HomeThe Vulnerability and Marginality of Youth in the Mediterranean Basin (19th-20th centuries)

The Vulnerability and Marginality of Youth in the Mediterranean Basin (19th-20th centuries)

Jeunesses, vulnérabilités et marginalités autour de la Méditerranée (XIXe-XXe siècles)

French Journal for the History of “Unconventional” Childhood

Revue d’histoire de l’enfance « irrégulière »

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Published on Friday, July 18, 2014 by Elsa Zotian


The Revue d’histoire de l’enfance “irrégulière” (the French Journal for the History of “Unconventional” Childhood) will devote its next issue to the different perceptions and management policies focused on irregular or marginal youth in the countries of the Mediterranean basin (i.e. the northern coast of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Mashriq and the Maghreb) throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Specifically, we expect that the study of the public policies adopted by the countries of the region to deal with their youth will put the hypothesis of the unity and singularity of the Mediterranean to the test: either it will allow some sort of shared approach to emerge or, on the contrary, it will expose the Mediterranean as a cultural and ideological construct.



The outbreak of “The Arab Spring” has recently renewed interest in the role played by the young in the public spheres of countries south of the Mediterranean. By protesting against their marginalization in societies plagued by unemployment, corruption and the break down of political representation, young people have demonstrated that they were a force of dissent capable of mobilizing massively and durably in order to make their voices heard. In light of these recent events, the next issue of La Revue d’histoire de l’enfance “irrégulière” (the French Journal for the History of “Unconventional” Childhood) wishes to reflect on the historical role played by youth in the countries of the Mediterranean basin throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on its own field of inquiry i.e. that of marginality and deviance.

Submissions for this issue may therefore focus on any country bordering the Mediterranean: the northern coast of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Mashriq and the Maghreb. This, however, does not entail that we wish to cast aside Fernand Braudel’s thesis on the unity of the Mediterranean basin which still exerts considerable influence throughout academia sixty-five years after the publication of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Rather, we propose to take stock of the different critiques that have been formulated against this paradigm since its inception. One can evoke, for instance, the work of anthropologist Michael Herzfeld who has coined the term “mediterraneanism” (modeled on Edward Said’s “orientalism”) in an effort to question the way in which anthropologists have not only tended to presume that the Mediterranean is a singular and homogeneous entity, but have also failed to analyze the mechanisms that have allowed this common-place assumption to be created and propagated [1]. The objective of this Call for papers is, therefore, to encourage submissions which put this hypothesis of the unity and singularity of the Mediterranean to the test of the public policies devoted to the control of the young. Eventually, this special issue will either suggest that these diverse societies actually did share common assumptions, attitudes and practices or, on the contrary, they will expose the Mediterranean as nothing more than a cultural and ideological construct.

Submission may choose to explore some of the following topics:

1) Describing the properties of youth oriented policies in the Mediterranean.

If one certainly cannot “take for granted the unity of the Mediterranean world” [2], is it nevertheless possible to establish parallels between the different public policies aimed at controlling young people adopted by the countries of the region? Should this be the case, is it possible to identify specific channels by which these practices, institutional infrastructures and legislative frameworks were transferred? Are these mechanisms of control distinct from those instituted in other areas (transatlantic, transcontinental, global)? Might it be possible to identify specifically Mediterranean chronologies in the adoption of policies designed to deal with “deviant” or “endangered” youths and, more specifically, did a certain anxiety about “modernity” exert an influence in the adoption of these policies (new modes of socialization, consumerism, addiction)?

2) Characterizing the different manners in which “youth” has been defined.

One might also wish to identify the different ways in which children were distinguished from teenagers in the Mediterranean: we might wonder if the strategies aimed at controlling and overseeing the young were distinct from those adopted in other cultural and geographical areas. Indeed, whenever societies have opted to define a minimum working age or to specifying the age of criminal responsibility or of sexual majority, these decisions have always been driven by cultural factors which have contributed to map out the progressive and conditional manner in which the young might gain their autonomy or their independence. In Morocco, for example, “youth” is not so much understood in its opposition to “old age” but is rather defined through its unequal access to certain modes of social integration [3]. Over the decades, how did the unsettling experience of modernization modify the way in which these thresholds were defined and how did this process change attitudes regarding the control of deviance or the protection of “vulnerable” youths?

