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Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Morocco: Migration Studies


The topic of migration can be easily viewed as a purely academic and abstract concept, discussed only in terms of theories and ideas, of policies and statistics. While it is imperative to understand the different theories behind this phenomenon in order to obtain an engendered perspective of the issue, it is all too easy to loose the human value behind migration while studying it. Decontextualized numbers lack any emotion; academic theories are devoid of a human face behind them. More than ever, it is becoming increasingly pertinent to study migration in a humanistic light and to comprehend the stories of those who are forced to permeate national borders. As a country that both emits a growing number of migrants into Europe, as well as a receiving and transit nation for many sub-Saharan Africans, the issue of migration is becoming a progressively significant and topical issue for Morocco. In recent years, the European Union has been presenting this North African country with an increasing financial incentive to more tightly monitor its borders in order to inhibit the flow of sub-Saharan African into Europe, resulting in a devastating effect on clandestine migrants and refugees themselves. Those individuals who sought to escape the political atrocities and deteriorating economic conditions of their native homelands in search of stability and prosperity on the European continent are now forced to stay in transit. In effect, life for these migrants has become increasingly difficult, as they are forced to deal with previously unforeseen hardships in a country in which they did not plan to stay. Studying migration under the Moroccan context involves a complete understanding of the issues that sub-Saharan migrants and refugees face in their daily lives and a comprehension of the unique difficulties they encounter en route to Morocco as well as throughout their stay in this North African society. In recent years, the face of a sub-Saharan migrant is becoming more and more that of a woman; driven by an array of factors, an unprecedented number of women and girls are slipping through Morocco’s borders. As sub-Saharan migration into Morocco is becoming progressively feminized, it is now becoming increasingly imperative to explore the personal narratives and lives of women in particular and to examine their experiences and histories not as a afterthought from those of men. The intent of my independent study project was to attempt just that – to examine the lives of female migrants and refugees separately from those of men, focusing on any specific difficulties and hardships that this group faces. Seeing that they comprise one of the most marginalized sectors of Moroccan society, I was driven by a desire to comprehend the actual lives and stories of these women, and to establish a genuine connection with them in the process. Through long personal interviews with fourteen female migrants and refugees, as well as eleven males, I sought to better understand the situation of this specific group. After the conclusion of my research, however, and as I began to write a dissertation on my final independent study project, I realized that I could not regard the women I interviewed only as subjects, I could not view their demographics as mere numbers, nor could I reduce their lives into a single thesis; in other words, I cannot reduce them into anything scientific just for the purpose of a study. I originally set off to do a rather quantitative analysis on my subject, to find women who had migrated from sub-Saharan African countries and conduct long and detailed interviews and questionnaires on the hardships and difficulties of their lives. By no means was this a topic that one could study from an objective viewpoint without any emotional attachment. The women I’ve met and talked to have opened up extraordinary emotional histories, and have allowed me the opportunity to explore their traumatic pasts. Through my interviews, I never once observed these women through a purely academic lens, so writing about them in a solely academic manner becomes very problematic. A research dissertation feels as if it would diminish the emotional value of my experience and diminish the oral histories of these women. After each and every single woman opened up to me in ways I had never before envisioned, this is the least I can do. I would be doing no justice to these women by describing their experience in purely academic terms. Thus, the purpose of this independent study paper is not just to make sense of my research findings in an organized and coherent way, but to give the women a voice through which to express themselves, a voice that they are so often denied. My research intentions are not to come to a solid conclusion, and my dissertation involves no concrete hypothesis, but is rather an attempt to make sense of this emotional research experience in general.


Demography, Population, and Ecology


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