Sociology and Anthropology

Citizens Abroad: Emigration and the State in the Middle East and North Africa

This book explores a critical and often neglected aspect of emigration from Middle Eastern countries. Rather than focusing on the policies of the states receiving Middle Eastern immigrants, Brand’s research studies the policies of those Middle Eastern states from which emigration originates. She attributes this neglect to the chauvinism of scholars writing from the Americas and Western Europe who have made their own countries the central actors of their research. Her other theoretical contribution is to challenge and deconstruct simplistic and outdated conceptions of state sovereignty. She selects four case  studies (viz., Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Jordan), noting each one’s varied levels of involvement in the expatriates’ lives, the emigrants’ different destinations, and the dissimilar relationships between the expatriates and their countries of origin. By bringing together four disparate cases in one book, Brand addresses the larger question of how emigration from states impacts the originating states’ conceptions of their own sovereignty.  

In the first two chapters, she frames her study’s contribution to political science and other treatments of emigration, particularly in a Middle Eastern and North African context. Brand asserts that her research points to an expanded understanding of the concept of sovereignty, “given the continuous re- and de-constructing of sovereignty over the years” and “challenge to the inside-outside dichotomy regarding immigrant and emigrant communities” (p. 44). She returns to this theme in her conclusion by asserting that the authority of the originating states is resilient and continues to be relevant to nationals who live outside its geographic boundaries.

Her next chapter deals specifically with Morocco and its attempt to exert political, economic, and cultural influence over its citizens in France, Spain, The Netherlands, and elsewhere. She sees a desire to control their financial remittances as a significant motivator for the state’s desire to control Moroccans living abroad. However, she cautions that state actions cannot be seen in purely economic terms, for both the state and those Moroccans living abroad see the maintenance of connections as a matter of symbolic importance and (national) identity preservation. The author weaves these factors together while outlining the historical trajectory of state policies toward emigrants and concludes that the Moroccan state’s conception of its sovereignty extends past geographic boundaries and into less tangible realms.

Laurie A. Brand, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 246 pages.

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