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Sylvie Daviet and Xavier Daumalin
p. 7-9
This article is a translation of:
Introduction [fr]

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The mobility of activities and its different facets

1This special issue of the Journal of Mediterranean Geography focuses on the mobility of activities in the Mediterranean Basin as part of a more general reflection on one of the major transformations that have occurred in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In that period, the rise in foreign direct investment (UNCTAD, 2014), the development of free zones (BOST, 2010) and the significant globalization of firms have accompanied the liberalization of capital and the opening of markets (CARROUE, 2015). This evolution has triggered a huge geographical redeployment of activities which materializes, depending on places, in offshoring dynamics – which signal territories in distress – or in booming business areas that radiate growth and attractiveness (MOUHOUD, 2006). The world has reached a tipping point and a rebalancing process is happening under our eyes (OECD, 2010; BEN HAMMOUDA et al., 2012.), as new forms of capitalism emerge in southern countries (PIVETEAU et al., 2013).

2These transformations in the Mediterranean have far-reaching consequences. They are part of a free-trade area project which has come under different names since the beginning of the Barcelona process in 1995. But they are now impacted by the shockwaves of a multidimensional crisis. First, a financial and economic crisis, caused by the subprime crash in the United States in 2007, reached Europe and spread to Mediterranean countries. Second, a political and security crisis followed the “Arab Spring” in 2011. It started in Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia and expanded to the Eastern Mediterranean as an earthquake provoking multiple aftershocks. Beyond the systemic aspects of this global crisis, the changes we discover in this issue are heavy with new social, territorial and epistemological stakes.

3In the 1990’s and 2000’s, several issues of the Journal of Mediterranean Geography studied industrial changes by focusing successively on three driving forces: first, the sudden emergence of the concept of globalization (Industries en Méditerranée, de la marginalisation à la mondialisation, CÔTE et al., 1997); then, the need to redefine industry (Redéfinir l’industrie, DAVIET, 1999); finally, a firm-based approach to better understand the dynamics of business activities at a time when boundaries, both geographical and sectorial, were blurring (Entreprises en Méditerranée : héritages, modèles, redéploiements, DAVIET et al., 2006). We now turn to the mobility of activities as a multifaceted process and we tackle the subject through three main approaches: first, the mobility of capital and investment flows; second, the mobility of economic stakeholders (traders, executives and business leaders who cannot reasonably be studied separately from their family, national and local origins); third, the mobility of development models (free zones, science parks and competitive clusters) because the models circulate from place to place but materialize differently depending on territories.

4Territorial restructuring is a direct consequence of the mobility of activities and these fast-paced and deep-reaching evolutions pose a series of empirical and theoretical problems: (1) the issue related to these activities’ stakeholders and to their forms of organization comes as central in most of the texts presented in this volume; (2) the issue of the factors of mobilities, of the institutional contexts where they take place and of the policies to boost or control them; (3) the issue of the related impacts, in terms of landscape changes, of social and space disparities and regional imbalances; (4) the issue of the phenomena’s different scales that have to be embraced simultaneously: the global, macro-regional, national and local scales; (5) finally, major theoretical issues are at stake when studying these mobilities and they should be seriously taken into account. While the study of business and economic activities has long been shaped in geography by the theories of location and territorial anchorage, the subject is now tackled in terms of transnational and circulatory dynamics and through the concepts of networks, diasporas and multi sited territories, all of which confirm the hypothesis that a trans-Mediterranean form of entrepreneurship actually exists (DAVIET, 2015). Through a panel of multidisciplinary contributors composed of historians, geographers, economists and political scientists, this special issue of ten papers offers several lessons.

Entrepreneurial mobility in a long term perspective: lessons from the past and for the present

5First, this volume shows that these mobilities are part of a long-term evolution dating back to the late eighteenth century. The contributions of Gracia DOREL-FERRÉ, Mohamed Lazhar GHARBI, Xavier DAUMALIN and Liliane NASSER come from a one-day seminar that examined entrepreneurial mobility through the observation of centuries-old practices (BUTI, JANIN‑THIVOS, RAVEUX, 2013). The seminar was organized by a research group (“From one shore to another: Mediterranean economies and their worlds from the modern era to the present day”) which belongs to the TELEMME laboratory of the Mediterranean Institute for Human and Social Sciences (MMSH, Aix‑en-Provence). The seminar’s scientific approach follows a long tradition of bringing out new interpretations from the Mediterranean area. Except for the atypical case of Ben Ayyed, a Tunisian banker studied by Mohamed Lazhar GHARBI (Faculty of Manouba, Tunisia), the different papers analyze how the families of Catalan, Greek and Lebanese entrepreneurs have evolved over several generations and how their mobilities have often developed beyond the Mediterranean perimeter.

