Minors in migration: Comparative Approaches

Convenors: Simona Tersigni (Université Paris Nanterre) & Lorenzo Navone (INS HEA)

Political Europe in recent years has been crossed by a multitude of “crises” (economic, political, migratory, etc.). This crisis is often followed by an “emergency” response, as in the case of treatment for asylum seekers and refugees in different transit areas (in Calais, Ventimiglia, Lampedusa and Lesbos). In this situation, the emergence of discourses and rhetorical design about spreading waves of “moral panic”, especially around the issue of migrant minors (Machiels, Niget 2013), has effects of reality also in the academic sphere. It is the case with works that re-examine the complexity of the Greek context (Digidiki, Bhabha 2017) focusing exclusively on the issue of psychological violence and on the risks of sexual exploitation in which many unaccompanied foreign minors would incur.

Migrant children have been considered for a long time like some appendices of migration studies, a fragile subject to be complied with and protected, or an inappropriate one, to be measured, distributed, corrected and punished, but always lacking in voice, will, agency (Fassin 2005). It is therefore crucial that a renewed empirical positioning is now enriched with child migration studies taking distance from common sense categories. This needs to analyse discourses and emotions mobilized around the destiny of these children and teen agers. It is necessary to compare different forms of identification, their status, and the many definitions and categorizations that invest them in the light of a continuum, from unaccompanied minors to minors who are “bad” or “little” accompanied, to the underage family migrants and those admitted for “family reunification”.

We require empirical studies that reflect on the migration paths, health, education and the right of migrant children and teen-agers to query the public and social policies, family projects and individual choices of these young social actors. The infra/inter-institutional tensions regarding these children will be the focus of ethnographic proposals aimed at understanding social and family policies. Identification procedures (biometrics, psychological and aptitude tests) and recognition of unaccompanied minors will be particularly important for capturing, as in a magnifying glass, the criteria related to contemporary official representations of a childhood and adolescence considered as authentic, but in fact socially produced, by medical, legal and social intervention institutions (Tersigni 2015). The internal comparative approach of communications or produced by the proposed papers will allow comparisons of practices, rhetorical design and mobilized values at the collective and individual, institutional, but also associative levels.


Diasio, N. e S. Tersigni, 2014. Corpo e infanzia in situazione migratoria, Interazioni 1-2014, pp. 47-60.

Digidiki, V. e J. Bhabha, 2017. Emergency within an Emergency: The Growing Epidemic of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Children in Greece, Harvard University.

Fassin, D. 2005. Compassion and Repression: The Moral Economy of Immigration Policies
in France, Cultural Anthropology 20 (3), pp. 362-387.

Machiels, C. e D. Niget, 2013. Protection de l’enfance et paniques morales, Paris, Fabert.

Tersigni, S. 2015. À chacun sa toise. Enjeux de taille et conformité d’âge à l’aube de l’adolescence, Ethnologie française, 2015-4 (154), pp. 633-642.

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