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“Home” away from home?

On Moroccan veterans’ spatial experience and feeling of “strangerness” in social residences in Bordeaux (France)
Un chez-soi loin de chez soi ? Expérience spatiale et sentiment d’« étrangèreté » des anciens combattants marocains dans deux résidences sociales à Bordeaux (France)
Myriame Ali-Oualla

Résumés

Les anciens combattants marocains présents en France s’inscrivent dans une des nombreuses traditions migratoires nées de la domination coloniale. À la fin des années 1990, des septuagénaires et octogénaires marocains arrivaient dans la ville de Bordeaux, espérant accéder à leur pension de retraite après s’être mobilisés dans les troupes françaises. Dès lors, engagés dans une dynamique de « sur-mobilité » entre le Maroc et la France, ils sont passés par différentes formes d’hébergement jusqu’à être pris en charge en résidence sociale. En partant de l’approche des « cultures matérielles », l’investigation de leur espace domestique révèle des tendances d’appropriation diverses se manifestant par le biais de trois ambiances, liées aux conditions de résidence temporaires de ces vétérans. Malgré un détachement manifeste, ils trouvent des moyens pour satisfaire leur besoin d’un « chez-soi », en cultivant une atmosphère familière en dehors de leur espace domestique d’accueil. Les entretiens semi-directifs, ainsi que les observations in situ restituées grâce à des méthodes visuelles, permettent de traduire la condition d’habiter particulière des anciens combattants marocains en France et les atmosphères spatiales qui résultent de leurs appropriations et leurs usages.

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Texte intégral

1In France, North African or Moroccan migrant elders are usually associated with the large immigration movement of the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1975), when the French authorities imported labour to help rebuild the country and contribute to urban development and economic growth after WWII. Arriving as single migrant workers, they were forced to undertake the hard and ungratifying work that the locals refused to do (Bennegadi, Bourdillon, 1990). They stayed on the outskirts of the city, living in large numbers in hostels for migrant workers (foyers de travailleurs migrants) and in tight-knit communities. Some were never able to bring over their families, as the government considered that they did not tick all the boxes to secure decent conditions for their relatives. For years after their retirement, they lived in hostel rooms and received minimum welfare benefits which they continued to share with their relatives on the other side of the Mediterranean (Schaeffer, 2009; Haas de, Plug, 2006).

  • 1 In the early 1960s – in 1956 for Morocco – , the “pension crystallisation law” was passed to freeze (...)
  • 2 According to Belkacem (2015), it was often under pressure from the village caïds that Moroccan sold (...)
  • 3 National Office for Veterans and Victims of War. This office includes all veterans, whether French (...)
  • 4 Section 211 of Act No. 2010-1657 mandates the French government to end the discriminatory freeze on (...)

2In the mid-1990s, a new figure of Moroccan migration joined this aging population. By virtue of a new law that allowed them to claim a better retirement pension,1 veteran soldiers from former French colonies who had been enlisted by force in the French military2 started arriving in Bordeaux, where the headquarters of the Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre (ONAC-VG)3 was located. Local and national media (Zeneidi-Henry, 2003) reported on the atypical situation of these Moroccan migrant elders, who stood out by virtue of their traditional clothing in public spaces, in social services settings and at food distribution points. By the end of 1996, attempts by the French authorities to tighten requirements for entering the national territory had only slightly reduced the flow of arrivals in Bordeaux, so that the city retained its significant status for all administrative and social matters pertaining to foreign veterans (Zeneidi-Henry, 2001, p. 179). The veterans’ arrival accelerated after 2010 following the law in favour of the full décristallisation (“decrystallisation”) of their military pensions (Wanaïm, 2014).4 Word of mouth and the emergence of local associations in Morocco helped guide those who wanted to recover their rights.

3Their newly reclaimed allowances were subject to restrictions. As foreigners, these elders were required to reside at least six months of the year on French territory, failing which welfare benefits were suspended and repayments were charged. From then on, Moroccan veterans and veterans from other African countries started pendulating between France and their home country, transiting from one culture to the other and juggling two contrasting lives.

  • 5 SOciété NAtionale de COnstruction pour les TRavailleurs Algériens (National Construction Company fo (...)

4Their late arrival in France, relative to other well-established migrant populations, created confusion among city authorities, who struggled to deal with their integration. In Bordeaux, Moroccan veterans suffered from various forms of vulnerability: they were old, precarious, foreign to the country, homeless, and sometimes developed disabilities. They often did not master the local language nor the cultural codes, and found themselves dependent on local humanitarian institutions (such as the Diaconat association in Bordeaux). They were first taken care of in emergency shelters initially dedicated to assisting homeless people, run by charitable associations; then, starting from the early 2000s, migrant hostels run by the Sonacotra5 national company became their main accommodation facilities. Soon, Moroccan veterans were recognised as a migrant group in their own right, joining other aging migrant communities within Sonacotra’s hostels, securing relatively longer-term accommodation conditions.

  • 6 Sonacotra’s initial mission of temporary accommodation for migrant workers gradually became obsolet (...)

5The arrival of the foreign elderly veterans faced hostel managers with issues of gerontology and social isolation that they were not initially trained to deal with. With the help of specialised associations, some of them took active initiatives to bring the veterans out of their isolation. These measures were taken within a more general national context of developments in housing conditions in tandem with social support. Major construction campaigns and rehabilitation of old hostels were launched by national authorities to align more with the standards of habitability and comfort necessary to guarantee the residents’ dignity. Initially created for isolated immigrant workers, migrant workers’ hostels such as those of the Sonacotra, the name of which was then changed to Adoma, underwent spatial and sanitary improvements and were transformed according to a new model of résidences sociales (social residences).6

  • 7 The term “over-mobility” is coined to reflect the hardship, intensified by health problems and decl (...)

6In this paper, I explore what various forms of spatial appropriations through artefacts tell us about the shaping of a personal atmosphere by Moroccan veterans in their studio spaces in social residences in Bordeaux. As elderly travellers, Moroccan veterans engaged in a dynamic of “over-mobility”7 and were confronted with the need to familiarise themselves with new places in a new country and create long-lasting socio-spatial anchors in their fragmented territoriality and continuous movement. Based on their life stories and on-site observations, the study aims to identify trends in the relationships the veterans establish with their “temporary-gone-long” dwelling and understand what their feelings of home and belonging rely on when they are away from their family and country. By focusing mainly on the veterans’ studios, the goal is to observe “the ways in which material objects and environments trigger particular affects and emotions” (Bräunlein, 2022, p. 167) or embody them in the intimacy of their domestic space where they are forced to live alone. Two dominant atmospheres emerge from the observation of and the narratives carried by the domestic space of the veterans: one minimalist, and the other maximalist. Both are permeated by a transversal atmosphere inherent to the veterans’ condition; an atmosphere of aging and care that manifests itself through their spatial uses and appropriations as much as through the conceptual and architectural choices of the host authorities. The paper shows that, contrary to their life in Morocco, where home is in itself a resource of strong social and cultural bonds and is infused with a familiar atmosphere, in Bordeaux, the veterans’ domestic spaces are kept relatively neutral. Their “feeling of home” does not seem to totally depend on material appropriations of their domestic space in Bordeaux. These can only go so far in the recreation of rootedness and “relatedness” (Bräunlein, 2022; Carsten, 2000). More than a homely atmosphere, their domestic space embodies a migrant atmosphere, that of temporariness and of longing for the home country.

