Challenging State-Centered Geopolitics with Migrant Narratives: Reflections on a Moroccan Conversation

Nizar Messari
Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI)

This contribution is the outcome of several conversations I personally had with migrants and refugees in Morocco. More often than not, the current discourse around migration is one of exclusion, painting migrants as inherent threats to the security, stability, economy, and culture of their host countries. While the Westphalian state seeks to further strengthen its borders against these migrants in the hopes of fulfilling its security obligations, the narratives shared by the interviewed migrants reveal that such a traditional understanding of international politics provides only a partial picture of the currents that are shaping world politics. In recognizing the voice, agency, and experiences of migrants, I posit a different understanding of space which is dynamically altered by human decisions and movements, and by the stories of these human agents: stories of hope, stories of suffering and hardship, and stories of resilience. In other words, while individuals and non-state organizations may be hindered by states and borders, these states and borders do not stop them from acting or moving around. Instead they are able to redefine and narrate space according to their needs and priorities, even amidst legal and security obstacles. My analysis of these migrant stories, situated in North Africa and the Sahel, therefore concludes that space does matter, though perhaps in a manner distinct from that defined by the traditional state.

KEYWORDS: Space, Geopolitics, Voice, North Africa and the Sahel, Borders/Migration

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