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Between Experience and Spectacle: Novel Strategies of Border Enforcement in Lampedusa

Authors: Elisa Sperandio*, University of Arizona
Topics: Political Geography, Europe, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: Border enforcement, Europe, Italy, island studies, ethnography
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I draw from ethnographic research carried out on the island of Lampedusa over the summer of 2018 to explore some of the novel ways in which island residents engage in bordering. With its 7.8 m2 in total surface and its position at the heart of the Central Mediterranean, the island of Lampedusa has become a key port for migrant arrivals from Libya and Tunisia. Italy and the European Union have looked to Lampedusa as a spectacular and hyper-visible site for the testing of new strategies such as remote detention and maritime monitoring, often citing events on the island as justification for the expansion of enforcement power. At the same, the island has also seen the rise of new and untraditional forms of border enforcement. While some residents contribute to efforts aimed at restricting the mobility of migrants, others challenge exclusionary practices. I analyze the experiences of participants through scholarship in feminist geopolitics, which argues for an approach to border studies that recognizes the relationality and everyday dimensions of borders. What the daily modes of enforcement enacted by those who live at the border can reveal is that one’s engagement with borderwork is the result of a complex web of entanglements. The agendas and practices of island residents do not always align with those of the state and yet, they manage exist alongside of the official regime of enforcement, contributing to the shifting meaning of “bordering” in Lampedusa.

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