Spatial appropriation and the cultivation of atmosphere as mechanisms of continuity in migration

  • 8 Personal translation of original text: “le douloureux paradoxe de l’habiter humain”.

7As a national, cultural, and often economic and social stranger, the migrant sees his or her capacity of inhabiting space subjected to restrictions imposed by the dominant culture on its assigned inferior ranks (Rémy, 2015 ; Bruslé, 2010; Spivak, 2005). However, except in situations of extreme domination, cross-cultural spatial appropriations have always coexisted, most prominently in urban settings (Goudichaud, 2006), where the spatial markers of each group, however modest, are superimposed (Tarrius, 1993) and negotiated (Foucault, 1984). This is what Anabelle Morel-Brochet qualifies as the “painful paradox of human dwelling”8 (2008, p. 3), that pushes minorities and communities in vulnerable conditions to inhabit and to “make do” with space, even when it is not originally inclusive of their way of living.

8The dynamics of spatial appropriation emerge most remarkably in situations of contrast. When faced with conflicts between “conceived space” (espace conçu) and “perceived space” (espace vécu) (Lefebvre, 1974), individuals mobilise mechanisms of appropriation to re-establish a balance. They try to transcend the limits imposed by the material and symbolic barriers of space, by acting on its “form,” “use” and “meaning,” in order to create a socio-spatial reality they can relate to. Some of the strategies intended to make a place one’s own consist in translating habitual spatial practices and settings into the new host environment, thus replicating a familiar atmosphere. It is manifested through daily rituals (Bossé, Wilson, 2022), sacred or profane, through the physicality of the home experience (Boccagni, 2014) and sensory stimuli (listening to certain music, practising the mother tongue, using specific spices and food products from transnational shops, decorating and organising the domestic space using imported objects and furniture, etc.), all reminiscent of past experiences of home. Just as the relationship to the meaning of home evolves, the nature of atmospheres is never static. They “are perpetually forming and deforming, appearing and disappearing, as bodies enter into relation with one another” (Anderson, 2009, p. 79) or with non-human material embodiments of cultural, social, or sentimental belonging.

9Several studies focus on how migrant atmospheres are cultivated collectively in public spaces. On the one hand, they can materialise through the reinforcement of group presence in the public sphere, via the development of small businesses, the concentrated use of a specific city district, and the mobilisation of socio-linguistic practices and visual markers (e.g Sri Lankan diaspora in La Chapelle district in Paris (Dequirez, 2010); Sri Lankan housekeepers’ urban trans-territories in Beyrouth (Cattan, 2012); Senegalese migrants’ religious and cultural places of sociability in Barcelona (Niang-Ndiaye, 2019)). On the other, they can arise in “particular moments of community and coming together, for example to eat or celebrate,” that spark collective emotions “such as feelings of belonging, hope, acceptance and home” (Bräunlein, 2022, p. 164). Often, the sole group effect and the embodied extraneity (Veschambre, 2004) (clothing, use of foreign language, socio-cultural qualities) play a role in defining a layer of territoriality, generating an atmosphere that is sufficiently recognisable for other national and cultural community members (as well as locals) to converge towards them when needed.

  • 9 Material Culture Studies are a set of multidisciplinary approaches popularised by archaeology, hist (...)
  • 10 In the work of Heidegger (1962), Stimmung is a metaphor borrowed from the field of music (attuning (...)

10Other researchers investigate the domestic scale of migrant spatial appropriations to understand how familiar atmospheres can arise through objects, set-ups, and sensory phenomena (e.g. symbolic ethnicity and performative practices in Moroccan-Dutch domestic interiors (Dibbits, 2009); domestic appropriation by the Russian diaspora in the UK (Pechurina, 2015); transnational homing of British expatriates in Dubai (Walsh, 2006)). Attempts to feel more at home can unfold via material appropriations of space through which migrants try to create a homely atmosphere: “a sense of place” (Rodaway, 1994) that embalms their affect (Anderson, 2009) and their relationship to belonging (Boccagni, 2017). Furniture, objects, and artefacts “may provide a material anchor to the remembrance of rituals or habitual practices that strengthen ties within a community,” and spatial practices “may become […] ‘performances of belonging’ or ‘performances of longing’” (Dibbits, 2009, p. 556). Using an approach drawn from Material Culture Studies,9 the observation of private interior space allows for an analysis of “furniture and objects of daily use as a total social fact, that is to say as a condenser of social reality” (Sartoretti, Manuelli, 2020, p. 4) and shows that a home is “the meaningful integration of larger, distant and former homes in a situated present,” “a dialectic of inside and outside, of house and the universe, of intimacy and the world in the fundamental interconnectedness of people and places through imagination” (Long, 2013, p. 335). This interiority, as a shelter for qualities that are different from those of the exterior environment, is in itself conducive to the development of an atmosphere (Flécheux, 2019; Stace, 2013), in the sense of “a feeling, mood, or Stimmung10 that fundamentally exceeds an individual body and instead pertains primarily to the overall situation in which bodies are entrenched” (Riedel, 2019, p. 85).

11The sense of home is usually challenged during migration or displacement. For some, it generates total uprooting, a disruption of habits and relationships (Bräunlein, 2022; Edensor, Sumartojo, 2015); for others, the need for a buffer period of adaptation. Objects, artefacts, and atmospheres are then useful to create continuity and bridge the distance created by one’s departure from the motherland. They help stage and reproduce practices, habits, and homely atmospheres dating from before the migration, to create intimacy despite geographical distances. In the “strangerness” (Mazauric, 2012; Niculescu, 2013; Tassin, 2017; Coquil, 2017) that permeates the veterans’ journeys back and forth, a homely atmosphere in a foreign land might provide emotional comfort and a confidence in one’s identity that is unshackled from the constraints of geographic territoriality (Long, 2013). As much as the Material Culture approach reveals clues to the migrants’ re-creation and translation of cultural and social ties, it can also highlight a lack of appropriation in their domestic space, thus questioning their relationship to the host environment, their living conditions, their feeling of belonging or estrangement, and how the latter is otherwise compensated. In the particular case of Moroccan veterans living in social residences in Bordeaux, as the article will show, the materiality of their domestic spaces reveals contrasting behaviours, spatial appropriations and use of objects that nevertheless tell a common narrative on belonging and suggest that the physical environment alone cannot provide comfort and establish a familiar atmosphere.

