Setting the Stage: an analysis of island-mainland relationship in the establishing of Lampedusa as a key location of Border Spectacle

Authors: Elisa Sperandio*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Europe
Keywords: political geography, border spectacle, ethnography, European Geography, island geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, drawing from semi-structured interviews with island residents conducted in the summer of 2018, I explore the economic and political context that underlie the configuration of Lampedusa as a fundamental site of border crossing. A small dot on the blue expanse that is the Mediterranean Sea, Lampedusa is nationally known as a paradisiac tourist destination, located closer to Tunisia than to Sicily. However, the Italian island has become a familiar landscape in both news coverage and academic scholarship over the past two decades for reasons having little to do with its natural beauty. Starting in 1998, Lampedusa saw a sharp increase in arrivals as a consequences of tightened migration regulation and the construction of a formal migrant reception facility. In 2011 alone, in the culmination of a decade of numerous arrivals, 51.753 migrants reached Lampedusa’s shores. A number of scholars including Cuttitta, Mountz, and Musarò have analyzed how migration law, the Italian military, European interests and humanitarian organizations have contributed to establishing Lampedusa as a key location of enforcement, as well as border spectacle. Through an exploration of the residents’ experiences and interactions with the border, I highlight how the rise of an economy of migration enforcement enlisted some Lampedusani in borderwork, motivated others to engage in acts of resistance, and for many others, created the necessity to distance the imaginary of Lampedusa as an idyllic island destination from that of a carceral island.

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