The Organic Ethnologist of Algeriani Migration Essay

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Adelmalek Sayad passed away two years ago at this writing, leaving behind him one of the most original and fertile contributions to the anthropology of immigration of the past century. Throughout his voluminous and varied writings ?close to a hundred publications, including eight books spanning the destruction of Algeria's traditional peasantry at the hands of French colonialism, the dynamics of migration chains from Kabylia to France, the impact of decolonization on the reception of Algerian workers in Marseilles, the odyssey of those workers and their children through the layers and institutions of French society, the social uses and political abuses of "immigrant culture," and the everyday life of Algerian slums on the Parisian periphery during the fifties, all informed by an acute awareness of the political-economic roots and import of human transhumance1- the Algerian sociologist both elaborated and demonstrated the potency of three pivotal principles for the study of migration. The first is the simple but fundamental proposition, whose implications remain to be fully drawn out by scholars and policy makers alike, that before he or she becomes an immigrant, the migrant is always first an emigrant, and that the sociology of migration must therefore imperatively start, not from the concerns and cleavages of the receiving society, but from the sending communities, their history, structure, and contradictions. The common contraction of the emigration-immigration doublet to its second component mutilates the phenomenon and entraps the study of migrants into an artificial problematic of "lack" and deficiency explained away by ritualized references, now to their lower class composition and substandard conditions of living, now to the peculiarities of the culture they have brought with them.2Resisting such ethnocentric imposition, the sociology of migration must take as its object not the "problems" that migrants pose for the advanced societies which attract them, in matters of employment, housing, schooling and health, but the dynamic "relationship between the system of dispositions of emigrants and the ensemble of mechanisms to which they are subjected owing to this emigration" (Sayad 1These books are respectively (in English titles): The Uprooting: The Crisis of Traditional Agriculture in Algeria (Bourdieu and Sayad 1964), Algerian Immigration in France (Gillette and Sayad 1976), The Social Uses of the Culture of Immigrants (Sayad 1978), Towards a Sociology of Immigration (Sayad and Fassa 1982), Migrating - A History of Marseilles: The Shock of Decolonization (Temime, Jordi and Sayad 1991), Immigration, or the Paradoxes of Otherness (Sayad 1991), and An Algerian Nanterre, Land of Slums (Sayad with Dupuy 1995). The culmination and quintessence of Sayad's five decades of incessant research is Double Absence: From the Illusions of the Emigrant to the Suffering of the Immigrant (Sayad 1999). 2A rare and remarkable exception to this pattern, deserving of a wide readership for its multi-level, comparative, and interdisciplinary approach, is Massey, Durand and Alarcon (1987). Recent work on "transnational communities" has fostered a belated if limited recognition of the double-sidedness and dual determinacy of migration (see the special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies on the topic edited by Portes, Guarnizo and Landolt 1999, and Portes 1999). Which necessitates that one reconstitutes the complete trajectory of the individuals, households and groups involved in the peregrination under examination, in order to uncover the full system of determinants that first triggered exile and later continued, under new guises, to govern the differentiated paths they followed. Recognizing that "immigration here and emigration there are the two indisassociable sides of the same reality, which cannot be explained the one without the other" (Sayad 1999a: 15) enables Sayad to revoke, both empirically and theoretically, the canonical opposition…