SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

The Logic of Burning: Migration, Illegality, and Freedom in Tangiers


Date: 21 March 2018Time: 3:15 PM

Finishes: 21 March 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4429

Type of Event: Seminar

Speaker: Prof Majid Hannoum (University of Kansas)


Lahrig in Moroccan Arabic means burning and it often refers to the activities of youngster and children who attempt to cross to Europe via the port of Tangier. They are called harraga which literally means burners. In this lecture, I would like to interrogate the following questions: why do young people and children want to migrate? And why does this specific form of migration presents such a high risk that the youth are willing to take? How do they challenge the constraints to their mobility within and beyond the city? Since often clandestine migration is approached from the vantage point of law, I would rather ask not how the harrag violates the law, but also how does the state violate its own law by creating the social conditions of the harraga’s death? And how do the harraga live in the city of Tangier, especially within the cultural structure of violence commonly called hogra? In their attempts at crossing to Europe not only do young migrants demonstrate an extraordinary resilience in coping with extraordinary challenges, but they are also motivated and guided by universal impulses toward freedom. My describes the structural violence that Moroccan children and youth are caught up in and demonstrates how their activity, deemed illegal, is itself an exercise of freedom—freedom from the system of hogra and freedom to find a better life.


Prof Hannoum teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kansas. He is the author of Violent Modernity: France in Algeria (2010) and Colonial Histories and Postcolonial Memories: the legend of the Kahina, a North African heroine (2001).