Field work & methods

12The data used in this paper were collected as part of my doctoral research, in which I studied spatial experiences in exceptional mobile and migratory situations (Ali-Oualla, 2021). Two residences were studied, that have different relationships to the city.

Illustration 1: Aerial view of the two residences’ location

Illustration 1: Aerial view of the two residences’ location

The veterans of both residences converge towards the Saint Michel district in their daily routines.

Source: Google Earth / Ali-Oualla, 2022

13The first, Adoma Médoc Social Residence, is located about twenty-five minutes by public transport from the places that the veterans use as resources (for sociability, administrative support, healthcare, consumption and transportation), and welcomes foreign residents in different conditions of vulnerability (asylum seekers, retired workers, etc.). The dense neighbourhood it is currently located in was, until the early 2000s, sparse and far away from the city centre’s activity. The ongoing urban sprawl of Bordeaux helped to gradually make it more accessible by public transport, especially since the addition of the tramway by the end of the same decade. The second residence, the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Social Residence, is located in the heart of Saint Michel, a central intercultural neighbourhood (Goudichaud, 2006) and a place of daily convergence for North African veterans, with small businesses and cafes where various communities of African descent gather. The central square, Place Meynard, is a pivot of the veterans’ territoriality and is where they are the most visible. The Mechti residence was originally an abandoned high school building. It was retrofitted and redesigned as an experiment to host both migrant elders (veterans and retired foreign workers) and young professionals with mobile careers, and was inaugurated in late 2017.

  • 11 Aquitanis is a local social landlord in the Region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

14The life story interviews and spatial investigations used in this paper were conducted with four veterans in Bordeaux between 2017 and 2020. Contact with Moroccan veterans at Adoma and access to their living spaces were facilitated by the Hom’âge, an association for the support of elderly migrant veterans in Bordeaux. Their help was crucial in establishing a climate of trust with the veterans that was necessary for them to welcome me in their studios. Wahid, a sociocultural coordinator of the Hom’âge association, was one of the main and most helpful contacts during the field work, as he had strong ties with the elderly people he was working with, especially the veterans. As for access to veterans residing in the Mohamed Mechti residence, it was made possible with the help of Halima Toueress, the residence’s rental manager. This residence’s number of veterans is limited to a dozen. Since their periods of sojourn between the two countries are irregular and they are not all present in the residence at the same time, access to the studios was determined by the residents’ availability and agreement. This has substantially limited the sample. To compensate for being unable to access some residents, part of the data is based on the relevant testimonies of Halima Toueress and Dominique Careil, a project manager at Aquitanis11 and one of the initiators of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Social Residence project, both of whom are closely in touch with the veterans and involved in the running of the residence. In addition to the Moroccan veterans’ accounts of their spatial experience in Bordeaux, the testimonials of these sociocultural coordinators and social residence managers were collected to establish a comparative discourse. These interviews also give external points of view of actors deeply involved in the veterans’ daily life, and their subjective perspective on the atmospheres of the veterans’ domestic spaces.

  • 12 Translations into English of excerpts from the interviews, pictures and visual content were produce (...)

15The complexity of the veterans’ spatial appropriation and cultivation of atmosphere calls for comprehensive qualitative methods, in order to achieve a nuanced account of their spatial experience. A rigorous conceptual framework, cross-referenced with the life stories of the respondents and a detailed survey of the spaces, helps to limit any potential bias in the observations and interpretations. On the one hand, I use semi-directive interviews in Moroccan Arabic to collect the life stories of the veterans and establish the historical framework of their journey. This method helps to understand the evolution of their socio-spatial references, which directly and indirectly inform the way they inhabit space. On the other hand, I use visual methods to give an account of the customisation and transformation of the veterans’ domestic spaces, using the following tools12: 1. The visual-narrative scene is a combination of photographs and excerpts from the field notebook and tells the space’s story in words and images, by recalling the conditions of the interactions with both the photographed space and the interviewee who is involved. 2. The inhabited survey, at the crossroads of architectural knowledge and ethnographic knowledge (Pinson, 2016 ; Sharr, 2009), shows the tensions between “conceived spaces” and “perceived spaces”, and highlights the details of the various spatial appropriations of a common standardised layout. 3. The in-situ sketches help to provide a reflexive account of the observations (Kuschnir, 2016; Taussig, 2011) and detect elements that may go unnoticed in the immediacy of photography. It is also a way to invite the respondents to collectively inform the sketch.

16The use of these tools in varying proportions makes it possible to depict a composite image that aims to get as close as possible to the reality of Moroccan veterans’ daily life.

Living in social residences: three atmospheres

  • 13 According to Barou (1996), Sonacotra, committed to improving the quality of accommodation, “refuse[ (...)

17In 1994, the first Moroccan veterans coming to France discovered a country that no longer resembled the one they had known during their military service. In the late 2000s, the cultural disorientation they first encountered – but gradually got accustomed to – was followed by a change in socio-spatial experiences, as they transitioned from living in workers’ foyers to living in social residences. While the design of the former forced interactions through proximity and lack of privacy (overcrowded personal spaces, shared kitchens and sanitary facilities13), the latter have aimed to improve comfort by individualising spaces that were previously shared. However, the spatial and sanitary improvements are not sufficient to infuse a sense of home in the studios, and sometimes have the opposite effect. Unlike the “warm” atmosphere of conviviality (Barou, 1996) that emerged from the forced close cohabitation in the hostels, living in a social residence is a more individualised experience, which directly reflects on the veterans’ physical environment and the atmosphere it embodies. The Material Culture approach shows that the veterans’ complex relationship to their domestic space in Bordeaux translates into two contrasting atmospheres, with a third common one that underlies the encountered veterans’ situations. On the one hand, there is a minimalist approach to the studio’s spatial appropriation, and on the other, a maximalist occupancy based on hoarding and accumulating objects. And in all the cases, both with regard to the veterans’ health conditions and to the hosting authorities’ choice to design adapted spaces for their elderly residents, the studios’ layout, appropriation, and resulting atmosphere reflect the veterans’ aging situation and the evolution of their autonomy.

A minimalist atmosphere as a manifestation of detachment

18When I first meet with D. in his studio apartment in Adoma, he recounts his life story and how it was marked throughout his youth by travel and adventure between several European countries:

After the army, I worked in Italy, Germany… in construction and in other fields. […] I got used to moving around, but now I’m no longer young enough to do it. […] I lived in different places and it wasn’t always ideal, but you usually quickly adapt.

