Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico
A lecture by Natasha Iskander, New York University
At the turn of the twenty-first century, with the amount of money emigrants sent home soaring to new highs, governments around the world began searching for ways to capitalize on emigration for economic growth, and they looked to nations that already had policies in place. Morocco and Mexico featured prominently as sources of "best practices" in this area, with tailor-made policies that brought migrants into the banking system, captured remittances for national development projects, fostered partnerships with emigrants for infrastructure design and provision, hosted transnational forums for development planning, and emboldened cross-border political lobbies.
Creative State chronicles how these innovative policies emerged and evolved over forty years. She reveals that the Moroccan and Mexican policies emulated as models of excellence were not initially devised to link emigration to development, but rather were deployed to strengthen both governments' domestic hold on power. The process of policy design, however, was so iterative and improvisational that neither the governments nor their migrant constituencies ever predicted, much less intended, the ways the new initiatives would gradually but fundamentally redefine nationhood, development, and citizenship. Morocco's and Mexico's experiences with migration and development policy demonstrate that far from being a prosaic institution resistant to change, the state can be a remarkable site of creativity, an essential but often overlooked component of good governance. In her talk, Iskander offers the example of infrastructure reform in Morocco to illustrate the central role that migrants played in fostering state creativity.
Natasha Iskander, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, conducts research on labor migration and its relationship to economic development, on labor mobilization and its relationship to workforce development, and on processes of institutional innovation and organizational learning. She has just completed a book, entitled Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico (Cornell University Press: 2010). The book examines how the governments of Mexico and Morocco elaborated policies to build a link between labor emigration and local economic development. She is also working on a project on Mexican immigrants in the construction industry, investigating how tacit skill moves across national borders. Additionally, Dr. Iskander is launching an initiative on water and migration in urban and rural areas in North Africa and Latin America. Natasha Iskander received her PhD in Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She also holds a Masters in City Planning from MIT, and a BA in Cultural Studies from Stanford University. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked for several years in non-profits in Egypt and the United States on issues of urban development, micro credit and community health planning. She has also worked as a community activist and migrant labor organizer.
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Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011