Author Archives: wagnerlaru

Becoming Diasporically Moroccan: how conversational categorization makes a new category


Contrary to the typical imagination of discriminatory speech being direct and obvious, othering or categorizing statements often happen more subtly through microaggression. It can be understood as the ways underlying stereotypes about race, class, gender, and other social attributes are reproduced in casual encounters – like the experience of the woman in this pic, from photographer Kiyun Kim’s project on microaggressions in a NYC university. (For more testimonies, see the Microaggressions Tumblr or this nice video at Quartz with examples from film and TV.) Microaggressions can be found anywhere, and experienced by anyone who might find their own sense of identity and belonging inadvertently or purposefully stereotyped by someone else. As they are becoming more widely researched and recognized as fostering social divisions, universities around the US are mandating that incoming students learn about the negative impacts of microaggression on their peers.

Yet, the existence of ‘microaggression’ is falling under attack by media and researchers, who question many of the claims made about potentially negative impacts of subtle speech. In Becoming Diasporically Moroccan, I try to show how the very subtle communicative and embodied modes for categorizing others do have an impact — not necessarily a direct and immediate one, but a cumulative and collective impact, as whole communities can come to feel ‘othered’ by the repetition, across members and over time, of small speech acts that create distinctions between us and them. This book doesn’t concentrate on how ‘othered’ groups feel harmed; rather, I try to focus on how othering contributes to evolving ideas of membership, participation, and a sense of belonging in an emerging group.

Let me take the example from the photograph above to illustrate how categorization happens in ordinary conversation.

No, where are you really from?

This is a question I hear quoted all the time by my research participants as one of the most troublesome ones they receive. While they are Moroccan-origin individuals who grew up in Europe, they share the problem of many migrant-origin individuals around the world of somehow not being allowed to be ‘from’ the place where they grew up.

The person asking this question may be on a genuine quest for information, but the includes layered, embedded assumptions that make it microaggressive. It is, firstly, context-specific, and depends on local knowledges and shared assumptions about what is ‘normal’; what should a person who is from somewhere look, sound, or be like? That leads to a second factor: that statement takes into account some kind of visible embodiment as categorizable in a combination of place (e.g. the somewhere she is from) and descent (or, the family lineage she comes from). This statement makes an assumption that place and descent map onto each other following a ‘normal’ category. Asking where she is really from implies that her claim to be from that somewhere is impossible. When these assumptions work together, they perpetuate this kind of (maybe unintentional…) microaggression, where this woman may feel like she has to justify being from the somewhere she feels she is from.

No wonder she is rolling her eyes…

Categorization at ‘home’

In Becoming Diasporically Moroccan, I pick apart face-to-face interactions where similar kinds of categorizing talk takes place, but in a different kind of context. Instead of looking at how Moroccan-origins manage their categorization in their European homelands – which might be compared to how lots of other minorities and migrant-origin groups have to deal with microaggression within an dominant (often ‘white’) group – this book looks at how these categorizations take place between Moroccans who live in Morocco and Moroccan-origin adults who visit Morocco from Europe. Like some other communities that develop in one place and can trace their familial descent to another place, Moroccans have a chance to regularly visit ‘home’. When they do, however, they often feel ‘othered’, in the opposite way to how many feel ‘othered’ in Europe.

By looking at individual examples of interactions in marketplaces, between resident Moroccan vendors and Moroccans-from-Europe, I show the subtle conversational details of how this ‘othering’ works. My conclusion, however, is not about how one or the other party may be doing wrong… Instead, I advocate that we start to think about how individuals like this – who grow up connected by descent and place to multiple homelands – together create new categories that help us evolve our thinking about where anyone might ‘belong’.


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Second Generation Research Dialogues in Berlin

Call for Papers for two day workshop in Berlin:

*Second Generation Research Dialogues: Comparative Perspectives on Children of Immigrants

*Berlin, 16|17 January 2009

Within integration debates across Europe, focus has shifted from the first to the so called second generation of immigrants in recent years. Their performance in educational systems and on the job markets is tied to success or failure of integration policies and scrutinized with concern, as is their cultural, social and religious orientation. In many places a very contested group, the second generation symbolizes permanency of migration and growing diversity while raising questions about the concept and mechanisms of “integration” today.