Illustration 2: Visual-narrative scene at D.’s studio, in Adoma Social Residence

Illustration 2: Visual-narrative scene at D.’s studio, in Adoma Social Residence

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

19D. seems to be indifferent to the contrasts in layout and comfort that distinguish his studio in France and his home in Morocco. He confesses that it is not so much the place as a physical setting that bothers him, but rather its overwhelming emptiness, and the obligation to live in it alone, far from the social dynamics that usually enliven his family home. For D., homemaking, the active process through which one makes a place one’s own in “an act of possession as well as one of marking and making meaning” (Klein, Mobley, Stevenson, 2019, p. 7), regardless of its size, seems to rely on meaningful social contacts which “become the prime agents of homemaking including family members and spouses but importantly also friends and other contacts” (Feng, Breitung, 2017). Other veterans’ accounts support D.’s argument. M., who has been travelling back and forth between Bordeaux and his home city of Marrakech since 2006, mainly regrets the impossibility of his wife visiting:

 And do you like living in this residence?
 Yes, it’s better than where I was before, in Saint Michel. It was horrible.
It was an old residence on Rue des Faures. We had a shared kitchen and toilets. There was a resident who kept drinking and smoking, and he was very dirty. I didn’t want to share the same spaces as him. He was young. I was afraid of him.
That’s when Wahid talked to the people in charge so that they would give me this place.
[…]
 In Marrakech, you live in a big house, and here, you live in a studio. How do you feel about this change? Does the size of the house have an impact on your habits and your practices?
 The only problem is that my wife wants to come, and she wants to see where I live. I don’t know if they’re going to let her come or not.

20Inhabiting the studio turned out to be not so difficult for D., as he has a great capacity to adapt. As a young soldier, he experienced precarious military shacks, and lived in rudimentary overcrowded dormitories deprived of many amenities. When he first came back to France as a veteran, he experienced the migrant workers’ hostel, where he lived in a cramped room that was far below the spatial and sanitary standards applied to regular public housing, and shared basic sanitary facilities and dining areas with multiple residents.

Illustration 3: Ground floor plan of a migrant workers’ hostel

Illustration 3: Ground floor plan of a migrant workers’ hostel

Legend: This redrawing is based on Hélène Beguin’s (2015) doctoral thesis on housing in Aftam shelters (ground floor plan of a migrant workers’ hostel in Saint-Jean-Le-Blanc). It illustrates collective rooms grouped into “community living units” of five or six rooms with shared sanitary facilities and kitchens.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2020

21This time around, D.’s living space in the social residence is a great improvement on all of his previous places of accommodation in France and abroad. His traveller’s instincts only add to his overall resilience and relatively fast adjustment to the newly occupied space. D. shows a minimalist attitude when it comes to the objects that he has added to the studio. This is motivated by the uncertainty of the duration of his stay, and by the irrelevance of investing time and effort into making the studio a “second home” in the absence of a family to share it with, but both the living space’s configuration and the residence’s internal rules have also played a role in limiting his spatial appropriation. The storage closet along the entryway, the dining table, the chair in the corner of the room, and the stool hidden under the kitchen counter were all there when he was first handed the keys to the studio. In addition to two prayer mats, all the objects he has added are utilitarian.

Illustration 4: Floor plan of D.’s studio, Adoma Médoc social residence

Illustration 4: Floor plan of D.’s studio, Adoma Médoc social residence

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

Illustration 5: Picture of D.’s prayer mat

Illustration 5: Picture of D.’s prayer mat

Legend: D. keeps his prayer mat neatly folded on a chair he doesn’t use, as he rarely has visitors. A second chair is leaning behind it against the corner of the wall.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

Illustration 6: Picture of D.’s studio kitchen

Illustration 6: Picture of D.’s studio kitchen

Legend: Like the rest of the studio, the kitchen area had basic items and utensils for individual use.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

22The design of the space and its layout enforce these limitations: just enough liveable space for one person. A single bed, a single chair, a single stool, and a single key. Nothing but a second chair suggests the possibility of having visitors in the studio. The physical limitations and enforced compliance with these rules of appropriation are reminders of the guest status of veterans, who, as a result, are not to feel too comfortable. “Everything here was already in the studio,” says M. when I ask him what he has done with the place. “I added my watches and clocks to wake me up early in the morning, the little prayer mat, the space heater and the television.” Just like for D., the social aspect and the feeling of community is what his living conditions in Bordeaux lack the most:

 Would you have preferred to have an empty apartment that you could furnish yourself?
 It doesn’t matter to me, my home is in Marrakech, here I have to make do with whatever I’m given.
[…]
 Do you feel at home here? Between Bordeaux and Marrakech?
 My home is Marrakech, here I feel 50% at home. When we go back [to Morocco], we are 100% at home, with the children, my wife…

  • 14 The average amount of the pension among the interviewees is 850 euros per month at the time of the (...)

23Wahid, the sociocultural coordinator of Hom’âge, quickly assures me that I will get the same answers from all the veterans. “Here, it’s only temporary assistance,” adds Wahid, a truthful testimony after many years of social assistance to foreign elders and veterans. For them, maintaining the journey back and forth between Morocco and France, and spending at least half of the year in the latter, is the only way to access their pensions. Given the difference in the cost of living between the two countries, the amount of the pension14 is sufficient to cover a family’s expenses back home, which would not be the case in France. Complying with these conditions of residency also allows veterans to access a variety of medical services and to benefit from administrative and legal support provided voluntarily by the Hom’âge association.

24In D.’s studio, almost no “spatio-cultural” markers are visible, which symbolises only a minimal personalisation of the place, limited to necessary daily practices. Other than the prayer mats and some specific utensils, only a suitcase protruding from the upper door of the storage closet evokes anything about his traveller’s life. Suitcases and various forms of travel bags are noticeably exposed in all the studios I visit, as if indicating a possible departure at any moment. But more practically, considering the size and layout of the living space, the ostensible visibility of the suitcase in the studio might be one of the few options, given the lack of larger storage space. At M.’s, a suitcase is placed at the foot of the bed, always kept within reach.

Illustration 7: Picture of M.’s sleeping area in the studio, Adoma Medoc Social Residence

Illustration 7: Picture of M.’s sleeping area in the studio, Adoma Medoc Social Residence

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

25And at Z.’s, a resident of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Social Residence, two suitcases occupy the vacant space under the bed.

Illustration 8: A drawing of the sleeping area of Z.’s studio in the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Social Residence

Illustration 8: A drawing of the sleeping area of Z.’s studio in the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Social Residence

Legend: Even though the studio allows only limited appropriation of the space, Z. has tried to personalise his living space by adding light furniture (folding chair), some decorative elements (vase, plastic flowers) and electrical appliances. Two suitcases appear between the wooden legs of the bed frame.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2020

26The omnipresence of the suitcase as a common denominator in the veterans’ living spaces reflects their relationship to sedentariness and over-mobility, and sets a dominant atmosphere related to their migrant status. Apart from travel related to certain religious rites they usually manage to celebrate with their families in Morocco (the month of Ramadan, Eid holidays), the veterans’ management of their stay in either country depends mostly on good bargains, in terms of travel prices and availability of seats. Last-minute departures are very common, and the suitcase’s visual and physical presence is an indicator of their opportunity-based travel organisation. Halima Toueress, the rental manager of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Social Residence, credits part of the frugal spatial appropriation by the veterans to their military past, as most of them prolonged their experience in the Moroccan army years after their engagement in the French troops. During her regular checking out routines of the studios, she is often stunned by how carefully tidy some veterans leave their living spaces each time they head back to Morocco, with little to no trace of their presence or appropriation. They clean up, fold all the laundry, and even lift the mattresses as in a military camp. This attitude is particularly remarkable, given that most of them do not undertake housekeeping chores in Morocco, as it is usually up to their wives and/or children to do so. “They have been in the army,” adds Dominique Careil. “They also have this autonomy of war.”

