The issue of illegal migration is today part of the public debate and has begun to interest European scholars in conjunction with the changing political panorama that in the 1990s was affected by a new era of international migration. The phenomenon of migration is seen as a problem of public order, and therefore as linked to the issue of security. Restrictive policies throughout Europe have driven migrants to illegal methods of entry and residence. But what exactly does illegality mean? How is this concept constructed and represented by various social actors? How is it produced by institutions? In this article, we focus on the meaning of ʻliving illegallyʼ in migrantsʼ everyday life in Italy. Through the results of ethnographic research among African migrant groups in Rome, we attempt to question the concept of legality, analysing forms of construction and incorporation of illegality, the perceptions and representations of social actors towards working practices and the obtaining of documents, and finally, forms of ʻillegalʼ construction of legality in which the migrantsʼ agency gives life to new forms of alternative citizenship and resistance through the elaboration of survival strategies.
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