Processes of Illegalized Migration from the Perspective of Biographical Research and Figurational Sociology: The Land Border Between Spain and Morocco

Gabriele Rosenthal, Eva Bahl, Arne Worm


In this article, we aim to clarify the benefit of perspectives derived from biographical research and figurational sociology in attempts to understand and explain illegalized migration. In addition, we intend to discuss the methodological implications of this perspective. The article is based on our research on the "social construction of border zones," which is conducted within the Spanish exclaves Melilla and Ceuta. We will concentrate in particular on the reconstruction of the experiences of migrants who were unable to "legally" cross the border between Moroccan and Spanish territory. On the basis of a contrastive comparison between three cases of migrants from various regions and social contexts (Syria, Mauritania, and Cameroon) with profoundly diverse migration experiences, we want to reconstruct processual structures of illegalized migration movements.

Our assumption is that the contextualization of migration processes within an individual's biography (and the biography's intertwining with wider collective and sociohistorical processes and conditions) will enable us to make an analysis of how the illegalization and criminalization of migration is constituted, experienced and processed. We also aim to analyze how notions of belonging are generated and used as instruments and effects of power in social settings and how changes in the sense of belonging are linked to different migration experiences. The reconstruction of migration experiences and of the dynamics of belonging demands a precise historical contextualization and diachronic analysis of the researched cases regarding local situations and their interplay with global or transnational processes and circumstances.



biographical research; figurational sociology; combination of methods; ethnography; group discussion; narrative interview; migration and forced migration; border zones


Copyright (c) 2016 Gabriele Rosenthal, Eva Bahl, Arne Worm

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