Living Tangier: Migration, Race, and Illegality in a Moroccan City

Publication Year



Abdelmajid Hannoum, Ph.D. 1996

Since the early 1990s, new migratory patterns have been emerging in the southern Mediterranean. Here, a large number of West Africans and young Moroccans, including minors, make daily attempts to cross to Europe. The Moroccan city of Tangier, because of its proximity to Spain, is one of the main gateways for this migratory movement. It has also become a magnet for middle- and working-class Europeans seeking a more comfortable life.

Based on extensive fieldwork, Living Tangier examines the dynamics of transnational migration in a major city of the Global South and studies African “illegal” migration to Europe and European “legal” migration to Morocco, looking at the itineraries of Europeans, West Africans, and Moroccan children and youth, their strategies for crossing, their motivations, their dreams, their hopes, and their everyday experiences. In the process, Abdelmajid Hannoum examines how Moroccan society has been affected by the flows of migrants from both West Africa and Europe, focusing on race relations and analyzing issues related to citizenship and social inequality. Living Tangier considers what makes the city one of the most attractive for migrants preparing to cross to Europe and illustrates not only how migrants live in the city but also how they live the city—how they experience it, encounter its people, and engage its culture, walk its streets, and participate in its events.

Reflecting on his own experiences and drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, Tayeb Saleh, Amin Maalouf, and Dany Laferrière, Hannoum provokes new questions in order to reconfigure migration as a postcolonial phenomenon and interrogate how Moroccan society responds to new cultural processes.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Revolution
Chapter 2. Migration, Space, and Children
Chapter 3. Burning Matters
Chapter 4. Transit "Illegality"
Chapter 5. Europeans in the City
Epilogue: Notes on the Migrant Condition



“In the Western imaginary Tangier appears as exotic and romantic. The reality is far more complex. In this heartfelt and beautifully written account, Abdelmajid Hannoum brings us face to face with protests against the indignities of daily life and the crisscrossed paths of African and Arab migrants seeking a new life in Europe and Europeans seeking a new life in North Africa. From the local response to the Arab Spring to the realities of children's street life, Hannoum's deeply researched and personally involved account adds immeasurably to our understanding of the pain and promise of migration.”—Lawrence Rosen, Princeton University

“By combining perspectives from three different sets of migrants—young rural Moroccans seeking to cross into Europe, West Africans in transit from their home countries to Europe, and Europeans who have migrated to Morocco—Living Tangier examines migration on multiple registers at once, allowing the author to draw attention to the universal elements intertwined with all migratory movement as well as to provide an insightful look into the multiple ways in which migration shapes the dynamics of one specific city.”—Dinah Hannaford, Texas A&M University

“Beautifully written and moving, Living Tangier is a truly solid ethnography.”—Rachel Newcomb, Rollins College

Series Title
Contemporary Ethnography
University of Pennsylvania Press