GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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‘Outsiders’ in France, ‘Westerners’ in the Gulf? The professional trajectory of second-generation French graduates of North African origin
Paper Proposal Text :
This article aims at unfolding the contemporary phenomenon of mobility of French graduates of Maghreb descent to the Gulf states. Our contribution lies at the intersection between two developments in sociology and migration studies.

First, discriminations against ‘visible minorities’ has acquired visibility in the field (Beauchemin, Hamel, Lesne, Simon P.). Central both to researchers and policy-makers, the case of the professional integration of French of Maghreb descent is under scrutiny. Discrimination against the latter reaches structural levels: it has become relatively constant (Silberman, Fournier, Cediey, Forony, Garner); and has now striking features : according to Ene Jones E. (2012), withholding a higher diploma cannot compensate for the ‘Maghreb stigma’ on the job market. In parallel to this pattern of quasi-structural discrimination, mobility is on the rise in many regions of the world. If transnational dynamics have been studied with historical focus on the MENA region (ie. Egyptian migration temporary migration to the Gulf states) or through the lenses of low-skilled labour-intensive migrations (i.e. South-East Asian workers to the Gulf states), flows of high-skilled workers and ensuing ‘networks’ of transnational knowledge are increasing salient topics. This is true in particular in the Gulf region, where flows of highly-skilled migrants are both viewed more positively by states than non-skilled one (UN World Population Series) and are consequential in all areas of policy-making, from the visible business sector to the least explored defence public sector (Gulf Labour Markets and Migration database)(GLMM).
At the cross-roads of these research agendas, this article – and hopefully, book contribution – aims at decrypting the contemporary phenomenon of French graduates of Maghreb descent’s mobility in the Gulf states.
The hypotheses that will we test are multi-dimensional. Are French graduates’ motivations: economically- based (to earn more money); religious (as a side-effect of growing expressions and perceptions of Islamophobia in Western countries) ; cultural and linguistic ; individualistic ; communitarian ; short-term, long-term; a will to turn the ‘Arab stigma’ into a cultural and professional asset?

Made difficult by structural constraints – notably the legal provisions hindering the collection of ethnic-based data in France being a notable one – this research is based on the analysis of a body of 30 interviews of French nationals of Maghreb descent with professional experience in the Gulf region (exploratory observations have identified a young population 25-35 years’ old) highly qualified; on attendance of informational seminars targeting students and professionals desiring to pursue a career in that specific region ; as well as all relevant primary administrative sources developed by the State in parallel to the expansion of France’s parliamentary representation to its expatriates communities around the world in 2012 ; on a body of statistical and legal material within the GLMM database based in Kuwait University and at the Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute (Florence).

This contribution is relevant in particular with respect to three questions raised in this workshop:

. What transnational knowledge networks exist between organizations and individuals in the Gulf and those in Europe ? Who are the predominant actors behind this phenomenon (recruitment agencies, embassies, etc.)?
. What is the role of highly skilled individuals within transnational knowledge networks spanning the Gulf and other regions? Who are these individuals; what is their background; where do they come from; what roles do they play in the Gulf; and, where do they go after they leave the region? Do they maintain relations with the Gulf?
. What forms of knowledge (cultural, natural, social, or technological) flow between these actors in the Gulf and elsewhere?