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The Institutionalization of Absence in the Mediterranean

Constance De Gourcy
Traduction de Françoise Guillespie
p. vol 144

Texte intégral


  • 1 I would especially like to thank Cédric Parizot and François Siino for their advice and suggestions (...)
  • 2 In legal terms, such an approach favors mobile people who have a long-term residence permit and can (...)

1For nearly three decades, in America and then in Europe, transnationalism has profoundly and lastingly transformed the field of international migration. By shedding light on the ability of people who move to organize their movements and to maintain links between the countries they come from and those where they live and work, its contributions have freed research from the political and normative assumptions for integration and / or insertion into destination societies (Basch, Glick-Schiller, Szanton Blanc, 1994, De Tapia, 1994, Tarrius, 2002, Peraldi 2002, Urry, 2005, Levitt, 2007, Glick-Schiller, 2010). Indeed, it is not so much from the sole perspective of destination societies that migratory phenomena are now perceived and analyzed, but also from the movement among the space of exchange, movements that increasingly frame individual and collective experiences.2 From this consideration of multi-site investments through diversified migratory profiles there has arisen a new focus on transnational linkages that favors the emergence of a conceptual orientation, which is both descriptive and interpretative, around what has been labelled a "dual presence" (Diminescu 2005, Fekkar-Lambiotte 2007, Wihtol de Wenden 2009, 2014); the latter being called upon to substitute itself durably for the "double absence" (Sayad, 1999) characteristic of Fordist migrations, linked to the colonial and post-colonial context for which return to the country of origin represented the end point of the migrant itinerary.

  • 3 This research, federating a dozen researchers from different countries around the Euro-Mediterranea (...)
  • 4 Dictionary of Trévoux (Edition Lorraine, Nancy 1738-1742).
  • 5 We refer here to Marcel Mauss (1999) who, in his work on gift giving in Melanesian societies, diffe (...)

2As part of a multidisciplinary research dynamic,3 the aim of this paper is to problematize the perspectives opened up by transnationalism in order to reintroduce the experience of absence at the center of the setting in motion. This approach proposes to consider that absence is not only the opposite of presence as might be suggested by the overtaking - which is also a replacement - of the "double absence" by the "double presence", but an institution of meaning which defines a system of places and relational modalities between members geographically distant from a given collective. It is this median position occupied by the figure of the absent between that of the missing and that of the stranger that the authors have documented by varying the contexts of study and the scales of analysis, while also trying to think about geographic mobility with and from emigration societies. Being absent means maintaining links with the members of the home group so as not to become a "stranger" to the group or to be considered "missing". The maintenance of the links as a manifestation of a continuity of presence appears, as late as the end of the eighteenth century, in the definition given in Trevoux's dictionary:4 "He who is absent with the intention of not returning is deemed to be a stranger; but he is not, for that reason, considered dead. The status of the absent party is thus considered provisional, an easily altered status which can be modified according to whether exchanges become scarce or so distant as to be missing. This moral obligation5 of maintaining the bond, inscribed in a reciprocity of perspectives, invites us to consider absence as a social institution that is, as the foundation of relationships maintained at a distance.

3In this perspective, the various forms of reshaping the social bond that are created against the risk of dissolution introduced by distance become a privileged observation post from which to revisit some of the contributions of transnationalism.

Absence in the distance relationship

4In the history of migration, absence came in the form of double, it emerged as a significant milestone of economic migration, in the context of the 1970s so that we could speak of "double absence" (Sayad, 1999). Thus a paradoxical mode of recognition for the male figure of the emigrant was affirmed as being neither from here nor from there in the context of organized mass migrations and post-Fordist migrations. This historicization of the uses of the notion revealed a period corresponding to its maximum recognition - the acme of the "double absence" - before it became a defeated notion, replaced by its symmetrical counterpart, the "double presence". This is based on the finding that people who are mobile now deploy at least as much in a digital territory as in a geographical area, the increased growth of communications between separated people now keeping them in a constant focus of attention. This continuity in the maintenance of the presence is perceived as being favorable to the development of remote projects in a space-time which has contracted considerably. With these new forms of presence, here and there, the meaning and the experience of absence seem to come from an outdated period, itself associated with past migratory forms.