27The military attitude of the veterans towards their living space in Bordeaux suggests a historical continuity with the reason for which they were first mobilised by French colonial authorities, and is a reminder of why they are back in the country. Living in France half of the time, after decades spent in Morocco, does not change the fact that they are still on a mission, that their relationship with the host country is still that of service and subjugation. The immaculate cleaning practices and the restoration of the studios to their initial state is one of the spatial and symbolic materialisations of this relationship.

Maximalist atmosphere and accumulation as an act of service

28Unlike the majority of veterans, whose engagement with their studios remains discreet, some demonstrate more explicit spatial appropriation with the perspective of accumulation. They pick up abandoned objects in the street, or are often on the lookout for good bargains at the flea market to bring back to their studio apartments, as Halima Toueress explains: “There are some who have really taken possession of the place! [laughs],” she says, referring to the eldest resident of the Mechti Residence, who has set up his studio for afternoon discussion circles and taken the initiative to create temporary opportunities of conviviality, lacking the ability to do it over longer periods of time by hosting friends and family, for example:

That 96-year-old gentleman…he has lots of carpets. In fact, he has furnished his studio so you can’t even see the floor anymore! There are carpets everywhere, and he walks barefoot… But it is also because they do a lot of reading. He receives people to whom he reads, with whom he has religious discussions, prayer, and he is a very interesting man.

29Z., another resident of whom Toueress is in charge, keeps a light mattress hidden under the bed for the occasional hosting of young migrants in distress whom he meets in the streets of Saint Michel. Going beyond the restrictions imposed by the residence management, he secretly offers them a place to sleep and to clean themselves up, gives them clean clothes and a good hot meal, before releasing them early in the morning, with some money in their pockets. If adding those isolated objects does not bother the residences’ management – who sometimes do not suspect their actual use – some residents push the boundaries further, thus creating hazardous situations, according to the rental manager:

I had a hard time with two veterans who… when they strolled the streets of the neighbourhood, pick up trash and clutter that people got rid of. So sometimes they come back with a piece of furniture or some random object. So, of course, there are some who have a lot of good taste, and it ends up looking good and fits their space. For others… it is street junk. It was necessary to intervene, to limit that, if only for sanitary or hygienic reasons. […] They take over anyway. Some have a vacuum cleaner, an oven. Some have TV… Others don’t have anything at all. It’s just the radio and the Arab channels.

30The salvaged objects they accumulate in their studios are generally destined for their families back home. “We are here in a development/underdevelopment dialectic, and the crumbs from here are feasts there. Saving, accumulating, hoarding gives meaning to migration” (Zeneidi-Henry, 2001, p. 185, author’s translation). According to Dominique Careil, some veterans even keep some of their own medication for their relatives in Morocco. “The desire to serve and give to the family is even felt in their own space,” he notes. In fact, the veterans are in most cases central socioeconomic members of their social and family networks. M., one of the residents of Adoma, explains how his pension is paying both for his stay in Bordeaux and for the daily expenses of his family:

I only have my wife to take care of financially now in Marrakech […] I have everything I need in my room. Unlike the others [veterans], I don’t totally deprive myself. I enjoy myself, because I am old now, and my children have grown up. […] I send money to my wife, and I gave my son 1000 euros to help him pay for his wedding. But when I first came here, I still had children to support and the military pension in Morocco was not enough. We joined the Royal Army in 1956 and worked with them for 36 years. […] What pension? There is nothing. King Hassan II gave us nothing. 100 euros, 120 euros, or 150 at most [a month]. That’s nothing. But the current King gives 600 euros, depending on the rank too.

  • 15 Wahid, the sociocultural coordinator of the Hom’âge association, explained that some families no lo (...)

31M.’s most recent situation is the exception rather than the rule. Many families are indeed living off the absentees. In their later years, some veterans are only living for their children and families in Morocco (Barou, 2016). They are giving all the pension money they receive to their loved ones to cover their daily expenses.15

32The capitalisation strategy is enacted on several levels: living in hostels and social residences rather than in the private sector or specialist facilities for the elderly, reducing the cost of their trips to the city by limiting themselves to visiting specific places and furnishing their living spaces with cheap finds from the weekly flea market all represent a set of social and spatial practices that help reinforce their savings. But in the end, the atmosphere resulting from the accumulation of objects in some veterans’ studios has the same embedded meaning as that of minimalist occupation of the others: the elder’s body is in France, but his mind stays in the motherland.

An atmosphere of aging and care

33If the studios do not clearly exhibit socio-culturally connoted material markers, which may have come from a desire to mimic the atmosphere of home, they do however reflect the aging situation of the veterans and the evolution of their autonomy. On the one hand, it shows through the objects they display and the spatial arrangements of their studios. On the other, it is manifested through the efforts made by the hosting authorities to adapt the residences to the migrant elders’ physical limitations.

34At the entrance of M.’s studio, resting in a narrow nook in the wall is a wooden cane he uses for his daily strolls in the city. Because of chronic rheumatic crises, M. has placed an additional electric heater in the middle of the room, to evenly distribute heat in the whole area, and changed the direction of the bed to put it against the wall-mounted radiator, in order to feel more comfortable during the cold winter nights. The studio is kept very warm and cosy, an atmosphere that is enhanced by the contrast between the orange artificial lighting inside, and the blue and gloomy weather outside. M. uses the bed also as a “couch” from which to watch the small TV that he has added to the studio. He keeps a suitcase at the foot of the bed and a prayer mat on the one armchair of the studio. The dining table is teeming with neatly lined boxes of medication, which are always kept within reach for his daily care routine. Since his last surgical operation, his general state of health forces him to keep a close eye on it.

