des personnes. Paris: La Découverte.

Andreas P. 2001. Border Games: Policing the US-Mexico Divide. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Audebert C. and R. Nelly 2009. “L’externalisation des frontières des ‘Nordsanbsp’ dans les eaux des ‘Suds’”. Cultures & Conflits, 73: 35-51.

Baduel P.-R. (ed.) 2009. Construire un monde? Mondialisation, pluralisme et universalisme. Paris: Karthala.

Basch L., N. Glick Schiller and C. Szanton Blanc 1994. Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-States. Langhorne: Gordon and Breach.

Bauman Z. 1999. Le coût humain de la mondialisation. Paris: Hachette.

Beaujard P., L. Berger, and P. Norel 2009. Histoire globale, mondialisations et capitalisme. Paris, La Découverte, Recherches.

Beck U. 2003. La société du risque. Sur la voie d’une autre modernité. Paris: Flammarion-Champs.

Bel Air (de) F. (ed.) 2006. Migration et politique au Moyen-Orient. Beyrouth: IFPO.

Bigo D. 1996. Polices en réseaux: l’expérience européenne. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po.

Bigo D., R. Bocco Riccardo, and J.-L. Piermay 2009. “Logiques de marquage: murs et disputes frontalières”. Cultures & Conflits [online 28.12.2009], 73 | spring 2009, [Accessed 10.10.2012] URL: http://conflits.revues.org/17484.

Boucheron P. (ed.) 2009. Histoire du monde au XVe siècle. Paris: Fayard.

Braudel F. 1993a. Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme XV-XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Livre de Poche.

Braudel F. 1993b. La Méditerranéenne et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II, Paris: Livre de Poche.

Bredeloup S. and O. Pliez (eds.) 2005. “Migrations entre les deux rives du Sahara”. Autrepart, 36.

Brown W. 2009. Murs: les murs de séparation et le déclin de la souveraineté étatique. Paris: Les Prairies ordinaires.

Certeau (de) M., L. Giard and P. Mayol 2002 [1980]. L’invention du quotidien, 1/ Arts de faire. Paris: Gallimard/Folio Essais.

Cuttitta P. 2006. “Points and lines. A topography of borders in the global space”. Ephemera, 1: 27-33.

← 17 | 18 → Fabre T. and P. Cassia (eds.) 2008. Between Europe and the Mediterranean. The Challenges and the Fears. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foucher M. 1986. L’invention des frontières. Paris: FEDN.

Glick Schiller N. and A. Wimmer 2002. “Methodological nationalism and beyond: nation-state building, migration and the social sciences”. Global Networks, 2(4): 301-334.

Grataloup C. 2006. Géohistoire de la mondialisation, le temps long du monde. Paris: Colin.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
Human mobility territorial configuration Mediterranean region
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 314 pp.

Biographical notes

Lisa Anteby-Yemini (Volume editor) Virginie Baby-Collin (Volume editor) Sylvie Mazzella (Volume editor)

Lisa Anteby-Yemini is a researcher in anthropology at the IDEMEC, CNRS-Aix Marseille University. Virginie Baby-Collin is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, TELEMME Aix-Marseille University-CNRS. Sylvie Mazzella is a senior researcher in sociology at the LAMES, Aix-Marseille University-CNRS. Stéphane Mourlane is Associate Professor in Contemporary History, TELEMME Aix-Marseille University-CNRS. Cédric Parizot is a researcher in the anthropology of politics at the IREMAM, CNRS-Aix Marseille University. Céline Regnard is Associate Professor in Contemporary History, TELEMME Aix-Marseille University-CNRS. Pierre Sintès is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, TELEMME Aix-Marseille University-CNRS.


Title: Borders, Mobilities and Migrations
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