Migration and the Contemporary Mediterranean

Shifting Cultures in Twenty-First-Century Italy and Beyond

by Claudia Gualtieri (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection X, 494 Pages


This collection of essays presents a study of migration cultures in the contemporary Mediterranean with a particular focus on Italy as a point of migratory convergence and pressure. It investigates different experiences of, and responses to, sea crossings, borders and checkpoints, cultural proximity and distance, race, ethnicity and memory, along with creative responses to the same. In dialogic and complementary interaction, the essays explore violence centring on race as the major determining factor. The book further submits that the interrogation of racialized categories represents different kinds of critical response and resistance, which involve both political struggle and day-to-day survival and coexistence. Following the praxis of cultural and postcolonial studies, the essays focus on the present but draw indispensable insight from past connections and heritage as well as offering prognoses for the future. The ambitious aim of this collection is to identify some useful lines of thought and action that could help us to think outside intricacy, isolation and defensiveness, which characterize most of the public official reactions to migration today.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • ‘Spara!’ (99 Posse)
  • Cultures in movement across the postcolonial middle sea (Claudia Gualtieri)
  • Introduction: Theoretical and methodological frame
  • Frame one: The sea
  • Frame two: The pilgrims
  • Frame three: The migrants
  • Frame four: A common memory
  • The structure of the book
  • Bibliography
  • Part I: Borders
  • 1 Frontex and the production of the Euro-Mediterranean borderlands (2006–2016) (Giuseppe Campesi)
  • Introduction
  • The western route
  • The central Mediterranean route
  • The eastern Mediterranean route
  • Producing the Euro-Mediterranean borderlands
  • Bibliography
  • 2 Lampedusa as a hotspot: Channels of (forced) mobility and preventive illegalization beyond the island (Martina Tazzioli)
  • Introduction
  • The preventative illegalizing frontier
  • Temporality of control and temporal borders
  • From hotspots to channels and informal chockepoints
  • The refusal of the restrictive geographies of Dublin Regulation
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 3 The failures of Italian migration responses/approaches: The relocation scheme and the protection of unaccompanied and separated children (Yodit Estifanos Afewerki)
  • Introduction
  • Sicily, November 2015: A weak refugee relocation system
  • My work experience and the problem with (the lack of) humanity
  • Médecins du Monde’s first project in Reggio Calabria: May 2016–December 2017
  • Welcoming procedure for unaccompanied and separated children (UASC)
  • The importance of mental health and psychosocial support
  • Calabria, December 2017
  • Lessons learned
  • Bibliography
  • 4 Sometimes I feel like a motherless child: Nigerian migration, race memories and the decolonization of motherhood (Simona Taliani)
  • A new kind of (barren) woman
  • As above, so below: Dauters, debt and the power of juju
  • Kinlessness, or African families in trouble
  • Enchanted race memories and some kind of tomorrow
  • Bibliography
  • Part II: Sea
  • 5 Governing illegal immigration by sea: The difficult Italian challenge (Fabio Caffio)
  • Foreword: The many facets of the legal framework for the treatment of migrants at sea
  • The Albanian exodus to Italy across the Adriatic: Interdiction efforts (1991–1997)
  • Italy changes its policy: From interdiction to interception and rescue (1997–2007)
  • The Benghazi agreement with Libya and the protocols of co-operation against illegal immigration (2007–2010)
  • The ECHR condemns Italy for ‘mass return’ to Libya (2012)
  • New Italian policy: From the national mission Mare Nostrum to European maritime operations (2013–2017)
  • The EU support to Italy in obtaining the co-operation of the Tripoli government to avoid irregular expats (2017)
  • Conclusions
  • Post Scriptum
  • Bibliography
  • 6 Migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean: An economic analysis (Andrea Mario Lavezzi / Eileen Quinn)
  • Introduction
  • The dataset
  • A description of the smuggling process from the demand side
  • Reaching Libya and the kidnapping phenomenon
  • Taking the sea
  • Tacking stock: Elements for an economic analysis of smuggling
  • Conclusions and policy implications
  • Bibliography