Illustration 9: Floor plan of M.’s studio, Adoma

Illustration 9: Floor plan of M.’s studio, Adoma

Legend: The floor plans of Adoma’s studios all follow a standard layout. Still, M. has managed to slightly adapt the room by moving the furniture provided, such as the bed.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

Illustration 10: The sleeping area of M’s studio

Illustration 10: The sleeping area of M’s studio

Legend: On the radiator, M. keeps a reinforced cardboard sheet on which he wrote a Qur’anic verse as a reminder to read before sleeping.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

Illustration 11: Picture of medicine boxes for M.’s healthcare routine

Illustration 11: Picture of medicine boxes for M.’s healthcare routine

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018

35Many of the objects M. displays and uses play a role in his effort to reduce the burden of physical struggles related to his aging. Even though he is not medically assisted and does not need any special equipment, his health condition manifests itself through the objects and the sensory comfort he tries to secure in the studio.

36Beyond the veterans’ individual adaptation of space to their level of autonomy, the social residences have evolved with a similar aim to improve their comfort and ensure the accessibility of both private and shared spaces. During our interview, Halima Toueress points out that although the existing retirement homes are viable options for those who need assistance, Moroccan veterans are not willing to live in this kind of institution, even if they have the means to. “Culturally… it is not common. In our country [meaning Morocco, her parents’ home country] you take care of your elders. It is the family that takes care of you, not strangers,” she explains. In addition to the duty towards the elders to which Halima Toueress refers, other sociocultural arguments come into play. As they grow older, most Moroccan migrant elders find great comfort in preserving their attachment to religious practices, which they sustain in the mosque, in their domestic space, and sometimes in public spaces. Most of the veterans display a prayer mat for daily use in their studios, and almost all recount that they regularly attend the local mosque. They usually observe religious rituals that affect their daily practices, such as fasting for Ramadan or maintaining diet restrictions related to their beliefs. According to Dominique Careil, confronting these practices with those of the residents in retirement homes (namely French and/or other elders of European descent) can enhance the cultural gap, thus exacerbating the Moroccan veterans’ feeling of exile. For a group that values religion as a compass that transcends territorial displacement and has a strong community component to it, it is important to have a safe haven for their daily – and sometimes shared – rituals. In this regard, Careil’s experience in managing migrant workers’ homes in the early 2000s, before the intergenerational residence project, has enabled him to reflexively inform the spatial design of the latter and adapt it to such issues:

  • 16 Dominique Careil was referring to the 2020 lockdown imposed by national and international authoriti (...)

I am happy to give such a high level of comfort to the veterans, when four years ago, they were still sleeping in a room of 7.5 square metres. Now they have more space and especially during lockdown16 it was more pleasant. They can do their prayers in the room, that was something we were vigilant about… how they were going to place the mat, orient it, and create their own space. And then, the physical accessibility, of the bathroom for example, was thought out with aging in mind.

  • 17 These norms have since then been updated by decree no. 2019-305 of April 11, 2019 of law no. 2018-1 (...)
  • 18 The compliance with the accessibility norms is more importantly part of broader spatial and urban c (...)

37As well as providing an adequate space for specific practices, the design of the studio is adapted to increase the autonomy of the veterans. Grab bars, handles, and support systems such as shower seats are installed in the bathroom, the kitchen cabinets and other included furniture are kept at an accessible height, specific signage is displayed to guide the use of electronic devices (i.e. cooking hob), and the overall studio design is spacious enough to allow easy access for a wheelchair. These design choices are largely dictated by Decree No. 201‑37, article 20 of the law 2001-901 of July 28, 2011 (Direction du Logement et de l’Habitat, 2014), which requires that at least 5% of housing units in social residences be adapted to personnes à mobilité réduite (PRM, person with reduced mobility) accessibility standards.17 However, in the Mechti residence, all of the studios for veterans meet these comfort standards, exceeding the minimum percentage of units required.18

38Both the medical aids added by the residents and the spatial configuration suggesting an obvious adaptation to their increasingly limited autonomy create an “atmosphere of care.” It is embodied by objects, spatial layouts and health care rituals led by the residents themselves or with the occasional assistance of medical staff. As atmosphere relates to perceptual and sensory aspects (Sumartojo, Pink, Duque, et al., 2020, p. 6), it is impacted by the rhythms of practices and movements of individuals through time and space. In some veterans’ cases, their physical limitations, the speed at which they execute regular tasks, and their physical interactions with the domestic environment (using the bathroom handrail, finding support for their movement using chairs or leaning against furniture, etc.) enhance the overall atmosphere of aging that is already manifested through objects and spatial appropriation and layout.

Seeking a homely atmosphere beyond the limits of a “home”

39For the veterans, whether they are living in the spacious studios of the Mechti Residence (21m² to 25m²) or in the smaller ones in Adoma (18m²), the generosity and size of the studios are adapted to their daily uses, and can even be suitable for a second person, which is exactly what is lacking in their domestic and socio-spatial experiences away from home. The homely atmosphere they aspire to reproduce in Bordeaux depends more on their desire for social interaction than for spatial comfort. The regulations of the social residences prevent any form of medium to long-term hosting of relatives (spouses or children). This has a lot to do with the risks to which visitors, and especially women, are exposed. Obviously, other motives lie behind these restrictions, such as illegally harbouring an undocumented family member.

  • 19 All the administrative procedures they had to go through to justify their stay and its duration wer (...)

40As a result, all the efforts of the hosting authorities towards improving the living experience of veterans in their private space does little to alleviate the “strangerness” they still feel being away from their own home. Their longing for home exceeds the material and spatial living conditions, even though it has had a significant effect on materialising the temporariness of their stay.19 With aging comes more isolation and solitude, neither of which can be compensated for by domestic spatial appropriation alone. Part of their strategy for coping and their hopeful efforts to find and recreate a familiar atmosphere involves articulating their urban territoriality around moments of interaction with other migrant elders like themselves. The sociologist Paolo Boccagni (2014) makes the same observation in his work on the negotiation of belonging and the process of recreating a sense of home in Ecuadorian transnational migration to Europe:

Interestingly, though, the home-making symbols and practices of the immigrants I met were not necessarily circumscribed to their dwelling places. They had also to do with their ways of staying together and consuming leisure time in the public space.

41The Moroccan veterans spend more time outside the social residences, roaming around the streets of the neighbourhood where they are able to find familiar sociocultural markers, than in the common spaces intended for collective use within the residences. In the Mechti residence, a long kitchen counter is set against one of the walls of the main hall and is equipped with a water tap and appliances to prepare hot drinks. A large table with multiple chairs occupies the centre of the space and is occasionally used to host veterans’ events which are usually organised by the Hom’âge association. A set of sofas and a small shelving unit of books defines one of the corners of the hall, completed with a view on the interior courtyard.

Illustration 12: Picture of the interior courtyard of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Residence

Illustration 12: Picture of the interior courtyard of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Residence

Legend: Vegetable planters are set up to encourage appropriation of the space.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2017

Illustration 13: Picture of the interior courtyard of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Residence

Illustration 13: Picture of the interior courtyard of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Residence

Legend: A long bench is set up along one of the side walls for the use of veterans and other residents.

