Accepted paper:

Between Europe and Africa: discourses of identity and independence among Sahrawi migrants in the Canary Islands

Authors:

Marisa Ensor (University of Tennessee)

Paper short abstract:

I examine the strategies adopted by the Sahrawi community in the Canary Islands, Spain, to maintain their sense of identity which, framed by their Spanish nationality and North African roots, is expressed through conflicting discourses of belonging and independence.

Paper long abstract:

Western Sahara, a Spanish colony until 1976, is the last African colonized country still waiting for independence. In November 1975, coinciding with the death of Spanish dictator General Franco, Moroccan King Hassan II assembled the so-called Green March—an estimated 35,000 Moroccan civilians who crossed into Western Sahara to annex the northern two-thirds of the territory for Morocco. Many Sahrawis fled across the Algerian border and currently live in one of the four refugee camps set up in the town of Tindouf. Others sought refugee in the nearby Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago located about 100 km from the northwest African coast. While the Sahrawi community in the Canaries is fairly well integrated within mainstream Spanish society, links with their African counterparts are constantly being reinforced. Information campaigns, visits to the refugee camps in Tindouf, and hosting of refugee children for the summer holidays are among the many activities organized by Sahrawi NGOs in the Canary Islands. Based on fieldwork carried out in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the two closest islands to the African coastline, this papers explores the strategies adopted by the Saharawi community in the Canary Islands in their efforts to cope with the challenges of prolonged forced migration. In particular, this paper focuses on how displaced Sahrawis' sense of identity, framed by their Spanish nationality and North African roots, is expressed through conflicting discourses of belonging and independence.

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