  • 7 Bodies in transit: The imperial mechanism of biopolitics (Claudia Gualtieri)
  • Introduction
  • Bodies
  • Numbers
  • The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee
  • The colonizer and the bureaucrat
  • Noise in the Waters
  • Money
  • Memory
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 8 Necropolitics at Sea (Jill H. Casid)
  • Introduction
  • Swimming into the sea of death
  • Necrometrical data in the Black Mediterranean
  • ‘Mathematics of black life’ and transversal methods
  • Necrotactics for the situation of death-in-life
  • Perforation
  • Perspective politics and the Mediterranean as the view from above
  • Death as activist medium
  • Scenes of rescue
  • Sea Grammar
  • Conclusion: Refugium
  • Bibliography
  • The master’s house (Tahar Lamri)
  • Part III: Transit
  • 9 Stories in Transit/Storie in transito: Storytelling and arrivants’ voices in Sicily (Marina Warner / Valentina Castagna)
  • Introduction
  • Losing home, finding words: The ideas behind the genesis of the project Homo Narrans/L’homme-récit
  • Imaginary Homelands: Troy and Carthage, Two Cities of the Mind
  • Cursing and Blessing
  • The Stories in Transit Project
  • An account of the workshops
  • Bibliography
  • 10 Back way to Babylon: (Unauthorized) migration and postcolonial consciousness in the Gambia (Paolo Gaibazzi)
  • Introduction
  • Migration ways
  • Longing for Babylon
  • Migration as postcolonial critique
  • Concluding remarks
  • Bibliography
  • 11 Migration from the Horn of Africa: Rethinking space and time (Massimo Zaccaria)
  • Introduction
  • Rethinking space
  • Rethinking time
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Part IV: Proximity
  • 12 Emergency languages: Echoes of Columbus in discourses of precarity (Paul Carter)
  • Echoic mimicry: The concept for Columbus Echo
  • At sea: Languages of ambiguity
  • Beyond translation: The re-evaluation of noise
  • Languaging: The situation of production
  • Emergency: Authority and autonomy in the studio
  • Bibliography
  • 13 Of islands and bears: The aesthetics and politics of Gianfranco Rosi’s Fuocoammare (Lidia De Michelis)
  • Introduction: Of islands and bears
  • Reception and critiques
  • Fuocoammare as a ‘mode of engagement with the world’
  • Bibliography
  • 14 Identity, memory, gender and plurilingualism in postcolonial women writers from Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia (Daniele Comberiati)
  • Introduction
  • Libya: Ghibli by Luciana Capretti
  • Eritrea: L’abbandono. Una storia eritrea di Erminia Dell’Oro
  • Ethiopia and Somalia: Memorie di una principessa etiope by Martha Nasibù and Madre piccola by Ubax Cristina Ali Farah
  • Gender, race, hybridity
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 15 The circle of ‘I am us’: The dreams of Mandiaye N’Diaye, griot by vocation (Marco Martinelli)
  • Shifting cultures: Albe afro-romagnole
  • Anarchy and resistance
  • Narration
  • Sabàr
  • Reversal and transgression
  • The ‘many’
  • Mandiaye N’Diaye, Senegalese immigrant and griot by vocation
  • The polis: The planet
  • Bibliography
  • Twenty thousand alive under the Sea of Sicily (Pap Khouma)
  • Rocks, caves and coves
  • Santa Rosalia
  • Sea of Sicily
  • In granddad’s home
  • Unexpected presences
  • The fish and the parrot
  • The rocks behind the window
  • Captain Rex
  • Part V: Archives/Memory
  • 16 The Janus-faced doors of Mediterranean emigration/immigration in museums and archives (Itala Vivan)
  • A gaze from the Door of Europe
  • Museums, objects and things
  • Museums in an age of migrations
  • Museums narrating emigration from Europe and Italy
  • Lampedusa and the objects of migration
  • Debates around the idea of a museum of migration
  • Beyond Lampedusa
  • Bibliography
  • 17 Documentaries as a new form of resistance (Dagmawi Yimer)
  • Names, the wrath of a society
  • The context for the making of the short documentary film Asmat-Names
  • The names
  • October: National days
  • The short video that does not fit
  • Saturation
  • Cinema as the last island of rescue for migration stories
  • Counting the names without the body
  • Bibliography
  • 18 Resistance through performance in the Italian hip-hop scene (Roberto Pedretti)
  • Introduction
  • Speaking in different tongues
  • Foreign in my country: ‘Non ci sono neri italiani’
  • I am Afro-Italian
  • Outro
  • Bibliography
  • Broken geographies (Iain Chambers)
  • Introduction
  • Crossing boundaries
  • The Mediterranean as archive
  • Bibliography
  • ‘Una volta sognai’ / ‘Once I had a dream’ (Alda Merini)
  • Notes on contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