5This overcoming of the "double absence" by the "double presence" is also to be seen in the context of the development of digital technologies. The opportunity to exchange at any time and in any place promotes the maintenance of high points and creates a stream of focused attention within a collective of separate members. This rhythm of exchanges gives rise to a new, dense temporality, which succeeds the stretched temporality of the preceding modes of communication. Interacting in the interstices of everyday life, these contacts are certainly conducive to the development of a socia-(bi)-lity at a distance but more broadly, they raise the issue of the articulation between social and collective temporalities and parallel modes of individualization for partners engaged in a remote relationship.

6For this reason, it becomes possible to affirm that far from disappearing with digital technologies, the experience of absence is renewed as a founding institution of sociality between distant partners of a given collective. Better still, it is at the heart of the problem of the temporal adjustment necessary for a smooth coordination in communications. Indeed, being absent supposes the need to find the right distance for exchanges within the group because the ability to maintain this status depends upon this distance: too many contacts and solicitations, that is to say a high frequency in the rate of exchanges would no longer allow for the time needed for individuation. In his study of illegal aliens, Stefan Le Courant (2014) evokes a nostalgia for the delay of letters “in transit”, compared to the more direct and frequent phone calls, which do not allow sufficient time to satisfy the sometimes unceasing demands. On the other hand, infrequent contacts in the digital age entail the risk of perceiving the bond as declining, an offense perhaps even a betrayal of the group. If digital communications do not eliminate absence, they renew it as the founding experience of a remote sociality that only a superficial analysis could conceive as a substitute for face-to-face exchanges. The diversity of digital communications – chat, e-mail, telephony, text messaging, etc. – certainly makes it possible to maintain levels of attention over the near and the far, at the same time promoting a type of sociability that cultivates a sense of the hidden (De Gourcy, 2018 ).

  • 6 As evidenced by the reference to Dibutade which illustrates the cover of this issue. This young Cor (...)
  • 7 The interest in coordination between distant partners can be broken down into different analytical (...)

7This new state of affairs makes possible a history of this institution in the long run which consists in documenting the social forms taken since its first manifestations6. These forms are themselves embedded in a history of mobility - as shown by the acme of "double absence" - which is inseparable from "moral, intellectual, and cultural data that allow for risk acceptance, that allow cost and psychological investments, the price to be paid and the benefit received, whether material or moral "(Roche, 1983: 248). Also, taking into account this new angle of analysis, the authors gathered here have taken up the challenge of putting absence at the heart of their respective fields of research, thus opening new and fruitful avenues of research, some of which are put to the test by the new social contexts that have emerged since the revolts in the Arab world. Their contributions, coming as they do from different disciplinary horizons, emphasize with force how much it is at the same time, an experience more and more shared because of the transformation of the perimeters of social life (Agier, 2013), but also that the social forms of absence have diversified to the point of being part of a dynamic of change. It is this overall movement in the forms taken by absence that attempts to restore the file by showing the passage from an absence experienced as "compassionate", characteristic of Fordist migrations, to an absence which, because it has become a resource in remote action, can be perceived as "glorious", as an attribute which may conceived as constituent attribute of elite social and symbolic capital. Far from relegation as a "primitive scrap of knowledge" (Murard, 2016) in compressed space-time, absence broadly reveals diversified modes of coordination7 between partners engaged in remote relations, the dynamic of expectations that underlie these as well as the inventive and diversified ways of responding to them.

Absence and separation: ambivalent links

  • 8 Such tactics thus make it possible to remind the absent member of his commitment toward the group a (...)

