Sub-Saharan “Illegal” Renegade ‘Communities’: A Metaphorical Shift from Transnationality to ‘Transition-ality’

Abdelmajid Ridouane


The category of “Illegal” immigrants, in which the present article is interested, is conventionally referred to in the discourse of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a ‘large scale influx’. To differentiate it from the UNHCR collective designation, I refer to it as “sub-Saharan Renegades”. By this nomenclature, I intend that this “transition-al” congregation of individuals who should be conceptualized neither as independent subjects with a certain agency and a certain personhood nor merely as a mass of human influx, tend to disrupt the widely accepted narrative that Globalization and its Western neo-liberal transnational economic models empower underprivileged sub-Saharan countries. The ongoing plethora of literature produced in probing the “illegal” immigrant problematic risks to be a set of rich and various, yet distracted attempts to answer the challenging questions raised by the chaotic alienation of these transitional communities, stranded between an overpowering competition-based individualism, and a dwindling sense of native African communalism. This diasporic category mandatorily transforms into an invisible community during the risky and life-threatening desert-crossing. Figuratively, they migrate out of the dictates of the high echelons of world powers and the deleterious offshoots of their imposed political and economic orders, only to seek to cross to Europe in a boomerang effect to the world wherefrom globalist financial policies in sub-Saharan Africa have originally emanated. During the long “illegal” immigrants crossing to Europe, and on account of their limited resources, the ‘renegades’ inform and update one another about the do’s and don’ts of the precarious border-crossings, share food, maps, crucial information about traffickers, do translation work, sell goods, etc. My focal point here is that there is an overwhelming consensus that the precarious crossings of the desert and the other multiple transitional populated geographies (fraught with danger, violence, abuse, disorientation, and possibly death) is quasi unendurable outside these informally organized temporary communities.

It would be helpful to debate what scholarship and academia can make of the ephemerality and instability of these communities in transit, and to what extent these communities reflect the crises in postcolonial studies, cosmopolitan ideals, nationalist ideologies, and neo-liberal economies, all at once. To what extent are these renegade communities’ transition-ality a tool to debate one of the crises of celebrated transnationality? Asked differently, are these communities in transit, not a paradigm of globalization’s economic transnationality and an account of cultural transition-ality? Is the ‘renegade communities’ phenomenon a metaphor for how cultural fusion and tolerance could effortlessly be improvised among multi-national, multi-ethnic groups without the supreme guardianship of academia and authoritative institutions? or is it a metaphor for the gradual demise of the sub-Saharan communal social fabric under the neo-liberal order?


Transit migration, Neo-liberalism, Transnationality, Globalization, Border- crossing.

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