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Creative State

Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico

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 financial instruments 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.


In Creative State, I chronicle how these innovative policies emerged and evolved over forty years. I reveal 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.

International Studies Association – Distinguished Book Award - Ethnicity, Nationalism and Migration Track; Social Science Research Council—Featured Publication

Additional publications.


Iskander, N. 2015. “Partners in Organizing: Engagement between Migrants and the State in the

Production of Mexican Hometown Associations.” In A. Portes and P. Fernandez-Kelly, eds. The State and the Grassroots: Immigrant Transnational Organizations in Four Continents. London: Berghahn Books. 111-138

Iskander, N. 2013.  “Moroccan Migrants as Unlikely Captains of Industry: Remittances, Financial Intermediation, and La Banque Centrale Populaire.” In S. Eckstein, ed.  Immigrant Impact in their Homelands. Duke University Press. 

Iskander, N. 2013. “Migration and development, global South / Mexico-Morocco.” In I. Ness, ed. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. Wiley Blackwell. 


Iskander, N. 2008. “Diaspora Networks for National Infrastructure: Rural Morocco, 1985-2005.” In J.Brikenhoff, ed.  Diasporas and Development: Exploring the Potential. Washington, D. C.: Lynne Reider. 163-185


Iskander, N. and N. Bentaleb. 2008. “Assets, Agency, and Engagement in Community Driven Development: The Case of a Moroccan Community.” In A. Mathie and G. Cunningham.The Roles of Assets and Agency in explaining community-driven development, Sterling: Stylus Publishing. 161- 181.

Iskander, N.  2005. “Social Learning as a Productive Project: Zacatecas and Guanajuato’s Cautionary Tales.” Migration, Remittances, and the Economic Development of Sending Countries. Paris: OECD. 249-264.

Iskander, N. 2005. “The Transnational Kingdom: Migration, Development and Social Change in Morocco.” Revue Critique Economique. 16 (4): 75-84.

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