8If there is an aspect within the study of mobility and migrations that is overlooked, it is the question of separation of partners and whether the separation is passing or long lasting. While it now seems possible to "cancel the effects of distance" thanks to increased mobility, often presented as reversible (Kaufmann, 2005), the same does not apply to a separation that "resists" as the experience activating motion. Absence therefore, refers to a specific type of separation, one that is charged with feelings for the other and marked by the strength of the bonds of the relationship. This feeling of absence and its modes of registration across distances runs throughout the contributions proposed in this volume. It is certainly a relevant indicator of the way in which the social link evolves between the different partners. In doing so, it allows the identification in the relation at a distance, of margins of autonomy and individuation where the cohesion of the social bond had been affirmed previously in the historiography of migrations. Hence, Emmanuel Blanchard's contribution, dealing with the family requests recorded by the French colonial administrations stresses the importance of so-called "marginal" trajectories in the knowledge of the history of migration between France and Algeria. Drawing on a large body of letters covering the period from 1928 to 1944, he demonstrates the extent to which the "first age of immigration" (Sayad, 1999) was also marked by the figure of the amjah, this glorious absentee who he has gradually cut himself off from his family and converted to ways of life and thought considered incompatible with those emigration was supposed to reproduce. We can thus measure, through these family queries, the gap that develops between expectations that are out of phase, deregulated as a matter of different space-time arrangements; In this way we can better understand the fragile nature of absentee status which eventually metamorphoses into that of “the missing”, just as soon as the relationship fades or becomes unilateral. It is undoubtedly to counter this risk of unbundling that the source communities have been so inventive in designating the place reserved for the absentee within local social organizations as well as the adoption of various tactics towards the separated partners of the group8. This feeling of absence, which is no longer part of a reciprocity of perspectives, is the thread developed by Kamel Chachoua to emphasize the transformations and meaning of this institution in different temporal contexts. It describes and analyzes the cultural, linguistic and ritual production of Kabyle source communities in countering the risk of misplacement of the emigrant during the period of work spent in France. This ritual dimension of social life created by separation and the fear of non-return which remains forever a possibility, is fulfilled in an essentially familial and feminine rite of "calling" the lost emigrant (amjah) from a rocky promontory, from the top of a tree or the skylight of a mausoleum to try to bring him back. The cohesive force of the group is here mobilized and deployed in ritualized form, especially when it comes to coping with the attempts of individuation of the party members who have "strayed". The party is absent as long as the source community can and wants to believe that he will return. The party is no longer considered absent when the promise of return can no longer be kept. The vocabulary used to attest to this transition from being absent to being “missing”, that is to say, lost to the group because the absence has become counter-productive, is peculiar to those rural societies engaged in a model of agricultural production. The semantic investment of this type of absence will cease when emigration is no longer perceived as a wrong, as pointed out by Kamel Chachoua, but as a form of wish fulfillment, in which an object is wished, desired and pursued by young people and in particular, by young female graduates.

9In this survey of the semantic forms that absence takes, the contribution of Eckehard Pistrick, on the Albania-Germany migration field, appears complementary to those previously developed while favoring a new angle of observation that involves taking into account the sound of absence. The regret, the nostalgia penetrate the musical domain and mobilize the sound of a mythical pastorality that evokes the places of origin and speaks of the empty space. By becoming a landmark for the place of one’s origin in the camps of exile investigated by the author, this music not only connects the absentees to their collectives of belonging, but objectifies the absence like a symbolic production that has effects on the social and cultural forms of societies.

  • 9 As the work of Abdelmalek Sayad (1999) shows in the Algerian case. The justification for the migrat (...)

10A first semantic framework of absence reveals itself in the fact of considering the absence as having been provisional, and inserted in a migratory process for which the departure and return sequence were perceived as inextricably linked, where "nostalgia is not only an emotional response to a lived past but an active practice of regret" as Eckehard Pistrick points out. These contributions however, show that the absence is not only seized upon as a geographical consequence of migration, but also as a testament to an active form of emancipation from a dependency in a context where the link between social action and remote action were subject to strong community control9. The petitions sent by the families of the missing to the colonial authorities, the calls of mothers and wives directed towards the lights of Algiers thus attest to a dependence of the entourage and those who remained in the country, especially with regard to those whose mobility was not only geographical but individual and social. The risk of switching from a status as absentee to that of stranger can be seen in the way of coping with distance: the first is merely away from the group while the second is freed from it.

Situations of Absence through the prism of state policy

  • 10 One of the most contemporary illustrations of this movement of objectification of absence as an adm (...)

11Transnationalism, let us recall, proposes to break down national spaces in order to account for multi-site activities of individuals and social groups. The works which refer to this develop an analytic framework which mobilizes the phenomenon of the double presence to imagine the two social scenes, that of the country of origin and that of the destination, together and no longer separately. However, if we consider that absence is not only the antonym of presence but what defines the relation at a distance and gives it meaning for the partners to a relationship, it becomes possible to analyze the formalization of this concept through state policies10. These remote linkage policies were introduced when nationals of a given country began to establish themselves permanently abroad. Thus Stéphane Dufoix situates the transition from "a practice of indifference or restraint towards expatriates" to a policy of "attention" (Dufoix, 2010: 27) to the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, multi-nationalism – the practice that reflects the existence of a trans-Mediterranean civil society (Henry, 2016: 17) – thus becomes a fertile ground for testing, within the framework of the multi-belonging, the very idea of absence.

