The Places We Share: Migration, Subjectivity, and Global Mobility (review)
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Reviewed by
Susan Ossman, ed., The Places We Share: Migration, Subjectivity, and Global Mobility. Lanham, Boulder and New York: Lexington Books, 2007. 230 pp.

Susan Ossman has edited—and, along with twelve colleagues, written—a stunning book about serial migrants, people who have lived in at least three different countries. In voicing their own and others' stories of serial migration, these authors question the received wisdom of a binary, origin-and-destination model of migration. They provoke a critical rethinking of migrants' experience as displacement and assimilation. They reflect on what it may (or may not) mean to be cosmopolitan. The Places We Share gives us an insider's view of serial migration, since all these writers, including Ossman, are serial migrants themselves.

The authors' unique itineraries of serial migration become "sites of self-making" (3). Their textured portrayals move well beyond the sometimes self-congratulatory rhetoric of cosmopolitanism, question the congruence of identity, culture, and nation and offer their own " interpretations of how subjectivity, modes of action, and strategies for social [End Page 343] visibility are shaped in the process of moving from one place to another" (2). In revealing their own subjectivities, they purposefully blur genres, writing from the shared perspective of Morocco, as natives or as residents, which gives them common ground for serious conversation. As Ossman's Introduction suggests "acts of terror can be avoided by reinstating practices of exile" (14), by replacing "hyphenated identities" and "taxonomies of people" with a critical understanding of serial (and other) migrants' pathways and by a close questioning of cosmopolitanism.

Smaln Laacher describes the situation of migrants who are marooned in the detention center at Sangatte, France, near the tunnel between France and England. Here authorities do not ask for their papers or about their lives. To overcome their invisibility and liminal status, the self-aestheticizing stories of these migrants become a way to " settle down somewhere." (6). Ali, for instance, who lost a leg trying to get through the tunnel to Britain, sees his missing leg as a sacrifice to his desire that he believes has earned him the right to asylum in the UK. "He did not understand that the price of blood was not a means of joining a country" (33). His trauma only makes him a victim. His bricolage becomes a form of waiting rather than a passage to a settled life.

The story of Zacarias Moussaoui, tried and convicted (probably falsely) of participating in the destruction of the World Trade towers, makes him a particularly challenging example of the serial migrant. Susan Terrio writes that "his chameleon powers turn dark" (7). Moussaoui's mother became a single parent after leaving Morocco for France and divorcing her abusive, psychotic husband. Their son's "childhood was marked by her faith in French secularism," but after becoming a university student, Moussaoui suddenly left France for England, developed a "keen hatred for the West" (27), and embraced an uncompromising, Islamic fundamentalism. In spite of the consequences, his extremism may have provided him "with a third space within which to retreat and to rehearse the resentments and hatreds that set him on his migratory path at the outset" (44).

Nabiha Jerad shows how "new categories of identity and new ways of talking, writing and making music have emerged" (47) in the context of North African immigrants' postcolonial situation in France. France's mission civilitrice imposed normalization on immigrants supposedly to make them French. But even the French-born children of the migrants (known as beurs), although legally French citizens, are still allowed no real identity in France. Jerad argues that their "double belonging" (to their country of origin and [End Page 344] to their host country) is superseded by the cultural "third space" that immigrants have constructed through innovative linguistic practices, writing novels, and improvising new musical forms, all of which have led to "a critique of dualistic approaches" (52). A "language" of the immigrant banlieues (suburbs), Verlan is a slang in which French syllables are reversed, thereby resisting French linguistic normalization. Similarly, the novels by beur authors reverse colonial literature's perspective, showcasing the "schizophrenic" situation of the beurs themselves. As a genre of popular music...