PUBLI : Noemi Casati and Silvia Pasquetti, « How Place Matters for Migrants’ Socio-Legal Experiences : Local Reasoning about the Law and the Importance of Becoming a ”Moral Insider” », Qualitative Sociology, 2022, en ligne


In this article, we argue that migrants’ socio-legal expe­riences in the places where they settle are formed in inter­ac­tion with how local resi­dents morally reason about the law. Speci­fi­cally, based on nine months of field­work in an impo­ve­ri­shed Italian town, we argue that aligning with how local resi­dents approach the law, inclu­ding when they justify diso­beying it, matters a great deal for migrants’ lives. Focu­sing on the workings of a recep­tion center for asylum seekers, we first show how local resi­dents regu­larly support various viola­tions of the law by refer­ring to alternative—and in their view higher—principles of justice. Migrants find them­selves caught up in these local moral tensions, at times even beco­ming involved in illegal prac­tices unbek­nownst to them. We then show how migrants’ reac­tions to the margi­na­lity of the law in the town affect their access to local support. Those who align with local nonlegal moral norms obtain access to oppor­tu­ni­ties, while those who in similar situa­tions invoke the primacy of lega­lity tend to expe­rience ostra­ci­za­tion. By inves­ti­ga­ting the dynamic role of local mora­li­ties in situated inter­ac­tion, this article contri­butes to both the socio­logy of mora­lity and the socio­logy of migra­tion. It shows how moral deci­sion-making processes can and should be studied in their collec­tive dimen­sion, beyond indi­vi­dual-level expe­ri­ments. Further, with its focus on processes of moral (mis)alignment, it allows us to grasp how place matters for migrants’ lives beyond overly general notions of ‘hostile’ versus ‘hospi­table’ localities.

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