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Migration and the Contemporary Mediterranean

Shifting Cultures in Twenty-First-Century Italy and Beyond


Edited By Claudia Gualtieri

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.

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7 Bodies in transit: The imperial mechanism of biopolitics (Claudia Gualtieri)


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7 Bodies in transit: The imperial mechanism of biopolitics


Edward Said’s reflection on the complicity between culture and imperialism suggests possible readings of discourses of power in transit through history. The discursive body of the empire evolves applying the mechanism of biopolitics as a way of ordering, counting and dominating bodies. In this chapter, this imperial mechanism is examined in action as a means of controlling life and death through the enumeration of bodies in transit: both the colonized and the migrant. This is done with reference to J. M. Coetzee’s The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee and Marco Martinelli’s Rumore di acque (Noise in the water). In Coetzee’s The Narrative, the narrator embodies eighteenth-century overwhelming colonial power, whereas Martinelli’s protagonist indirectly and ambiguously voices the inconsistency and confusion of current migration policies management. Drawing on historical and cultural contingencies in which the ‘enumeration’ of bodies is clearly a strategy of identity expropriation and annihilation, this chapter also underlines how enumeration and objectification – which are presented as unquestioned practices of everyday life – act within a coherent ideological and political frame. The applicability of Said’s theory to bodies in transit not only shows the relevance of the ambiguous alliance between culture and imperialism; it also draws attention to the complex articulations of forms of necropolitics in late modernity, as Achille Mbembe and others have underlined, by tracing meaningful parallels with biopolitical forms of control in history.


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