In this workshop, current work on second generation immigrants will be discussed along two main themes:

  • the second generation and the city
  • the second generation in school

Central questions and concerns include

  • the impact of cities on processes of second generation identity construction, self representation and negotiation between cultural spheres
  • its role as arena for political participation, claim making and social positioning
  • its role as living and working environment and space of opportunity or restraint
  • as social space and place of belonging
  • the educational participation of second generation immigrants in comparative perspective
  • inequalities within educational systems
  • linkages between educational settings, policies and attainment
  • the role of teachers, friends, families and other factors impacting educational careers 

The workshop offers internationally comparative perspectives on second generation research in Europe and the US, featuring keynote presentations by:

*Philip Kasinitz*, chair of Dept. of Sociology at CUNY, NYC, USA on the New Second Generation in metropolitan New York; *Jens Schneider*, Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES), Amsterdam introducing the EU- research project TIES on the European second generation covering fifteen cities in eight European countries

Workshop format:

The workshop aims at facilitating intense dialogue and exchange among doctoral students and junior researchers involved in work on second generation immigrants. This will be reflected in the amount of time in the program allocated for discussion in a constructive, supportive setting.

We invite papers presenting theoretical and/or empirical contributions from a variety of methodological perspectives and different disciplines on second generation immigrants, regarding one of the central themes:

  • the second generation and the city
  • the second generation in school

Papers should not exceed length of 7,000 words and include an abstract (no more than 700 words). It is expected that collected papers will be published in some form after the workshop.


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Seminar: ‘Distant Voices’

Culture East Midlands & ‘Making the Connections’ present


Migrant workers, representation & the arts


Wednesday 17 October 2007
Trinity Arts Centre, Grantham

11am – 4pm

These days, everyone seems to be talking about migrant workers. But while the views of politicians, academics, researchers and campaigners fill the airwaves, the voices of those most concerned are rarely heard. What are their needs and motives? How do they see their situations and this country’s response?

Art and culture are important spaces in which migrant workers can be heard and seen – directly and indirectly, and with all the complexity of artistic expression.

This regional seminar will present some recent experiences of this work, from within and beyond the East Midlands, in the context of EMDA’s research into the contribution of migrant workers to the regional economy. It has a particular bearing on rural issues, where migrant workers are now an important part of the workforce. It will be of interest to policy makers, planners, artists, creative entrepreneurs and anyone working in cultural services, economic development or rural affairs.

Speakers include EMDA, Rural Media Company, New Perspectives Theatre Company, National Institute for Continuing Adult Education (NIACE) and others; there will be exhibitions by Heather Connelly and Roaming Pictures and a short theatre performance.

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‘Borders’ Exhibit in Barcelona

Sent in by photographer Lauren Hermele, an exhibit at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

“The examination of boundaries we propose in this exhibition is an exploration of borderline territories which somehow express the contradictions of a world that moves between hypercommunication and deep schism. The closer we move together, the more labyrinthine the world becomes.”

From 4 May to 30 September 2007.


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Catastrophic Space: an interactive tour of Beirut

Laurie King-Irani posted on her blog a link to this interactive map of one of Beirut’s neighborhoods.

Can we consider ‘war’ as a kind of environmental migratory force?

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Intersections Summer Call for Papers: Migration and Environmental Change

For two whole months, until 10 September, we invite submissions to Intersections on the topic of Migration and Environmental Change. Inspired by his efforts, we have invited François Gemenne of the Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies (CEDEM, of the University of Liège and the Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI, at Sciences Po Paris, to contribute to this Summer Special CFP:

As natural disasters and climate change frequently make headlines in the media, their consequences on human settlements raise increasing concerns from policy-makers and scholars alike. In particular, the possible population movements that would be triggered by climate change have attracted widespread attention, some predicting that up to 200 million people could be displaced by 2050.

Despite these concerns, the intricate and complex linkages between environment and migration remain poorly understood and under-researched. The academic debate revolves around those contending that large refugee flows will be triggered by environmental change in a near future, and those who question the direct causality between environmental change and forced migration, insisting on the multiple, intertwined factors leading to migration. While the term ‘environmental refugees’ is gaining currency, the need to better understand the nexus environment-migration has never been more pressing, especially from an empirical point of view. How do environmental factors interact with other factors in the migration decision? How are these migrants dealt with by states and governments? What kind of assistance do they need? Will an increase in environmental changes lead to an increase of forced migrants? What kind of environmental changes trigger migration?

As usual, we welcome all kinds of audio, visual and written production, as well as commentary and debate, to be sent to

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Children and Migration: identities, mobilities and belonging(s)

9-11th April 2008
Venue: University College Cork, Ireland

Abstracts are invited for this international and interdisciplinary conference exploring childhood and migration.

While a wealth of research exists in the broad area of migration and childhood from a variety of perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds, there are few opportunities to bring this together in an integrated forum. This conference aims to provide such a forum by focusing on the intersection of these research and policy areas, focusing on children’s own experiences and perspectives of migration, diaspora and transnationalism. One of the aims of the event is to facilitate a dialogue between academic, practitioner and policy-maker perspectives. It is hoped the conference will also be an opportunity to bring together related but distinct areas of research/policy, for example national dynamics of integration with transnational processes, and, children’s experiences of migration with the experiences of children and youth in ethnic minorities.
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