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My goal as a social anthropologist is to investigate the ways people fashion their social worlds and find meaning in their lived experience. The core of my research agenda is the nexus between identity and space. In so doing, my research builds on and intends to specify furthers those studies in the social sciences that have sought to shed light on the relationship between mobility, identity, and the making of space in an increasingly complex, changing world. These research interests can be summed up in a few key questions: What is at stake, politically and socially, in contemporary human mobility? What is the role of space/territory in migrants’ self-understanding and self-production? How does human mobility affect social differentiation and political transformations?

Such a core research concern concretises through an active research agenda.

Irregular Migration and Smuggling Networks:

As a research associate at the Migration Policy Centre (MPC), I am currently expanding my research interests toward an investigation of smuggling networks and irregular migration across the Eastern Mediterranean corridor and the Western Balkan route. Irregular immigration has produced political heat across the world. Dramatic photos of migrants crammed into wretched boats circulates in the media. These images accompany journalistic accounts that tell stories of poor and desperate individuals who are deceived by organised crime cartels. All this has persuaded political leaders and authorities to conceive clandestine migration as a war, a war where the evil is represented by the smugglers. But who are the smugglers? How do they operate? What convinces migrants to put their lives in the smugglers’ hands? In contemporary narratives of migration, the human smuggler has earned a privileged if infamous spot as one of the most widely recognised and despised global predators. Yet, the smuggler as a facilitator or broker of human mobility has scarcely been the subject of scholarly, critical inquiries outside of mainstream representations of victimisation and exploitation. In an attempt to strengthen the relevant corpus of critical and empirical work and elaborate an adequate policy response to irregular migration, my goal is to attend to the complexity of the phenomenon by looking at human smuggling across the Eastern Mediterranean corridor and the Western Balkan route. Aware of the multiple range of processes involved in the facilitation of extra-legal mobility efforts, I am interested in investigating the roles multiple agents, even those not expressly recognised as smugglers, play at creating conditions that are conducive to human mobility.

Marie Curie Project: MAPS – Migrants And People Smugglers

To what extent is human smuggling a criminal enterprise driven by solidarity and cooperation? This is the question that my Marie Curie project addresses through a comparative study – of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Central American smuggling corridors. Having almost concluded my research in the Eastern Mediterranean corridor, the project will concentrate almost exclusively on the Central American route in order to identify similarities and differences in the organisational structures of smuggling networks, the smuggler-migrant relationship, and the profile of the facilitators. MAPS seeks to make a contribution to studies on Human Smuggling and Irregular Migration, where there is a keen interest in – yet still insufficient knowledge about – the interaction between migrants and facilitators and where criminological perspectives still dominate the debate. MAPS adopts a critical perspective and departs from the idea that smugglers obey only to a profit making logic. Inviting instead for a more complex understanding of their roles, it argues that human smuggling is embedded within ethnic networks and local economies, which are grounded on deep notions of solidarity and reciprocity. By expanding current knowledge around smuggling and its related policies, the project also aims to provide an empirical platform for policy engagement. In order to achieve its research aims, I will be based at the San Diego State University (SDSU), located at the proximities of the US/Mexican border and renown for being a centre of excellence on migratory trends from Central American. Here, I will be trained in Critical Criminology, Hispanic Studies and Social Network Analysis under the supervision of Prof Sheldon Zhang. Upon returning to my European host institution, the EUI, I will bring my new skills and further improve my policy and dissemination training under the supervision of Prof Triandafyllidou at the Cultural Pluralism Area of the GGP (EUI).

Political Agency and Identity

I am also interested in investigating the rise of new forms of political agency and subjectivity in urban spaces in Jordan at the aftermath of the Arab Spring and against the backdrop of the Syrian crisis. Many studies have now begun to acknowledge the role played by “popular forces” (including civil society institutions and more informal popular movements) in the Arab world in a time of unprecedented political turmoil either as participatory agents in the political reforms and revolutions or as mediating forces against such actions. However, none of them have focused on Jordan. The motivating interest behind this inquiry has its roots in my earlier work on the performance of political agency in al-Wihdat refugee camp: a Palestinian urban refugee camp located in Amman, Jordan. Here I analysed the ostensible absence of formal political participation among young men (shabab) from the camp and the concomitant growing fascination for Islam. In this context, approaching the fashioning of meaningful forms of political subjectivity and identity through a closer look at people living in one of the popular quarters of East Amman is all the more interesting as the Arab Spring has stormed over Jordan leaving the country apparently unharmed. My central research question is thus whether the outbreak of the Arab revolts in the Middle East has favoured the emergence of shared political fantasies and cross-cutting alliances amongst people living in the so called “popular quarters” (conventionally called “al-ahyya’ al-sha‘biyya”) of Amman and the other big urban centres of Jordan.