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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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12 Emergency languages: Echoes of Columbus in discourses of precarity (Paul Carter)


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12 Emergency languages: Echoes of Columbus in discourses of precarity


This chapter discusses the compositional techniques used in making Columbus Echo (1992), a multilingual sound composition designed for the Acquario di Genova that presented the ‘discovery’ of the New World as the echo of an ‘ocean of sound’, the babelic noise of global communication. The core of the work is an imaginative amplification of the ‘emergency languages’ improvised along the shorelines of empire: pidgins, jargons and lingua francas were interwoven to form a ghost crowd whose echoic mimicry was intended to haunt or double the living crowd visiting the aquarium. Contemporary nation-states associate border management with extreme semiotic reductionism, the unilateral control of discursive ambiguity or agency. Columbus Echo, and the sequel, The 7448, suggest, by contrast, that the kinds of communication improvised at crossing-places harbour a baroque expressiveness that is primary rather than merely reactive: a possible meeting place across differences is choreographed, predicated on a willingness to hear the other and through imitation to add interest to the exchange. While the poetics informing an aesthetic production exploit a freedom of invention unavailable to contemporary refugees seeking asylum, a recognition of the value of hybrid discourses improvised in precarious circumstances suggests that emergencies are also where new socio-political forms can emerge.

Echoic mimicry: The concept for Columbus Echo

In 1990, the year the Italian government passed its first comprehensive immigration legislation, I embarked...

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