From 09/16/2021 to 09/17/2021


September 16th -17th 2021 at IMéRA, Marseille



Over the last few years, the extensive academic literature on migration controls in North Africa and in the Sahel (Gaibazzi, Bellagamba, Dünnwald 2017) may stem from the growing scientific interest in the issue of “externalization” (Guiraudon 2002, Boswell 2003, Gammeltoft-Hansen 2006, Balzacq 2009). Various scholars have analysed the construction of migration policies on the African continent with reference to the European action. Whereas this concept has been very much relevant to European civil society organizations (Migreurop 2006) in order to explore the transformation of migration laws, norms and practices, it also finds its own limits from an empirical and theoretical viewpoint. In addition to its Euro-centred bias, the reference to “externalization” implies, at least in theory, that third countries, particularly African countries, would constitute homogeneous entities and passive recipients exposed to pressures and normative transfers coming from the European Union, its member states and given international organizations. In other words, this concept overlooks an array of political and social dynamics in African States that need to be addressed. African countries may indeed capitalize on the externalities of the cooperation with a view to buttressing their own position in the field of migration management (Cassarino 2018, El Qadim 2018, Perrin 2020), security (Frowd 2018) and politics. Consequently, international pressures and influences (Geiger and Pécoud 2010) on the construction of African migration policies are embedded in the strategies of state and non-state actors,   at regional, national and local levels, which are part of new paradigms designed to (re)legitimize themselves, to make them a resource, or even to reposition themselves in the international arena. International dynamics are thus integrated into contexts with multiple variables - whether these are connected with society, identity (Bensaâd 2009), and politics. Such international dynamics are also part of mobility and administrative practices that nourish and shape them at the same time.

This conference is aimed at fostering a new academic perspective emphasizing African actors’ referents in the construction of migration policies. By crossing various disciplines and levels of analysis, we seek to investigate the ways in which “externalities”, in the field of migration, are translated in the African social and political “grounds” (Rottenburg, Behrends, Park 2014). This conference is also an opportunity to rethink the dividing line between what can be viewed as being external to the continent and what is “endogenous” in the construction process of migration policies.

The conference will address two levels of analysis.

The first day of the conference will be devoted to the analysis of the state level. African countries’ capacity to negotiate migration agreements, despite their unequal bargaining power, will be studied (Infantino 2019). This endeavour is crucial to unveil the evolution of diplomatic and political strategies resulting from international pressures and regional contexts. It is also important to discuss the consequences of these developments on states especially when considering that their power and territorial sovereignty can be paradoxically reinforced, sometimes without the knowledge and to the detriment of their own population. Concomitantly, their own legitimacy may be buttressed at regional or international level. In this connection, scholar Amitav Acharya (2004) has clearly demonstrated how some states may be in a position to readjust locally norms and practices transferred from abroad, on the one hand, and turn their external relations to their own advantage, on the other hand.

The second day will be devoted to the analysis of the infra- or trans-state level. We will seek to investigate spaces more locally. In these spaces, processes of adherence or compliance can be examined, as well as patterns of (re) appropriation (re)legitimation and even the status quo resulting from international pressures to manage migration. Among others, we need to understand how the judicial, political and security institutions, as well as civil societies, have been transformed in the African context. Just like we need to capture how migrants’ mobility practices have changed, and, from a broader perspective, how this level of interaction tends to reconfigure internal and transnational social and political relationships.

Moreover, we propose to analyse how these dynamics are conducive to migration “markets” (Andersson 2004, Gammeltoft-Hansen 2006) that hinge upon financial or symbolic resources mobilized by international institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

Finally, this conference will also be an opportunity to question the realization and feasibility of an “African approach” to migration (“African Agenda for Migration”), to explore the “Africanness” that is often highlighted with reference to mobility, and to reflect on processes of “Africanization” in the construction of policies and practices designed to address migration matters.

We solicit proposals for papers from scholars across disciplines (law, political science, anthropology, sociology, geography, history) that explore the research themes mentioned in the two levels of analysis. Submissions from African researchers and scholars are encouraged.


Please send project proposals of 500 words maximum (in French or in English), and a short biography (200 words) indicating your affiliation,


Also, please specify your planned cities of departure and arrival.

Your proposal will be examined by the scientific committee and its final decision will be communicated by January 15 2021.

The conference will be held in French and English. Participants are expected to have passive skills in both languages.


Sophie Bava (LPED, IRD-AMU - SoMuM),
Camille Cassarini (LPED, IRD-AMU),
Jean-Pierre Cassarino (Collège d’Europe, Varsovie),
Chloé Chatelin (SoMuM),
Alizée Dauchy (IEE, USL Bruxelles),
Delphine Perrin (LPED, IRD-AMU).