12Because it tries to reconcile the normativity of the law with the reality of the double presence regarding nationals established abroad, Morocco appears as a privileged observatory of an active policy which is not without ambivalence, as Malika Gouirir points out in her contribution. She shows that absentees from the national territory enjoy an official status as a Moroccan Residing Abroad (MRE in French). These do not make up an homogeneous group but a diverse group that may be classified according to a typology which distinguishes the "silent" MRE from the “digital” MRE, from which she draws inferences of the contrasting effects of absence in relation to the country of "origin". The discretion of the former, the active social mobilization of the latter via social networks attest to an ambiguity that "seems at times like revenge for years of suspicion", even if it is not obvious and raises different reactions both in the temporality of everyday life and in that of the high points of public life, particularly when the political participation of binational Moroccans is expressed in national choices (Perrin, 2017).

Death as a migrant

  • 11 On these questions, one might consult the Diaspora journal devoted to death in migration (Op Cit. D (...)

13If there is one area where the legal order joins the social order, it is undoubtedly that produced by the social, political and religious implications of dying abroad. Several authors focused on this field of study in attempting to locate the effects of absence even in burial practices. Two articles in particular offer a possible space of comparison supporting unity of place - the migratory field, France, the Maghreb - and time - the last five decades of migratory history - to explore the lack of meanings. Without presupposing a reading that would see burial practices as indicators of successful integration in the countries of settlement11, post-mortem returns bear witness to a sense of belonging and testify more broadly to raised expectations from a migratory project.

14Airborne repatriation of the dead and burial rituals for expatriates who die in exile, as observed by Azzedine Kinzi in a Kabyle village can thus be analyzed as a form of compensation for absence. These also introduce a new distance that doubles the effects of death-related separation for those living in faraway countries whose lives are conditioned by geographic distance. The question arises however, and will inevitably become more central, where should someone go to be with one’s family? The choice of one’s country of origin is not necessarily one’s country of birth, the matter of dual nationality, introduced by Valérie Cuzol will only further complicate the issue of belonging, placing it among the new issues of a family history that must now deal with discontinuity. Having become a sensitive issue of state policies that attempt to renationalize the dead by controlling their displacement (Chaïb, 2000), the choice of the place of burial infuses the question, through complex arbitrations, with the further question of where to “locate” the absence: in the country invested as being that of the country of origin or in the country of installation? In which group of relatives should we consider ourselves to be absent: the contemporaries and the descendants with whom memories are shared (Margalit, 2002), or the "predecessors" (Schutz, 1987) whose graves are in the villages of origin? For death while a migrant brings to light the dissociation between affective proximity and geographical distance by separating twice, once by death and then again by the distance that in(tro)duced the absence. Also, it becomes particularly interesting to look at how the management policies of bodies in exile create situations of absence of a new kind that dispossess the families and communities of belonging of their dead in exile. This is the meaning of Lisa Anteby-Yemini’s contribution, an analysis of the effects of public policies implemented by the Israeli authorities since 2005 to deal with the death of asylum seekers on its territory. The comparative perspective she assumed places in a triangular relationship Israel, a State that has actively contributed to the development of the 1951 Geneva Convention, with Eritrea and Sudan, two countries experiencing the exile of their nationals. The dead bodies of Eritrean and Sudanese exiles who have fled their country have an unequal capacity to bridge the transnational spaces that the author highlights. The author also explores the different ways of being absent by looking at what she calls the "true absentees", that is, the missing, the unburied and the anonymous, the dead for whom the rituals of death cannot be performed, and whose departure from the world of the living cannot be noted.

  • 12 For the year 2017 alone, the World Organization for Migration estimates the number of deaths in the (...)

15At a time when thousands of exiles, including entire families, risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea12 in search of work and life in peace, the legal vulnerability of these exiles highlights these situations of extreme absence as a new condition which combines anonymity with the collective nature of these disappearances. This moral economy of death in migration, where the condition of death is unverifiable even if certain, none-the-less produces an invisibility of a new kind, that freezes absence as a state, as a permanent absence, in a way, it is doubly disruptive, at the institutional level and at the social and family level, for those who are concerned.

Unity as migrants

  • 13 Among the activities that preceded the publication of this volume, there is research on the houses (...)