This book was imagined and outlined during my stay in Oxford in 2015–16. I owe my deepest gratitude to the intellectual energy of its academic environment and the vitality of its human relationships. My thanks to the Faculty of English of the University of Oxford for inviting me, and to Elleke Boehmer both for her long-standing friendship from the moment we met at the Univesity of Leeds what seems like an impossibly long time ago, during the pre-Blair years, and for offering a delightful living and writing space. Oxford provided the inspiration and the network for the outstanding group of contributors to this collection. Among those who helped to make such an amazing collaboration possible, I wish to thank Tessa Roynon, Justine McConnell, Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, Guido Bonsaver and Federico Varese. I am also grateful to Sandro Mezzadra and Pierluigi Valsecchi, who contributed from Italy. This book was planned in the unsettling climate provoked by political uncertainty, populist drives, racist rhetoric and xenophobic campaigns in the lead-up to Brexit. Thus, it seemed even more urgent to try to compose a representative picture of the groups of people that were, and still are, crossing the Mediterranean, and to look at Italy as a bridge across that sea towards Europe. I owe my gratitude to Laurel Plapp of Peter Lang Oxford, who has been extremely helpful, patient and collaborative during the editing process, and to Giovanna Gualtieri and Andrea B. Farabegoli, who insightfully helped with the translation of literary texts. Heartfelt thanks to friends and colleagues who, in different ways, supported, encouraged and enriched this book. I wish to mention Lawrence Grossberg, for his generous and precious comments on my introductory chapter, the group of colleagues in the fields of postcolonial studies and cultural studies with whom I work at the University of Milan – Itala Vivan, Lidia De Michelis and Roberto Pedretti – Pap Khouma for having written an original story for this book, and all the contributors who worked as a cohesive team to compose an organic, informed and (I trust) useful collection. ← ix | x →

Finally, my deepest thanks to my sister Giovanna – a scientist, of dual Italian and American citizenship – who constantly helped me to see things from multiple perspectives and approaches; to my daughter Andrea: we shared the Oxford experience, the passion and pleasure of that period, and she has contributed to the book’s adventure, too. And to my husband – I cannot thank him enough – for his advice on taking into consideration an economist’s perspective throughout; for his constant support, patience, care and understanding; for having often given up our time together and, most importantly, for his big-screen computer!

