MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS: Citizens Abroad: Emigration and the State in the Middle East and North Africa

By White, Gregory | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS: Citizens Abroad: Emigration and the State in the Middle East and North Africa


White, Gregory, The Middle East Journal


Citizens Abroad: Emigration and the State in the Middle East and North Africa, by Laurie A. Brand. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. xv + 223 pages. Tables. Bibl. to p. 237. Index to p. 246. $85.

Considerable scholarly attention has been devoted to the politics of labor immigration and the experience of receiving states. Scholars have examined an array of issues, including citizenship and integration, labor market segmentation, border control, sovereignty claims, and nationalism. With some exceptions, the bulk of this work has been devoted to Western Europe and North America.

Laurie Brand's Citizens Abroad, therefore, fills a gap in the literature in at least two ways: it explores the policies of sending states toward emigrants, and it treats countries outside of the advanced-industrialized context. The book examines four MENA (Middle East and North Africa) cases - Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan - and makes comparative reference to other cases within the region and beyond.

According to Citizens Abroad, post-independence states have continued to undergo "state formation" in their ongoing efforts to respond to changing external circumstances. In the arena of migration politics, they have been both reactive and proactive, with different governments nurturing a variety of institutional forms in response to the fluctuating labor demands of receiving states. At a minimum, of course, one might expect such a state response, since emigration can play an important role in relieving employment pressures within a domestic economy. State institutions might also try to facilitate the repatriation of remittances, with the ambition of seeking to regulate financial flows and, perhaps, to encourage contributions to development projects in home communities. Institutions can also play a key role in facilitating return migration, either for annual visits or, in some instances, for the permanent repatriation of emigrants.

In addition to these dimensions, however, Citizens Abroad goes one crucial step further, emphasizing efforts by states to extend their purview beyond their own borders. In this sense, post-independence states have endeavored to extend the body politic beyond territorial borders. For Brand, state institutions have pursued an active role in the lives of emigrants, subtly changing the contour of the sending state's national identity and, indeed, its sovereignty claims. To this end, states have monitored the political behavior of expatriates or endeavored to assist in the construction of citizens' identities as loyal, participating citizens in the home country. The state may establish overseas branches of a ruling party or support cultural programs intended to cultivate an image of the home state. In the end, because of state policies pertaining to the "citizens abroad," the immigrants' identities and the character of their citizenship undergoes transformation and invention.

Brand's meticulous fieldwork in the region gives Citizens Abroad its analytic punch. …

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