On the Edge of Existence: Malian Migrants in the Maghreb


  • Line Richter Department of An-thropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark




Migrants, Maghreb, Mali, Liminality, Limbo


Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Malian migrants and migration brokers in Mali, Algeria, Morocco, and France, this article investigates life in exile on the edge of Europe. Zooming in on the experiences of interlocutors in Morocco and Algeria, the article will explore the experiential dimensions of living in an extended liminality. Anthropologically, life in so-called places of transit, such as the Maghreb countries, has often been dealt with through the lens of liminality. In this article my aim is to build on the insights from such endeavors, and re-orient the focus by illuminating what this specific type of permanent liminality entails. I posit that a more suitable term to call this is ‘limbo’. This, I argue, consists of three main features. First, the motivation for leaving Mali is for most migrants embedded in the lack of opportunities for social mobility: the Malian youth who end up leaving, are in Honwana’s words, stuck in ‘waithood’ at home, in what many argue is a liminal social position. Second, social and political structures are not absent in the Maghreb, rather they are quite discernable and can be seen as continuations and mimicking of existing structures. Third, experiences of dramatic ruptures with humanity and morality are key characteristics of life on the edge of Europe.


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