16To consider absence as a state or as a process allows different analytical perspectives that the authors have taken up. This point deserves to be underlined because it offers a new perspective on the debates grouped under the banner of "transnationalism". Even if these findings remain to be discussed, if not historicized (Salzbrunn, 2016, Green, Waldinger, 2016), the authors who refer to them agree in stressing the diminished importance of physical space and geographical territories in action taken in favor of virtual territories and new fields characterized by networking. Integrating absence into such debates13 presents first and foremost the advantage of underlining how it appears to be a relevant indicator for measuring attachment to the country, as well as the various manifestations of commitment including, it should be noted, the practice of return, whether realized or projected. Secondly, and this is the perspective adopted by a number of contributors to this volume, their contributions to the debate on transnationalism take place while fully conscious of the procedural nature of absence. This approach makes it possible to take into account the duration of the absence as well as its consolidating or dissolving effects on social links at a distance and on the relationships to the lived and traversed spaces. This is particularly emphasized by articles by Kamel Chachoua and Emmanuel Blanchard from a Franco-Algerian perspective marked by nearly two centuries of migration (Blanchard, 2018). This is also the approach developed by Laura Odasso in her contribution, which describes how state policies and their effects in terms of intergenerational transmission are implicated within a context of conjugal equality. Starting with the analysis of two female trajectories, one Moroccan the other Lebanese, both accompanied by French spouses the dynamism of the notion that is experienced in terms of “existential” and “institutional” absence. What we could then call "feeling of absence" is thus experienced differently according to the duration of the absence and the stages of the life cycle, so that institutional absence gradually comes to replace an existential absence which had come to characterize the temporary withdrawal but country of origin in relation to the country invested as living space/place. In this matter as in others, state policies underline the fact that absence, like presence, is not only an observable physical reality, but more broadly the outcome of complex arbitrations revealing gender assumptions that favor the masculine over the feminine in defining the criteria of belonging and the transmission of nationality to the descendants, that is to say among the differentiated modalities constructing presence and absence.

Absence as a resource in remote action

  • 14 We should mention the article by Abdelmalek Sayad (1985) which shows how the diversity of communica (...)

17It is a paradox that is becoming increasingly salient in our contemporary societies: never have individuals been so caught up in relations of absence, and never has absence been so thoroughly studied. Considered as a matter of course in a world where mobility has become a primary characteristic (Urry, 2005), absence is no longer merely sustained, experienced as a temporal parenthesis to be closed following the return of the emigrant as in the framework of Fordist migrations. The return can be desired, sought after, arranged. Thus, the semantic investments of this institution allow the description of a vast movement describing the tactics employed to remind absentees of their obligations towards the group14 and the strategies the absentees themselves seek to deploy.

18Keeping an agreed distance with one’s relatives, those who count, is the perspective adopted by Eftychia Mylona who seeks to understand why members of the Greek community settled in Egypt - the Egyptiotes - remained there after 1960 at the time of the formation of the new Egyptian postcolonial state, despite having been invited to leave. Their presence does not contradict their absence; indeed, based on this dual register, the feeling of belonging is revisited as it is played between country of origin and country of installation and as it resolves complex articulations between nationality and citizenship. The singular cases studied here reveal the hidden resources of this presence, particularly through the various economic and commercial strategies that support the choice to stay and propel these voluntary exiles according to a logic of upward social mobility.

19The recent context of the Arab uprisings is also a good place to get past the traditional forms of distant links that occur mainly in the economic register, including money transfers, tourism and exoticism, and the family register (Beaugrand and Geisser, 2016). The new modalities of updating absence are revealed by the fact of putting to the test the usual categories of representation of the action. This opens a fertile field for analysis and offers the possibility of documenting the effects of action at a distance, in absentia. Let us be clear, it is not so much a question of reducing the absence to some form of remote presence, but of deploying the range of possibilities contained in the remote action. The final two contributions explore distance as a resource for collective and individual action. The first describes the organization of the Tunisian diaspora in the three main European settlement countries, France, Germany and Italy. The authors, Claire Demesmay, Sabine Russ-Sattar and Katrin Sold, examine how the 2011 uprisings brought about or renewed a sense of absence among members of the Tunisian diaspora. In particular, the authors highlight the emergence of a post-revolutionary emotional community conducive to the activation or reorganization of forms of representation and action by Tunisians living abroad. The contribution proposed by Leo Fourn analyzes the leave-taking process of exiled activists, taking into account the temporality of their installation in the host country, France. It shows how much the distance can be conducive to the emergence of new repertoires of militant engagement for the revolt in Syria. This commitment diminishes as the period of absence increases and the prospect of return recedes. Also, when the expatriate no longer confronts a “situation of transit”, (Agier, 2012) the question arises whether he can still consider himself and be considered absent.

