Cultural & Social Studies

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Coming of Age in Madrid

An Oral History of Unaccompanied Moroccan Migrant Minors

Susan Plann is UCLA Research Professor of Chicano Studies and Spanish and Portuguese, having retired in 2017. She is the author of three books and numerous articles. Her study of the Spanish Deaf community as a linguistic and cultural minority called for comparison of Spanish Sign Language with Spain’s co-official languages (Basque, Catalan, Galician, …), and this sparked an interest in the status of the Arabic language in Spain. The result was an important article on this topic, which involved qualitative interviewing which in turn led to the research presented in Coming of Age in Madrid.

Coming of Age in Madrid is a longitudinal study of twenty-seven Moroccan youth who migrated to Madrid as unaccompanied minors, passed their adolescence in the Spanish child-care system, and embarked on their lives as young adults; interviews were conducted over a period of six years in Spain and Morocco. The stories begin with narrators’ lives in Morocco, contextualizing their migratory experience, then follows them – children traveling alone – as they across the Strait of Gibraltar and make their way to Madrid; the study also engages with those who were deported, crossing the Strait once again as they were returned to Morocco. Using qualitative interviews to capture narrators’ accounts in their own words, this oral history examines their identity trans/formation, integration, and acculturation in Spain. Their individual voices and their collective wisdom contribute to an understanding of their experiences and by extension, that of unaccompanied child migrants everywhere, revealing larger lessons to be learned. Documenting their transition into adulthood, the book poses the crucial question, What becomes of unaccompanied migrant minors when they come of age?

Unaccompanied minor migration is on the rise throughout the world, it is the new normal. As Spain and other nations grapple with increasing numbers of unaccompanied children on their borders, the importance of this study has immediate relevance for government policies and migration research. The history of unaccompanied Moroccan minors coming of age in Madrid contributes to the broader geographical discussion by responding to calls for contextualized, micro-scale, local research and the foregrounding and centralizing of the young migrants themselves.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-941-8
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $85.00
Release Date: December 2018
Page Extent / Format: 340 pp. 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Yes



Chapter 1: Introduction

  • About this Research
  • Moroccan Migration: A Historical Overview
  • Moroccan Emigration: The View from Morocco
  • Moroccan Immigration: The View from Spain
  • Organization of This Book

Part One: Moroccan Boyhood
Chapter 2: Life before Migration
Chapter 3: A Culture of Leaving

  • Reasons for Leaving: Push
  • Reasons for Leaving: Pull
  • The Outliers

Chapter 4: Preparing to “Burn”

  • Parental Attitudes toward Minor Children’s Migration
  • Living Arrangements
  • Breaching the Port

Chapter 5: Perils of the Port

  • A Primer on Unauthorized Emigration
  • Survival Lessons
  • Bereaved Families, Disappeared Children

Chapter 6: Departure

  • Try, Try Again
  • The Crossing
  • Toward a New Life

Part Two: MENAs in Madrid
Chapter 7: Arrival

  • In a Strange Land
  • Calling Home
  • The Un/Kindness of Strangers
  • The Police Station
  • The Age Assessment Test
  • Entering a Shelter, Leaving a Shelter
  • Welcome to Madrid
  • Choosing a Path

Chapter 8: The Crucible: Life in the Child Protection System

  • Residential Life
  • Practicing Islam
  • Learning Spanish, Going to School, Learning a Trade
  • Skirmishes with the Police
  • Repatriation

Part Three: From MENAs to Men
Chapter 9: Aging Out: Twenty is the New Thirty

  • First Things First
  • Continuing Education
  • Encounters with the Law
  • Vakansya: The First Trip Home
  • Dreams Deferred, Dreams Come True
  • Looking to the Future

Chapter 10: Coming-of-Age Stories

  • Idris
  • Farid
  • Rayan
  • Samir
  • Walid
  • El-Habib

Part Four: Integration, Discrimination, Acculturation, Identity
Chapter 11: Negotiating Integration

  • Negotiating Social Relations
  • Negotiating Romance
  • Negotiating Marriage

Chapter 12: Navigating Prejudice

  • Navigating the Spaniards
  • Navigating the Moroccan Community in Spain
  • Navigating Public Language Use
  • Navigating the Metro

Chapter 13: Negotiating Acculturation, Negotiating Identity

  • Negotiating Acculturation
  • Negotiating Gender Relations and Gender Roles
  • Negotiating Language
  • Negotiating Islam
  • Negotiating Identity

Part Five: Lessons Learned
Chapter 14: Taking Stock

  • Worth It?
  • Advice to MENAs-in-Waiting

Chapter 15: Conclusion

  • Clandestine Emigration from Morocco Today
  • Moroccan Child Migrants in Spain: Lessons Learned
  • Final Thoughts
  • Postscript

Works Cited

* MENA is the Spanish acronym for unaccompanied foreign minors (menores extranjeros no acompañados).


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