For permission to publish, I wish to thank Gustavo Aceves for the cover image from his Lapidarium exhibition (Rome, 2017); Le Simplegadi for permission to reprint Claudia Gualtieri’s ‘Bodies in transit. The imperial mechanist of biopolitics’ (Special Issue ‘Cultures and Imperialism’, XII, 12, 2014, 110–26); Afriche e Orienti. Rivista ai confine tra Africa, Mediterraneo e Medio Oriente, for permission to translate and print Tahar Lamri’s ‘A casa del padrone’ (Dossier ‘La schiavitù dalle colonie degli imperi alle trasmigrazioni postcoloniali’, C. Gualtieri and I. Vivan, eds, 3–4, 2009, 12–16); Hal Leonard and 99 Posse for permission to translate and print ‘Spara!’ Alda Merini’s poem ‘Una volta sognai’ was published by arrangement with the Italian Literary Agency Srl, Milan, Italy.

| 1 →



Barboni ammalati terminali tossicodipendenti immigrati più o meno clandestini ladruncoli di periferia punk autonomi occupanti senza tetto disoccupati prostitute piccoli spacciatori, sieropositivi meridionali immigrati …
milioni di storie di differenze di motivazioni di diversità
milioni di persone reali milioni di persone realmente scomode
milioni di persone un quadro desolante raccapricciante fastidioso e pericoloso certamente ma nel paese dei ‘normali’ io sto dalla parte loro
e non è una scelta ‘’ardo romantica’ è un fatto di appartenenza
a te il giudizio, e se credi … spara!
(In Arabic in the original)
Tramps terminally ill drug addicts illegal immigrants petty thieves autonomous punks squatters homeless jobless prostitutes drug dealers HIV positives southern immigrants …
millions of stories of differences of reasons of diversities
millions of real people millions of truly inconvenient people
millions of people a distressing horrifying irritating scene
and dangerous for sure but in a land of ‘normal’ people I’m on their side
it’s not a ‘late romantic’ choice it’s a matter of belonging
you judge, and if you’re ready … shoot! ← 1 | 2 →
Quando il sole del mattino spunta e nasce un nuovo giorno
pieno di vecchi problemi e vuoi levarteli di torno
Quando il traffico ti inchioda in un ingorgo bloccato
quando vedi un immigrato
Quando pensi a come vive, alle sue storie di merda
quando ne senti la puzza e non vorresti sentirla
Quando prima di ogni cosa vuoi levartelo di torno
e poco importa se i tuoi soldi sono un po’ anche di suo nonno
Quando tu non sei razzista ma non sei nemmeno dio
quando non è colpa loro, ma anche loro porco dio
When the sun comes up a new day is born
full of old problems you wish you could trash
when the traffic nails you in a gridlock
when you see an immigrant
you think of how he lives
his shitty life
when you smell his stench and you wish you didn’t
when all you want is to get rid of him
and so what if your money is a bit his granddad’s too
when you’re not a racist but you’re not god either
when it’s not their fault, but them too … what the fuck
Allora spara bastardo, dai sparagli addosso
tanto domani sono morti lo stesso dai
sparagli addosso, ammazzali tutti dai
noi siamo i belli, loro sò brutti dai
loro sò brutti, ma brutti davvero
e poi spara anche a me: sono uno di loro, e tu
Spara! Sono un arabo
Spara! Ho sbagliato a nascere
Spara! Sono un immigrato e tu
Spara! Sono povero
E tu
Then shoot, you bastard, shoot ’em down
tomorrow they’re dead anyway
shoot ’em down, shoot ’em all
we’re beauty, they’re beast
the ugliest beasts
so shoot me down too: I’m one of ’em … you
shoot me! I’m Arab
shoot me! shouldn’t have been born
shoot me! I’m an immigrant … you
shoot me! I’m poor
’n’ you
Quando il sole del mattino spunta e nasce un nuovo giorno
pieno di vecchi problemi e vuoi levarteli di torno
Quando contro lo Stato vuoi che tutto sia privato
quando muore un ammalato
When the sun comes up a new day is born
full of old problems you wish you could trash
when you don’t want the State but you want things for yourself
when the sick pass away ← 2 | 3 →
Quando muore un operaio perché è senza protezioni
