International Symposium Emigration-immigration as a “total social fact” A focus on Abdelmalek Sayad's work and thinkingCall for papers, EHESS

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September 26, 27 and 28, 2018

CESSP - IRIS - CRESPPA-CSU - Musée National de l’Histoire de l’Immigration – French National Archives

Twenty years ago, Abdelmalek Sayad passed away. His work, based on nearly 40 years of investigations and a hundred publications, has contributed greatly to the renewal of scientific views and practices on the migration phenomenon and on a set of objects of prime importance for the social sciences.

Abdelmalek Sayad never dissociated the social logics producing emigration from the forms of recomposition of communities at work in any immigration. His will to describe on both side of the Mediterranean the modalities and contours of a "double absence" widely echoed in the academic and in the militant, associative and intellectual world.

Abdelmalek Sayad's work remains innovative in many respects. First, in terms of the analysis of migration experiences, it contains a series of central texts for the social sciences, both theoretically and methodologically. This is the case for the El Ghorba text, in which Abdelmalek Sayad reports on the social logics that produced Algerian migration to metropolitan France within the colonial context. Through the testimony of then young Mohand, he describes how the decline of a "traditional" agricultural model fueled hopes in a migration project in which the first migrants silenced material realities vis-a-vis the youngest. But it is also the case of his multiple articles in which Sayad closely analyses the biographical accounts of migrants

and children of migrants. In terms of the analysis of the intimate relationship between immigration and the nation-state, as well as between the condition of foreigner and a state apparatus that emphasizes the chiasm between the status of foreigners and nationals, Sayad's work proves to be groundbreaking. It inaugurates a profound reflection on the links between immigration and "Pensée d’Etat" (to take up the concept coined by Pierre Bourdieu).

Abdelmalek Sayad's scholarly production, apparently limited to the sociology of immigration and that of the State, goes far beyond these two objects in that it apprehends emigration- immigration as a "total social fact". Taking up in Allal, Buffard, Marié and Regazzola the idea of the "mirror function" of immigration, Sayad makes of it a base, more than an end point, of his reflection. It allows him to develop his own off-centre sociology of the national narrative by incorporating in it notably the colonial dimension of the relations of domination.

The sociologist's career has, moreover, produced a voluminous archive, mixing survey materials, preparatory working notes, and documents associated with his personal career, his editorial commitment or his participation in various commissions. This precious collection, collected since 2004 by the association Génériques before it was transferred to the Musée national de l'histoire de l'immigration, from the library which now bears its name, has been kept and can be consulted at the National Archives since 2016.

For all these reasons, Abdelmalek Sayad's sociological work and tools are of great relevance to social scientists who promote interdisciplinarity. If this symposium is also a tribute, it will be only by showing how researchers continue to appropriate and put to the test of their fields and their own research the achievements of his work.

If for a part the selected contributions will be able to come back on Sayad's scientific trajectory, the scientific committee of the conference will consider with just as much attention the proposals of communication submitted by doctoral students or postdoctoral young researchers in the research fields opening on off-centre areas of the French and Algerian fields only.

It would be preferable for these to fit with one of the following five axes, corresponding to a set of reference texts produced by A. Sayad:


Axis 1: Sayad thinker of the colonial fact

Sayad's intellectual trajectory can only be understood if we integrate that he was confronted personally, politically and scientifically, with the question of colonization. The colonial situation is the thread that connects both his unique family trajectory, his first political

commitments and his first works on Le Déracinement and Algerian peasants. From the outset, the sociology of Abdelmalek Sayad links the question of migration to the logics of colonial domination and the effects of imperialism. This sociology also investigates the singularity of the postcolonial nationalisms, especially through their expression and purpose. Through this first axis, we intend to value the contributions that will mobilize the sociological tools forged by Sayad to think the specificity of colonial dominations in their different political and anthropological dimensions. Proposals dealing with contemporary situations marked by neo- colonialism or by the legacy of colonial economic and social structures (and not limited to a single literary reference to postcolonialism) will also be taken into account.


Axis 2: The immigrant condition (work, precariousness, health, stigmatization)

Abdelmalek Sayad is undoubtedly the sociologist who has insisted the most on the concrete and practical dimension of the migratory experience for Algerian workers. In his text "Immigrant, OS à vie", he insists more particularly on the way the various social components of these workers’ identity intersect to the effect of forging a status, a social figure indissociably marked by otherness. Sayad is also one of the few sociologists who were interested since the 1970s in the question of the body in its dual aspect: both marked by work and as a support for stigmatization. His work on ageing and health remains challenging in that it addresses the materiality of migration situations. This second axis is a call for proposals extending this research programme.