3) Identifying the key actors of these policies, whether collective or individual.

We are also interested in identifying the main actors in charge of overseeing these marginal, threatened or threatening youths as well as in understanding how the prerogatives associated to this oversight were shared by the public and private sectors. In particular, what role did religion and religious institutions play? How did the institutions sponsored by different faiths interact (synergies, competition, isolation)? In this regard, our aim is to challenge certain stereotypical assumptions about southern European cultures which have frequently been considered as archaic societies in which the church (whether catholic or orthodox) played a critical role and where the models elaborated in northern European countries were introduced belatedly at best. We also wish to look more closely at the role played by Islamic institutions in those regions where they exerted particular influence in order to determine if there is such a thing as specific Islamic contribution to the definition and the management of juvenile delinquency.

4) Juvenile mobility and migration.

Considering the multidirectional flow of people, ideas and commodities which crisscrossed the Mediterranean, we might wonder if the young played a voluntary and/or involuntary part in this form of mass transit. To what extent did young people choose to participate in this circulatory dynamic and what were the logic and the circumstances that drove them on? Did they travel on their own or with their families? Did they take temporary leaves of absence or did they choose long term immigration)? Is it possible to identify specific migratory routes used by the young of the Mediterranean basin and, if so, what kind of an effect did these movements cause on the various countries concerned by these flows (countries of origin, transit, destination)?

5) Accounting for the impact of gender in the definition of juvenile delinquency.

It has now been clearly established that, in the countries on the northern coast of the Mediterranean, definitions of feminine and masculine misbehavior were radically different given that, for both families and the authorities, the moral dimension of girls’ conduct was of particular concern. If a similar gender bias were identified in the countries of the Middle East, the Mashriq and the Maghreb, might this suggest that there was a certain continuity of social representations across the Mediterranean regardless of cultural, religious and political practices?

6) Understanding the impact of the colonial context on these policies.

This field of inquiry should also offer multiple opportunities to examine the incidence of colonialism and imperialism on youth policies if only by trying to identify the origins of the social norms enforced in colonial societies: were the policies and practices implemented in colonial or postcolonial societies merely an extension of those of the metropolitan State or were they, on the contrary, the products of autonomous legislation? To what extent did the political and administrative status of the colonies determine the nature of the institutions under consideration (direct control, protectorates, mandated territories)? Might we consider that the colonial (and postcolonial) context had an influence on the experiences lived or endured by the young as well as on the reactions of those who were meant to oversee them (specific kinds of vulnerability and/or violence)?

To summarize, this special issue wishes to contribute new data and analytic frameworks to our historical understanding of the diverse strategies put in place to deal with the young, often considered as particularly vulnerable to the threat of deviance, and to question, in the process, the relevance of this spatial framework, fraught with socio-cultural implications that is the Mediterranean.

[1] Herzfeld Michael, « The horns of the Mediterraneanist dilemma », American Ethnologist, vol. 11, n°3, 1984, p. 440 ; idem, « Of Horns and History: The Mediterraneanist Dilemma Again », American Ethnologist, vol. 12, n°4, 1985, p. 779.

[2] Chastagnaret Gérard, Ilbert Robert, « Quelle Méditerranée ? », Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire, n°32, octobre-décembre 1991, pp. 3-6.

[3] Bono Irene, « Une lecture d'économie politique de la « participation des jeunes » au Maroc à l'heure du Printemps arabe », Revue internationale de politique comparée, 2013/4, vol. 20, p. 148.

Submission guidelines

Paper proposals (250 to 500 words) accompanied by a short CV must be sent to the organizers, Joëlle Droux (Joelle.Droux@unige.ch) and Amélie Nuq (amelie.nuq@upmf-grenoble.fr)

by December 31st, 2014.

Scientific committee


  • Wednesday, December 31, 2014


  • jeunesse marginale, politiques de la jeunesse


  • Amélie Nuq
    courriel : amelie [dot] nuq [at] upmf-grenoble [dot] fr

Information source

  • Amélie Nuq
    courriel : amelie [dot] nuq [at] upmf-grenoble [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« The Vulnerability and Marginality of Youth in the Mediterranean Basin (19th-20th centuries) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, July 18, 2014, https://calenda.org/295235

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