quando i morti di fame se ne contano a milioni
Quando la camorra ammazza meno gente del lavoro
mentre tu povero stronzo piangi ancora Aldo Moro
Quando anche un bambino sa quanta gente morirà
quanno o’ cazzo nun è o’ tuojo e nun ne vuo’ sentì parlà
and the workers drop dead ’coz they haven’t been protected
when hunger kills off millions
when Camorra2 kill fewer people than jobs
’n’ you fucking idiot still mourn Aldo Moro3
when a kid even knows that people get killed
when it’s not your fucking business ’n’ you don’t wanna know
Allora spara bastardo, dai sparagli addosso
tanto domani sono morti lo stesso dai
sparagli addosso, ammazzali tutti dai
noi siamo i belli, loro sò brutti
loro sò brutti, ma brutti davvero
e poi spara anche a me: sono uno di loro, e tu
Spara! Sono un arabo
Spara! Ho sbagliato a nascere
Spara! Sono un immigrato e tu
Spara! Sono povero
Then shoot, you bastard, shoot ’em down
tomorrow they’re dead anyway
shoot ’em down, shoot’em all
we’re beauty, they’re beast
the ugliest beasts
so shoot me down too: I’m one of ’em, … you
shoot me! I’m Arab
shoot me! shouldn’t have been born
shoot me! I’m an immigrant … you
shoot me! I’m poor
Io sono uno straniero, sono qui per riprendermi
solo una piccola parte di ciò che i vostri antenati
hanno preso dalla mia terra
Questa è la realtà, nella tua terra,
nella mia terra è uguale
per costruire un mondo giusto senza frontiere
I’m the alien, here to get back
my share of what your old sods
took from me
this is how it is
in your land
in my land too
to build a world with no frontiers ← 3 | 4 →
Quando il sole del mattino spunta e nasce un nuovo giorno
pieno di vecchi problemi e vuoi levarteli di torno
Quando il vento che ti spinge cambia verso e soffia contro
quando ti chiedono il conto
Quando per una ragione che non ti è dato capire
tutti i tuoi bei punti fermi vanno a farsi benedire
Quando tutta una vita hai dato tutto e chiesto zero
illudendoti che il mondo si conquista col lavoro
Quando ti credevi re, quando ti scopri pedina
quando sei sacrificato per salvare la regina
When the sun comes up a new day is born
full of old problems you wish you could trash
when the tailwinds turn into headwinds
when you get your bill
when for reasons you don’t get
your beliefs all go to hell
when you’ve only given ’n’ asked for nothing
hoping that you’d make it with hard work
when you thought you were king
but you realize you’re just a pawn
and you’ve been sacrificed to save the queen
Allora spara coraggio dai sparati addosso
tanto tra un attimo sei morto lo stesso dai
sparati addosso nessuno è perfetto dai
prima eri bello mo’ ti sei fatto brutto dai
quanto sei brutto, ma brutto davvero
non sei meglio di me, benvenuto nel coro, e tu
Spara! Sono un arabo
Spara! Ho sbagliato a nascere
Spara! Sono un immigrato e tu
Spara! Sono povero
E tu spara, spara,
spara sono un immigrato
Spara! Sono povero
E tu
Then shoot, come on, get on with it, shoot yourself
you’re dead anyway
get a move on shoot yourself no one’s perfect
once you were beauty, now you’re beast
the ugliest beast
you’re not better than me, welcome to the choir, ’n’ you
shoot me! I’m Arab
shoot me! shouldn’t have been born
shoot me! I’m an immigrant … you
shoot me! I’m poor
and you shoot me, shoot me
shoot me I’m an immigrant
shoot me! I’m poor
’n’ you

1 Music and lyrics by Luca Persico, Massimo Jovine, Marco Messina and Claudio Marino (1996). Rap song available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjAf0xFyvuI>. Translated from the Italian by Giuseppina Rizzi with the assistance of Giovanna Gualtieri, Roberto Pedretti and Andrea B. Farabegoli. The translators’ choice was to be accurate as regards the meaning of the song, not to reproduce the rhythm and rhyme scheme. One version of the lyrics contains parts in Arabic – one part is at the beginning and one is after the second refrain. In the English translation they appear in italics. The sentence in italics in the fourth stanza of the Italian version is in the dialect of Naples.