Source: Ali-Oualla, 2017

42When asked about the expected use of this communal space and its appropriation by the veterans, Dominique Careil explains that the latter rarely stop by and prefer to use the public space:

The courtyard next door, when we designed it with Daniel [from the Berguedieu Brochet architectural firm], I was telling him we’re going to make it as good as we can so they [the veterans] can come, but they didn’t. We didn’t realise that the neighbourhood was going to be their primary living space. Those elders are outside, on benches, chatting… Here [in the courtyard], they did it a little during lockdown, but they were still depressed because what they need first and foremost is connection.

43In the Adoma residence, which is located further away from urban activities (especially from the central districts), the multi-purpose room is out of service. The rehabilitation of the hostel into a social residence certainly implied a significant improvement of spatial and sanitary conditions. A space for community gathering is indeed provided to encourage interaction between residents, but according to Wahid from the Hom’âge association, at the time of the research survey, this space was going to be transformed into additional studios for rental:

There is no real living space. […] Here, in the residence, there is a café area. They are going to close it to build other housing. It is a space where there is a TV, coffee,; normally it should be open for these people, but it has been condemned, nobody can go there. […] They have already organised aperitifs there for example. […] It could have been a meeting point to develop projects. […] Let the elders who are isolated there meet the young people of the residence and discuss.

44The majority of Adoma’s veterans take the tram or walk to the Saint Michel neighbourhood, preferring the bustle and life of the city centre to the lack of collective life in the residence. A., one of the residents, considers the tram stops near the residence a godsend:

Here [in Bordeaux], I only know what’s around me. I know the tramway from the Médoc station to the Saint Michel station, because we have the travel card. I thank God for that and for the people from the association who helped us to get it. […] The station at Saint Michel goes directly down a street to the basilica, and I quickly find the grocery stores and some acquaintances. I don’t need to be able to read or write for that [laughs].

45The intensive appropriation of some public spaces allows them to multiply the chances of meeting their peers, accessing specific products in the local shops (which is also a source of sociability), and collectively practising their mother tongue (most of them have little knowledge of French). In fact, speaking the native language is both a remarkable practice of space and a strategic anchoring of place in itself (Alvir, 2016), where for a brief moment one finds the comfort that only home can provide. Moroccan veterans are among the many other users and residents of the Saint Michel neighbourhood who speak the same dialect, thereby outlining a familiar territory. Resorting to the mother tongue represents a very tangible way of appropriation that creates a temporary heterotopia (Foucault, 1984), sensed by both those who practice it and those who perceive it as part of the aural atmosphere of the place, with the language’s sounds and rhythm. Their concentrated use and gathering in the central square of the neighbourhood (Place Meynard) and the relatively easy identification of the veterans (i.e. regular use of the same street benches and strolling in a limited geographic area, alone or in small groups) echoes what Veschambre (2004) defines as “marquage presence.” Their regular visibility as foreign elders is part of what make the intercultural “quality” of the neighbourhood (Goudichaud, 2006).

  • 20 Many of the veterans still suffer from solitude and isolation and see the investment in homemaking (...)

46This reliance on the appropriation of public space as a social resource and framework for finding a homely atmosphere challenges the interpretation of the lack of appropriation of private space, and the spatial scale to which a homely atmosphere can extend. The temporariness of their stay might not be the sole cause of the apparent disconnect between some veterans and their studio spaces. It is also due to the value they give to their social use of public space and the compensation it provides in terms of significant human interactions with other members of the community. In fact, even in other challenging uprooted situations, such as those of refugees (e.g. Syrians in Berlin refugee camps (Steigemann, Misselwitz, 2020)) or migrant workers (e.g. Pakistani middle-class migrants under kafala systems in Dubai (Errichiello, Nyhagen, 2021)), people still negotiate ways of belonging to the host environment by “forming a translocal and multi-contextual repository of homemaking routines” (Steigemann, Misselwitz, 2020, p. 4), and by channelling social resources from their transterritorial community as a constellation of anchors (Long, 2013; Potot, 2006; Hage, 1997). The minimalist, aseptic and hotel room-like atmosphere in some veterans’ studios, or the opposite overcrowded, loaded studios, do not necessarily express a rejection of their condition of “over-mobility.”20 It also highlights the fact that they fulfil their feeling of home elsewhere. Some public spaces provide veterans the opportunity to meet their people and immerse themselves in familiar atmospheres, staged by sociolinguistic practices, transnational shops and services, and specific space-time frames of community gatherings. The importance of public space is not exclusive to the host country and articulates the veterans’ territorialities back home as well. In fact, some of them recount the pivotal role of their daily meetings with friends or acquaintances in the neighbouring café, or the regular errands run at the same shops and vending stalls of the market, both being anchoring urban practices of a homely atmosphere.

Conclusion

47The veterans, as well as the residences’ managers and the sociocultural coordinator, agree that the studios are well-designed for comfortable and sustainable living. As the study shows, the social residence studios are designed to alleviate veterans’ physical struggles related to aging and limited autonomy. Despite the spatial limitations of the studios, two divergent trends emerge: minimalist occupation and ambiance (partly due to a military attitude, and reinforced by the internal rules of the residence), and maximalist ones (due to the need to hoard and accumulate cheap finds to offer or sell some of them back home, despite the limits on storage imposed by management). Opposed as they may be, both tendencies reveal a certain detachment of the residents from their studios, as they feel more like guests than legitimate long-term residents.

48Despite the continuous improvements in spatial comfort that the hosting authorities strive to ensure, and which provide a secure physical environment for the Moroccan veterans studied in Bordeaux, what the latter long for the most is the warmth that only a close human network can provide, proving that home is not an empty shell, but a dense and deeply social concept, without which the migrants’ feeling of “strangerness” never fades.

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Notes

1 In the early 1960s – in 1956 for Morocco – , the “pension crystallisation law” was passed to freeze the rights of foreign veterans from former colonies at the level reached at the date of their country’s independence (Zeneidi-Henry, 2001). For more than fifty years, allowances given to French veterans and those given to their African counterparts had been unequal. Moroccans, like so many other African veterans, received a “pension of no more than 400 francs, whereas for a French veteran it is 2,500 francs” (ibid., p. 178, author’s translation). In 1986, a new law made it easier for Moroccan veterans to obtain a residence permit to enter French territory and access their pensions. From then on, Bordeaux became a central point of convergence for Moroccan veterans, as it hosted the headquarters of the National Office for Veterans and Victims of War (ONAC‑VG).

2 According to Belkacem (2015), it was often under pressure from the village caïds that Moroccan soldiers joined the French ranks. Many of them not only fought alongside French soldiers in the two great wars, but also joined the troops in Indochina, and some of them (very few) in Algeria.

3 National Office for Veterans and Victims of War. This office includes all veterans, whether French or from former colonies.

4 Section 211 of Act No. 2010-1657 mandates the French government to end the discriminatory freeze on pensions for veterans and civil servants from the former French colonial empire.