Axis 3: Family transmission, illegitimate children, school, language issue(s)

A large part of Sayad's work deals with the cultural dimension of the migration experience. It seeks to show the dynamic nature of social mobility contained in the migration project. Sayad's commitment to exploring the situation of immigrant children (both "illegitimate children" and "children of subversion" of the national order, to use the terms of his interviewees) allows him to approach the question of bilingualism or illiteracy in ways other than by taking up the categories of public mechanisms. In this sense, Sayad's work can also be read as an important contribution to the sociology of family transmission and socialization. This conference intends to leave all their place to contemporary works which would deepen this aspect.


Axis 4: Religious dimension / criticism of culturalism

On the other side of the same coin, Sayad has widely criticized culturalist approaches that tend to lose sight of the highly interactive and generational dimension of migration. Putting aside simplistic theories of cultural distance or cultural gap, Sayad was one of the few immigration sociologists who fought the implicit culturalism of intercultural approaches. He was also one of the few to develop a reflection on Islam as an immigrant religion and therefore a minority religion. While the religious and cultural question seems to be once again becoming a real challenge for contemporary social sciences, the symposium intends to give a hearing to works that articulate an approach to migration in these cultural and cultural aspects by taking advantage of the interactive and dynamic approach proposed by Sayad.


Axis 5: States and immigration

Finally, Sayad wrote numerous texts on the links between immigration and Pensée d’Etat. This is a structuring axis of his thought. His reflections on the arbitrariness of legal boundaries or the naturalization procedures have nourished many works. This last axis intends to recall that, for Sayad, immigration is "one of the best keys of entry to a sociology of the State". Contributions on the state and administrative dimension of migration processes (in both immigration and emigration societies) are particularly welcome. All field surveys addressing the issue of criminalisation of migrants in the context of new European migration policies naturally also have their place here.



A favourable look will also be given to the communication proposals that mobilize the Sayad archives now available for consultation at the National Archives. Proposals for communication of a maximum of 5000 characters must be sent before 10 May 2018 to The answers will be communicated at the beginning of June.


Scientific Committee 

Michel Agier (Directeur d'études à l'EHESS - IIAAC) - Marianne Amar (Département de la recherche du Musée National de l'Histoire de l'immigration) - Stéphane Baciocchi (IR EHESS – CRH LaDéHis) - Stéphane Beaud (PU Université de Poitiers – GRESCO) - Abdel-Halim Berretima, (MCF HDR à l’Université A-M Béjaïa - IRIS) – Emmanuel Blanchard (MCF UVSQ – CESDIP) - Kamel Chachoua (CR CNRS - IREMAM - chercheur associé au CNRPAH à Alger) - Altaïr Despres (postdoctorante Marie Skłodowska- Curie - CNRS-IMAF/University of Chicago) - Afranio Garcia (MCF à l'EHESS - CESSP) - Emmanuelle Giry (Conservatrice du patrimoine – Archives nationales) - Nancy Green (Directrice d'études à l'EHESS - CRH) - Abdellali Hajjat (MCF Université Paris Nanterre – ISP) - Choukri Hmed (MCF Université Paris Dauphine - IRISSO) - Solenne Jouanneau (MCFIEP Strasbourg – SAGE) - Sylvain Laurens (MCF EHESS – CESSP) - Chowra Makaremi (CR CNRS – IRIS) - Catherine Mérot (Archives Nationales - responsable du département Education, Culture, Affaires sociales) - Francine Muel Dreyfus (Directrice d’études à l’EHESS – CESSP) - Gérard Noiriel (Directeur d’études à l’EHESS – IRIS) - Salvatore Palidda (Professeur Université de Gênes) - Amin Pérez (IAS Princeton, IRIS) - Michel Pialoux (Chercheur associé au CESSP) - Laure Pitti (MCF Université Paris 8 – CRESPPA) - Yann Potin (CED Archives nationales – MCF associé Université Paris13/CERAL) - Monique de Saint Martin (Directrice d’études à l’EHESS – IRIS) - Alexis Spire (Directeur de recherche CNRS - IRIS) - Tassadit Yacine (Directrice d’études à l’EHESS – LAS) - Claire Zalc (Directrice d’études à l’EHESS - IHMC)



The conference will take place at the EHESS, 105 bd Raspail, amphitheatre Furet & at the National Archives auditorium (Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, metro Saint-Denis University)