SOAS University of London

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

Navigating the Euro/African Border and Migration Nexus through the Borderscape Lens: A Multi-sited Exploration of the Italian/Tunisian Borderscape ‘Beyond the Line’

Dr Chiara Brambilla

Date: 2 December 2015Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 2 December 2015Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: DLT

Type of Event: Seminar

The Euro/African border and migration nexus at and across the Mediterranean has emerged in the last years as a crucial space for investigating borders not as taken-for-granted entities exclusively connected to the territorial limits of nation-states, but as mobile, relational and contested sites, thereby exploring alternative border imaginaries ‘beyond the line’.

Taking the borderscape as an analytical angle that allows to consider borders as multidimensional entities, having different symbolic and material forms, functions and locations, the seminar inquiries into the interplay between migration and b/ordering processes at and across the EU(ropean) external frontiers in the Mediterranean. The borderscape concept expresses the (geo)political and epistemic multidimensionality of the border, enabling a productive understanding of the processual, de-territorialized and dispersed nature of borders and their ensuing regimes in the era of globalization and transnational flows. Through the borderscape, it is possible to grasp the ‘variations’ of Euro/African borders in space and time, transversally to many socio-cultural, political, aesthetical, economic, legal, and historical settings criss-crossed by negotiations between different actors, and not only the State.

Gazing into the Euro/African border and migration nexus through the borderscape lens, the seminar provides empirical examples from my multi-sited research in and across the Italian/Tunisian borderland. By adopting such a multi-sited approach, my analysis is aimed at revealing the complexity of this Euro/African borderscape that is perceived as mobile and relational, resembling a fluid terrain of a multitude of socio-cultural, political and economic negotiations, claims and counterclaims that are actualized at the level of everyday practice. Great emphasis is placed on the need to ‘humanize’ the borderland, by giving attention to experiences. Borders are not experienced in the same way by all people. Consequently, the research intends to describe how ‘pluritopical’ and ‘pluriversal’ experiences of borders often clash with the assumptions of geopolitical theory and mass-media dominant representations, and to investigate how the rhetoric and policies of borders impact, conflict and are in a dynamic relationship with everyday life; how these rhetoric and policies are experienced, lived and interpreted by those who inhabit the Italian/Tunisian borderscape. The study is also aimed at responding to the need to search for new ways to give voice to these experiences and make them visible. During the research, I have worked with young people living in Mazara del Vallo (Sicily), whose families are originally from nearby Tunisia, to capture their kaleidoscopic perceptions, experiences, representations, and imaginaries of the Italian/Tunisian borderscape. Young people’s viewpoints have been incorporated into a broader ethnographic work, also involving other kind of actors, on both sides of the borderland and mainly focusing on urban borderscapes of Mazara del Vallo, in Italy, and Mahdia, in Tunisia. In so doing, this study of the Italian/Tunisian borderscape attempts to take the chance to relate the somewhat abstract level of conceptual change in critical border studies with actual borderscaping as practices at and across the Mediterranean through which fluctuating borders are imagined, materially established, experienced, lived as well as reinforced and blocked but also crossed, traversed and inhabited. This could help move toward alternative border imaginaries ‘beyond the line’ able to describe the shifting processes of b/ordering in-between Europe and Africa.

A documentary film titled “Houdoud al bahr | The Mediterranean Frontiers: Mazara-Mahdia” has been made based on above-described conceptual reflection and ethnographic research, which has been conducted within the EU’s FP7 EUBORDERSCAPES project. The film will be shown during the seminar.

About the Speaker

Chiara Brambilla, PhD in Anthropology and Epistemology of Complexity, is currently Research Fellow in Anthropology and Geography at the Centre for Research on Complexity (CERCO), University of Bergamo (Italy) and participates in the EU FP7 research project EUBORDERSCAPES. Her research interests focus on anthropology, critical geopolitics and epistemology of borders; borderscapes; border aesthetics; borders in cities; transnational migration and globalisation; cartography and counter-cartographies; borders in Africa. She is Associate member of the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research (NCBR), Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands; member of the Association for Borderlands Studies (ABS) and of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE).

Organiser: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

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