2 Camorra is a powerful long-standing criminal organization mainly based in the area of Naples.

3 Italian politician kidnapped and killed by the far-left terrorist group Brigate Rosse [Red Brigades] in 1978.

| 5 →


Cultures in movement across the postcolonial middle sea


Responding to four eternally fascinating literary quotations that span from classic Greek epics to the contemporary Italian cultural scene, this introductory chapter to Migration and the contemporary Mediterranean: Shifting cultures in twenty-first-century Italy and beyond constructs a narrative of migrant travelling and travelling cultures through consecutive frames – the sea, pilgrimage, migration and a common memory – that foreground the key themes of this collection. This chapter uses the idea of connectivity and adopts the theoretical standpoints and methodological approaches of postcolonial studies and cultural studies in order to present cultures in movement across the Mediterranean by focusing on the condition of the migrant and on neo-imperial practices of racialization. Examples of resistance or political struggle, and day-to-day survival or coexistence round off the theoretical frame of my argument.

Introduction: Theoretical and methodological frame

Then to her maids – Why, why, ye coward / train, / These fears, this flight? ye fear, and fly in vain. / Dread ye a foe? dismiss that idle dread, / ’Tis death with hostile step these shores to tread: / Safe in the love of heav’n, an ocean flows / Around our realm, / a barrier from the foes; / ’Tis ours this son of sorrow to relieve, / Chear the sad heart, nor let affliction grieve. / By Jove the stranger and the poor are sent, / And what to those we give, to Jove is lent.

NAUSICAA IN HOMER’S Odyssey (Book VI, ll. 239–48,
translated by Alexander Pope, 1725–6) ← 5 | 6 →

The epigraphs artistically announce the key notions that frame the chapters of Migration and the Contemporary Mediterranean, and offer a line of reasoning upon which this chapter is based. The epigraphs hint at two broad tropes – namely ‘movement’ and ‘being a stranger in a foreign land’. At the same time, the settings suggest constructions of time and place which are consistent with the original imaginary. Each quotation shines a different light on the central themes of movement and migration that lay bare contrasting feelings and attitudes: fear, estrangement, healing, welcoming, annoyance, separation and unavoidable toleration. Physically and metaphorically, the places are either islands (Scheria and Great Britain), secluded locations (Purgatorio) or bridges (Italy stretching in the Mediterranean towards northern Africa); yet, they are also places of transit that may lead somewhere else. These places are all surrounded by the sea.1

My purpose is to offer a narrative that starts with Homer’s Odyssey (the first quotation given above opens the first frame of this chapter) and continues to build and enrich the narrative with additional notions derived from the other epigraphs. In order to do so, a theoretical attitude and a ← 6 | 7 → methodological approach are necessary. These rest upon a twofold premise: first, that a complex, global investigation of the past inspires the thoughts and the political actions of the present; and second, that the meaning of culture comes from ordinary actions that evolve through changing processes and elaborate shifting affiliations and categories in specific contexts and conjunctures (Williams 1958, 1989, Hall 1987, 1996).

If we interpret contemporary migration across the Mediterranean from the perspective proposed by cultural studies, the current migration from Libya, Tunisia, and adjacent northern African countries to Italy might be seen as a ‘symptom’ of a complex situation in which multifaceted and intertwined forces have operated over time, and across space and cultures, producing multiple fault lines across both Europe and Africa. A contextual perspective takes in every localism and temporality in order to investigate the distinctive features of each migratory process and personal migrant experience. As Lawrence Grossberg elucidates, cultural studies is an ‘intellectual practice that is responsible to the changing context […] in which it works’ (2010: 9) and is ‘politically driven, it is committed to producing knowledge that both helps people understand that the world is changeable and that offers some directions for how to change it’ (1997: 264). In this light, the aim of this collection is fundamentally political if the interdisciplinary conversation that the study of culture encourages is combined with an acute awareness of the dynamics of power and resistance that regulate human interactions (Sandten et al. 2017).