5 SOciété NAtionale de COnstruction pour les TRavailleurs Algériens (National Construction Company for Algerian Workers). From the mid-1950s and for many decades, this semi-public company specialised in temporary accommodation for isolated immigrant workers coming from the French colonies (especially North Africans).

6 Sonacotra’s initial mission of temporary accommodation for migrant workers gradually became obsolete. A gradual change in residents (including other financially precarious migrant populations with different trajectories), deepening impoverishment and a deterioration of the buildings and housing conditions led to violent struggles and contributed to tarnishing the reputation of the institution. From 1997, a national plan gradually transformed all foyers de travailleurs migrants (migrant workers’ hostels) into résidences sociales (social residences). This modified both their spatial layout and legal framework. Sonacotra changed its image and missions and renamed itself Adoma on January 23rd, 2007.

7 The term “over-mobility” is coined to reflect the hardship, intensified by health problems and declining physical autonomy, that elderly veterans have to endure during their recurrent journeys back and forth between France and Morocco, forced out of the comfort of their regular social environments in their home country. According to the veterans’ testimonies, these combined issues (advanced age, foreignness) involve a delicate relationship with mobility, as they would have preferred to have access to their pensions without being forced into the intensity of these movements.

8 Personal translation of original text: “le douloureux paradoxe de l’habiter humain”.

9 Material Culture Studies are a set of multidisciplinary approaches popularised by archaeology, history, and anthropology. They recognise the potential of objects and all of human beings’ physical creations (houses, furniture, roads, cities) to affect the experience of living and social phenomena (Arcidiacono, Pontecorvo, 2019; Woodward, 2015; Meyer, 2012; O’Toole, Were, 2008).

10 In the work of Heidegger (1962), Stimmung is a metaphor borrowed from the field of music (attuning an instrument). It encompasses the mood, the atmosphere and the state of being attuned (Thonhauser, 2021).

11 Aquitanis is a local social landlord in the Region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

12 Translations into English of excerpts from the interviews, pictures and visual content were produced by the author.

13 According to Barou (1996), Sonacotra, committed to improving the quality of accommodation, “refuse[d] to build dormitories and prefer[red] accommodation with individual rooms, even if, given the needs, it was often obliged to divide them in two, sometimes resulting in tiny area of 4 m²” (p. 8).

14 The average amount of the pension among the interviewees is 850 euros per month at the time of the survey, according to Wahid. Other veterans with military-related injuries or disabilities have access to additional financial benefits.

15 Wahid, the sociocultural coordinator of the Hom’âge association, explained that some families no longer saw their fathers as anything but a source of income. Although such cases of abuse are not prevalent, still some veterans were forced by their children and relatives to go back and forth, when they would have preferred to stay at home in Morocco.

16 Dominique Careil was referring to the 2020 lockdown imposed by national and international authorities because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

17 These norms have since then been updated by decree no. 2019-305 of April 11, 2019 of law no. 2018-1021 of November 23, 2018 (known as loi Elan), which allows for only 20% of accessible units (and at least one unit), calculated on the number of units located on the ground floor or floors accessed by an elevator. The remaining units need to have an “affordance” to evolve.

18 The compliance with the accessibility norms is more importantly part of broader spatial and urban considerations in favour of the veterans, namely the design of collective spaces and the integration in dynamic urban fabric such as Saint Michel, which are both great improvements in comparison with the migrant workers’ hostel model.

19 All the administrative procedures they had to go through to justify their stay and its duration were also a continual reminder of their temporariness.

20 Many of the veterans still suffer from solitude and isolation and see the investment in homemaking as useless in their given condition.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Illustration 1: Aerial view of the two residences’ location
Légende The veterans of both residences converge towards the Saint Michel district in their daily routines.
Crédits Source: Google Earth / Ali-Oualla, 2022
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 715k
Titre Illustration 2: Visual-narrative scene at D.’s studio, in Adoma Social Residence
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 895k
Titre Illustration 3: Ground floor plan of a migrant workers’ hostel
Légende Legend: This redrawing is based on Hélène Beguin’s (2015) doctoral thesis on housing in Aftam shelters (ground floor plan of a migrant workers’ hostel in Saint-Jean-Le-Blanc). It illustrates collective rooms grouped into “community living units” of five or six rooms with shared sanitary facilities and kitchens.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2020
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 489k
Titre Illustration 4: Floor plan of D.’s studio, Adoma Médoc social residence
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 281k
Titre Illustration 5: Picture of D.’s prayer mat
Légende Legend: D. keeps his prayer mat neatly folded on a chair he doesn’t use, as he rarely has visitors. A second chair is leaning behind it against the corner of the wall.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 451k
Titre Illustration 6: Picture of D.’s studio kitchen
Légende Legend: Like the rest of the studio, the kitchen area had basic items and utensils for individual use.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 433k
Titre Illustration 7: Picture of M.’s sleeping area in the studio, Adoma Medoc Social Residence
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 423k
Titre Illustration 8: A drawing of the sleeping area of Z.’s studio in the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Social Residence
Légende Legend: Even though the studio allows only limited appropriation of the space, Z. has tried to personalise his living space by adding light furniture (folding chair), some decorative elements (vase, plastic flowers) and electrical appliances. Two suitcases appear between the wooden legs of the bed frame.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2020
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 353k
Titre Illustration 9: Floor plan of M.’s studio, Adoma
Légende Legend: The floor plans of Adoma’s studios all follow a standard layout. Still, M. has managed to slightly adapt the room by moving the furniture provided, such as the bed.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 506k
Titre Illustration 10: The sleeping area of M’s studio
Légende Legend: On the radiator, M. keeps a reinforced cardboard sheet on which he wrote a Qur’anic verse as a reminder to read before sleeping.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 350k
Titre Illustration 11: Picture of medicine boxes for M.’s healthcare routine
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2018
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 403k
Titre Illustration 12: Picture of the interior courtyard of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Residence
Légende Legend: Vegetable planters are set up to encourage appropriation of the space.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2017
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 571k
Titre Illustration 13: Picture of the interior courtyard of the Mohamed Mechti Intergenerational Residence
Légende Legend: A long bench is set up along one of the side walls for the use of veterans and other residents.
Crédits Source: Ali-Oualla, 2017
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/docannexe/image/4548/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 526k
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Myriame Ali-Oualla, « “Home” away from home?  »Ambiances [En ligne], 9 | 2023, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2023, consulté le 23 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/4548 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/ambiances.4548

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Auteur

Myriame Ali-Oualla

Trained architect and doctor of Sociology. Her doctoral research was based on a transdisciplinary approach and use of visual methods to recount the various spatial experiences in migration. After leading a first postdoctoral research project on 20th-century architectural heritage adaptation to climate change, she is currently part of an experimental research-action living lab project on resilient habitat as a postdoctoral fellow and project manager at the University of Bordeaux.

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