He has studied airports, motorways and shopping centres, places that look the same all over the world, calling them Non-Places: places with no real identity, which people pass through anonymously. Today the anthropologist Marc Augé describes the other side of the journey: the movements of those who have left their own homes, the paths of migrants who are obliged – and who oblige us – to encounter others. “We should respect differences, but above all we should respect individuals”, he says, respect other cultures while defending not-negotiable values, such as equality between men and women. Known across the globe for his analyses of the modern world, Augé talks of the links between migration and terrorism, citing relocation and society’s anger against foreigners. At 80, he dreams of being able to placate this rage by strengthening the education system, in both the countries that migrants are leaving and those where they are arriving. What he sees, however, is a planet overflowing with too many people. Maybe, he admits, “one day we’ll find another planet, but today the one we have has too little space”.
Who is migrating?
The ideal migrant is an adventurer who has freed himself of all ties, liberated himself from the chains that keep him tied to one place. That’s different from the real-life migrant who leaves home and family driven by poverty, political oppression or the brain drain. Man has always been a migrant.
In what sense?
He was born in Africa, then migrated around most of the planet. If history is anything to go by, we are destined to conquer every corner of the planet. There is a natural expansion of societies. In that sense, colonisation was the logical consequence of voyages of discovery by the West.
Has the expansion now accelerated?
There is a dual phenomenon. On one hand, there is demographic pressure. The population of China today is the same as the population of the entire world at the start of the 20th century: that means there are too many of us. On the other hand, in a world where there is little space, migrants create new spaces, places of refuge.
Places of refuge, but also places on the margins?
Many migrants are alone and have to re-establish themselves somewhere. And they often have an unusual status, they have no documents. There are the official, accepted migrants, and then there are the clandestine ones. And in general, the places they encounter are not welcoming, partly because these places are the expression of a different identity.
Is the recession also to blame?
In France, for example, the idea that migrants are stealing our jobs is still common, even though it’s not true. Then there are relocations, and in this case it is factories that are moving, but the local population does not want to leave and follow them.
Could we say that there are two movements that do not coincide: that of the people and that of factories?
Today we have an overabundant chunk of the population that is unqualified: I don't see how we can solve this problem without making a heavy, across-the-board investment in education.