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Morocco and the Netherlands: Migration and Transnational Identity (SIT)


Todd Heidt

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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This SIT program examines the factors driving internal and international migration in Morocco and elsewhere in North and sub-Saharan Africa. You will consider how human mobility is shaped by religion, security, youth culture, desertification, poverty, violence and other pressing issues, and how mobility engenders transnational art and multilayered identities. You will contextualize the social and psychological impact of migration through discussion with Moroccan residents in the Netherlands.

Major topics of study include:

  • The experience of sub-Saharan African asylum seekers and Syrian refugees, and related issues of human rights
  • Factors driving internal and international migration in Morocco and elsewhere in North and sub-Saharan Africa
  • The impact of remittances on rural communities in the High Atlas and Rif Mountains
  • NGOs' role in promoting human rights for immigrants and integrating Syrian refugees in Moroccan society
  • Moroccan immigrants in Europe, the cross-border labor force, and Morocco-European Union relations
  • Effects of human mobility on communities, politics and economies
  • Perceptions of Moroccan immigrants and Islam in the Netherlands
  • Social and psychological impacts of migration
  • Immigrant youth and identity
  •   Gender and migration

The program is located at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning (CCCL), housed in a beautiful nineteenth-century Moorish style riad in Rabat's centuries-old medina. Rabat's medina dates back to the sixteenth century when it was founded by Moorish refugees fleeing Spain after the fall of Granada. The Center is ideally situated near important cultural sites students often wish to explore, including the twelfth-century Kasbah Oudayas and the Ville Nouvelle, established by the French colonial administration at the beginning of the twentieth century. From the program base in Rabat, you will begin thematic coursework, intensive language instruction in both Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan dialect, and the Research Methods and Ethics course. Cultural immersion is greatly facilitated through an eight-week homestay with a working- or middle-class Moroccan family.

You will spend eight days in the Netherlands. During the programs excursion to the Netherlands, you will meet with Moroccan immigrants and learn firsthand about various patterns of integration and marginalization. The excursion features lectures by local academics, NGO activists, and second-generation Moroccan/Dutch elected officials. The excursion is also an opportunity to revisit many of the conceptual topics and theoretical discussions explored in the classroom. Highlights include a roundtable discussion with Dutch students at the University of Amsterdam, visits to Duch-Moroccan labor migration associations, a guided tour of the Dutch parliament, where you will meet Dutch politicians and learn about migration policies and the rise of right-wing politics and Islamaphobia, and a meeting with Dutch-Moroccan women's activists in the Netherlands.

You will travel with your group across the north of Morocco to the cities of Al Hoceima and Berkane and the border town Nador. Shortly after flying to Amsterdam, you will see firsthand the lived experience of classroom topics, including the cross-border labor force and Morocco-EU relations.  Since most Moroccan migrants in the Netherlands come from the northeast of Morocco, you will gain a better sense on the ground of the socioeconomic and cultural environment form which the migrants originally come. While learning about the migrants' daily lives before crossing the Mediterranean, you will have a multi-site learning experience that includes both the sending and the host country.

The program convenes regular discussion groups between SIT students and Moroccan university students at the Mohammed V University in Rabat and the Iben Tofail University in Kenitra. Held both in and outside of the classroom, these discussion provide opportunities to engage in cross-cultural dialogue with Moroccan students. Topics for discussion may include youth and migration, gender issues, religion, human rights, and the influence of Europe. You will have the opportunity to attend lectures at Mohammad V University with your Moroccan peers.

Living with a host family is an integral component of this SIT program. Homestays provide you with a unique window into the daily life of Moroccan family members and let you practice language skills, particularly darija (Moroccan Arabic) and, in some cases, French. The program offers two homestays in very different environments, revealing the differences between life in urban and rural Moroccan communities. You will live with a middle or working class family in Rabat for twelve weeks. The homestay is coordinated by the host institution, the CCCL, which has collaborated with homestay families for more than a decade. You will also stay in a rural community near Beni-Mellal in central Morocco. This four-day homestay gives you the change to experience rural Moroccan life and learn about the culture of migration in rural Morocco.

You will choose between an internship and an Independent Study Project (ISP). If you choose to complete an internship during the last four weeks of the program, you will be placed with an organization in Morocco to gain work experience and develop professional skills. SIT internships are hands-on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper about your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with. You may also design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. If you choose to complete the ISP in the last four weeks of the semester, you will work closely with your academic director to design the project on a topic that pertains to migration, mobility or transnational identity. Possible topic areas include:

  • The relationship between the Kingdom of Morocco and its residents abroad
  • Consequences of irregular migration on racial perceptions in the receiving country
  • Syrian refugees in Morocco
  • LGBT refugees in Morocco
  • Transnational dimensions of Sufi Islam
  • Migrant images in Moroccan media
  • Youth and migration
  • Causes and consequences of clandestine migration
  • Sub-Saharan migrants and their integration into Moroccan society
  • European immigration laws and their impact on migration trends in Morocco
  • Migrant remittances and local development
  • Life narratives of migrants
  • European economic crises and return migration
  • Female sub-Saharan activism in Rabat
  • Refugees and labor rights in Rabat and Casablanca
  • Masculinity and returning migrants from Italy

Learn more about the SIT Morocco: Migration and Transnational Identity program and other SIT programs.

Credits:   4.5 for the fall or spring semester

Advisor: Professor Katie Stewart

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Monday, May 23, 2022