6Second, this volume also details the long-lasting effects of past entrepreneurial mobility on today’s territories, notably the large metropolitan cities where business actors moved in or back to develop their activities. The paper of Gracia DOREL-FERRÉ (University of Savoie) covers a period ranging from 1780 to 1850 and focuses on the home return of Catalans who had emigrated to the Caribbean Islands. Their investments significantly contributed to the economic expansion of Catalonia at that time and their industrial and commercial networks contributed to shape the city of Barcelona. Xavier DAUMALIN (Aix-Marseille Université) goes as far as proposing the concept of “Greek Diaspora” through the study of entrepreneurs established in Marseille in the nineteenth century. They developed trans-Mediterranean business and industrial networks and even expanded their activities beyond Mediterranean space as far as Africa and Northern Europe. Liliane NASSER (Aix-Marseille Université) has followed the careers of Lebanese entrepreneurs in Marseille throughout the twentieth century. They founded some famous companies and also built institutions in the city where they had settled. In that case, the mobility of activities finds an echo in actors who have fundamentally and often successfully changed their territory of adoption, either by following the path traced by former traders or by creating new connections that revived the dynamics of entrepreneurial mobility.

Entrepreneurial mobility in the today’s Mediterranean and its contrasted results

7Regarding the current period, the relevant international literature remains under the influence of the works of MICHAELIS (1990) and SAXENIAN (2006). They studied the networks of migrant entrepreneurs who have developed business, especially between their countries of origin (India, China and Israel) and the legendary Silicon Valley where they had acquired scientific, technological and managerial skills. Similar forms of success have been identified on the southern shore of the Mediterranean (DAVIET, 2013; GRONDEAU, 2015; EL AMDOUNI, 2015), but different papers in this issue highlight the limitations of such models. A case in point is the paper written by Linda GARDELLE, Josselin DROFF (ENSTA Bretagne) and Aziz NATAF (Cread, Algiers). They observe the intentions of young North Africans studying in French engineering schools and wonder if they are prepared to return home in order to develop high-tech companies. Although Algeria is strengthening its science parks policy, the Algerian diaspora seems less inclined to support such projects than the Tunisian or Moroccan diaspora, a discrepancy which of course calls for clarification.

8The paper of Badreddine YOUSFI (University of Oran) takes a national view to study the mobility of executives in southwestern Algeria. It raises the question of the organization of the Sahel-Maghreb space where the Algerian government intervenes massively by building infrastructure facilities. Executives who originate from the north of the country are reluctant to get involved durably in the social life of this unattractive area. The text of Jean-Pierre CASSARINO (EUI) offers a reinterpretation of the link between return migration and entrepreneurship in Tunisia by taking into consideration the full cycle of migration mobility (complete, incomplete or interrupted). His paper shows that entrepreneurs represent only a third of the survey sample; the younger generations find it difficult to complete their migratory cycle and more frequently opt for independent professional activities, either formal or informal ones.

9The paper of Hamadi TIZAOUI (University of Tunis) focuses on the mobility of capital rather than the mobility of entrepreneurs. It shows that the dissemination of the manufacturing industry from the city of Tunis towards the inner areas of the country has remained limited because the clustering effects are concentrated in the metropolitan area of Tunis. Finally, the work of Alessandra SCROCCARO (University of Montpellier) and Angela ALAIMO (University of Padua) deals with the networks of the “made in Italy” actors who move currently between Italy, Romania and Tunisia. It aims to understand the life paths of these entrepreneurs who help to create multi sited territories.

10Therefore, the results of these mobilities are contrasted. These five papers above highlight hardships rather than success stories as the mobility of people and activities does not always bring about the expected positive restructuring impact on the territories. It comes as no surprise that the Mediterranean rarely conforms to the archetype of standard models. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, its leading sectors have never been what the rest of Europe regards are leading sectors (CHASTAGNARET, 1997). Today still – and in a context plagued by instability – it is looking for its way.

11In contrast with these micro studies, the paper of Pierre BECKOUCHE (Paris 1, Ladyss) proposes a macro vision of the Mediterranean through the ITAN European program (Integrated Territorial Analysis of the Neighborhoods) managed by the International College of Territorial Sciences (CIST). Indeed, in 2012, the Epson program (European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion) of the European Union launched a research project on the neighborhoods of Europe. Its objective was to create a database of local territories in these countries, from Morocco to Russia, including the Western Balkans, in order to understand better the interactions between these territories and those of the European Union. The project was completed in late 2014 and could form the basis of a “Spatial Development Perspective of European Neighborhoods.”

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Bibliographical reference

Sylvie Daviet and Xavier Daumalin, « Foreword », Méditerranée, 124 | 2015, 7-9.

Electronic reference

Sylvie Daviet and Xavier Daumalin, « Foreword », Méditerranée [Online], 124 | 2015, Online since 15 June 2016, connection on 25 March 2018. URL :

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Sylvie Daviet

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