Home Expatriates A Tale of Transnationalism: From Morocco to the Netherlands

A Tale of Transnationalism: From Morocco to the Netherlands

street art depicting a Muslim woman at odds with the western world. Photo by Zoe Zuidema

Rabat – “Transnationalism,” the sense of being caught between two national identities resulting from migration, is a new phenomenon in an age of ever-increasing technology.

The need for better economic prospects is the reason Widad Gourram’s parents left the familiar, crowded medina of Fez, Morocco, to migrate to the Netherlands to look for jobs and raise a family. Widad was born in Amsterdam two years later and is now 18 – she wears a hijab, a long black dress, and black converse sneakers.

Widad has wide brown eyes, a quiet voice and clasps her shaking hands when she speaks. She exemplifies the results of the long and arduous process of migration. Even though Widad is technically a Dutch citizen, it doesn’t often feel like it. Tensions between the Dutch and Moroccan immigrant population result in a strange, quasi-sense of belonging for Widad. She receives stares, shouts, and nudges in the country that must be called home.

However, when Widad visits Morocco to see family, Moroccans can tell she’s foreign: her accent, her accessories, and “the way she walks” give her away as an outsider. Widad remains a stranger in every context, and she perpetually exists on the edge of her social circle.

Widad serves as an example of “transnationalism:” the state in which many immigrants exist as they sustain old ties and forge new ones between their societies of origin and settlement. Transnationalism illustrates the multiple identities migrants may grapple with while trying to establish themselves in new countries: posing challenges to building a life in one locality while living with the expectations and traditions of another.

street art depicting a Muslim woman at odds with the western world. Photo by Zoe Zuidema
Street art depicting a Muslim woman at odds with the western world. Photo by Zoe Zuidema

In the past, immigrants were often pressed to abandon ties to home, resulting in the erasure of origin-country memories and relations in later generations. Today, an increase in availability and importance of transnational connections are made possible (and sustained) by new technologies of transportation and communication. The ability to maintain close and immediate ties to home is increased and practiced.

Transnational migration, then, is the process by which immigrants create and continue multiple social relations that link together their home and new society of settlement. Moroccan migrants often navigate this difficult lifestyle after moving abroad due to deteriorating social and economic conditions.

Widad’s family has an immigrant story with a seemingly happy ending: they arrived safely at their destination, found jobs and raised healthy children. But the ramifications become clear once they and their children cannot acclimate fully to a new culture. They are subjects of transnational identity: as migrants, they live in ever-changing social spaces, which are constantly reworked while living in more than one society.

As cultural mixing blends traditions between an “old home” and a “new home,” transnational migrants are brought face-to-face with alternative practices and are pressured to conform to what is new. In an effort to successfully maintain ties to both their past and future, the acclimation process is extended.

As Moroccan migrants abroad discover that integration is made more difficult by their transnational identities, it becomes clear that here, at the mere crossing of the border, the Moroccan struggle for inclusion in the host society begins.

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