A postcolonial intellectual position substantiates an epistemological approach and a vision of the world that considers how people and cultures have been affected by imperial processes from the moment of colonization to the present day (Ashcroft 1994). This is useful because of the continuity between the imperial structures and power attitudes in the historical process of colonization – started by European empires – and the current neo-imperial practices of marginalization and exploitation perpetrated against the migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. A philosophical and pragmatic implementation of postcolonialism’s guiding principles helps us understand and embrace the hybrid and nomadic condition of our global present (Fornari 2011).

A postcolonial approach also entails unavoidable attention to, and siding in favour of, resistance. In the complicity between culture and imperialism, ← 7 | 8 → Edward Said sees the emergence of counter-discourses which materialize through the fissures of the imperial master narrative. As a ‘revolutionary re-positioning of the mind against the universalism of European canons’ (Vivan 2018), ‘resistance, far from being merely a reaction to imperialism, is an alternative way of conceiving human history. It is particularly important to see how much this alternative reconception is based on breaking down the barriers between cultures’ (Said 1993: 260). Indeed, a consideration of the postcolonial also invites pragmatic awareness and political action capable of opposing today’s forms of neo-imperialism and global conditions of subjection. Hence, a postcolonial approach ‘invites us to ponder again the complexity of a world that, thanks primarily to the anticolonial struggles, has truly become one and whose unity continues to be crossed by the subversive space of differences as well as by deep inequality, patent imbalances and incessant exploitation’ (Mezzadra and Rahola 2015: 45).

This dual, enlarging and narrowing focus – both on breaking cultural barriers to form a whole resisting world and on being alert to singular, often imperceptible forms of discriminations and abuses – structures the chapters of this collection into a composite unity. Their overall provocative ambition is to show how discourses and practices concerning migration across the Mediterranean today gain insight and perspective from wide horizontal, vertical and plural perspectives in connection, articulation and liaison with distant times, places, environmental dynamics, systems of thought, cultural practices and material lifestyles. Such migration constitutes a microcosm, an example of a complex system of change, cultural shift and new hybrid cultures in the making, that reverberate around, and are affecting, the whole world.

Frame one: The sea

In the first quotation, Princess Nausicaa – daughter of Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians – rebukes her maids who are afraid of a stranger who arrived unexpectedly on the beach. The castaway is Odysseus. The sea brought ← 8 | 9 → him to the shores of the mythical island of Scheria (his last destination before all peregrinations end in Ithaca). In the Odyssey, imagined Scheria is hypothetically located in the southern Adriatic, where the Mediterranean separates the coasts of Italy and Greece. The Mediterranean: the ancient and modern bridge that has connected continents; accompanied people, objects, stories and remnants; provoked encounters, awakened dreams, longings and homesickness; witnessed impossible reunions; revealed marvels; and engendered fear, pain and slavery. During its long history, along its shores, ancient long-standing empires built areas of influence and contested spaces of power, established alliances and initiated rivalries, intertwined regal stories of ascent and decline with the interests and glory of secular empires. The Mediterranean orbit of rising and falling empires joined distant lands and peoples in a system of exchange, communication and power.


X, 494
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (November)
Mediterranean Sea Italy Europe United Kingdom northern Africa migration and movement colonialism
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2018. X, 494 pp.

Biographical notes

Claudia Gualtieri (Volume editor)

Claudia Gualtieri is Assistant Professor of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures (Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Theory) at the University of Milan.


Title: Migration and the Contemporary Mediterranean