20With the objective of introducing this temporality, which has been erased and ignored by the science of immigration, the purpose of this volume is not only to rehabilitate absence as that which defines and anchors relations at a distance, but also to show the relational character of this notion against the ever present possibility of becoming a stranger to the group. Whether in the field of economic migration, death as a migrant, national revolt and, more broadly, in the context of state policies, the authors have opened up new horizons for research to document the inventive and diversified ways of "maintaining sociability" in the face of the risks of disconnection which weigh upon relations at a distance. In doing so, these authors’ contributions advance our understanding of how to de-nationalize the view focused on the objects of Mediterranean research while more broadly grasping the migratory questions on each of two social scenes, which supposes a ubiquity that only the training and skills of the scholar and the researcher can synchronize and summarize. Point by point, this is an experience similar to that described and analyzed by Pierre Bourdieu in his analysis of genealogies, calendars, honor and charitable giving (Bourdieu: 2017). The contributions presented in this volume assemble the conditions of this ubiquity. We may yet hope that the avenues thus proposed will sustainably contribute to reinventing absence as the central fact of distance relationships.

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1 I would especially like to thank Cédric Parizot and François Siino for their advice and suggestions throughout the development of the research as well as Kamel Chachoua for his collaborative friendship of many years.

2 In legal terms, such an approach favors mobile people who have a long-term residence permit and can move freely, leaving aside a large proportion of people on the move (Simon, 2008).

3 This research, federating a dozen researchers from different countries around the Euro-Mediterranean, was conducted between 2014 and 2016 under the direction of Constance De Gourcy as part of an ATRI research program: "An Ariadne’s thread in the Euro-Mediterranean area: absence as a modality of belonging ". A CRISALIDE research notebook (Interdisciplinary Research Collective on Absence and Diasporic Relations in the Euro-Mediterranean Space, ISSN 2496-9451) documents the cultural, social and political forms of absence in the Mediterranean. This work was supported by the State, managed by the National Research Agency, under the A * MIDEX Future Investments project bearing the reference ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02.

4 Dictionary of Trévoux (Edition Lorraine, Nancy 1738-1742).

5 We refer here to Marcel Mauss (1999) who, in his work on gift giving in Melanesian societies, differentiates the obligation from the constraint. The obligation is that which the individual creates for himself and for his entourage, it refers to the autonomy of the action; the constraint refers to the heteronomy of the action.

6 As evidenced by the reference to Dibutade which illustrates the cover of this issue. This young Corinthian girl draws on a wall the projected shadow of the face of her departing lover. While this movement may have appeared as the inaugural act of painting by the neoclassical pictorial tradition (Frontisi-Ducroux, 2007), we see rather a prefiguration of the absence that mobilizes the creative gesture to express the feeling related to the absence to come.

7 The interest in coordination between distant partners can be broken down into different analytical registers: language, emotion and action.

8 Such tactics thus make it possible to remind the absent member of his commitment toward the group and to focus community attention on the collective value of belonging. We should recall that for Michel de Certeau (1990: XLVI) "the tactic is only effective in terms of the other. It insinuates itself, fragmentarily, without grasping it in its entirety, without being able to keep it at a distance.”

9 As the work of Abdelmalek Sayad (1999) shows in the Algerian case. The justification for the migration process lies in the financial reward and salary received in the country of immigration.

10 One of the most contemporary illustrations of this movement of objectification of absence as an administrative category is the example of the "visa leave for absence" which in certain Anglo-Saxon countries regulates the duration of the absence (approximately 5 months) within the framework of student migration. Beyond this temporal criterion, absence is no longer considered as such.

11 On these questions, one might consult the Diaspora journal devoted to death in migration (Op Cit. Diaspora No. 30.Grenet, Foa, 2017).

12 For the year 2017 alone, the World Organization for Migration estimates the number of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea at over three thousand.

13 Among the activities that preceded the publication of this volume, there is research on the houses of the absentee in Algeria (Mekki, 2012) or the rooms of the absent (or transition) in Albania (Dalipaj, 2016). For further information refer to the following link:

14 We should mention the article by Abdelmalek Sayad (1985) which shows how the diversity of communication formats reveals so many different ways of reminding the absent person of his family duties.

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Constance De Gourcy, « The Institutionalization of Absence in the Mediterranean », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 144 | novembre 2018, mis en ligne le 30 novembre 2018, consulté le 14 décembre 2018. URL :

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Constance De Gourcy

Aix-Marseille Univ, Cnrs, Lames, Aix-en-Provence, France

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