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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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13 Of islands and bears: The aesthetics and politics of Gianfranco Rosi’s Fuocoammare (Lidia De Michelis)


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13 Of islands and bears: The aesthetics and politics of Gianfranco Rosi’s Fuocoammare


This chapter analyses the aesthetics and politics of Gianfranco Rosi’s film Fuocoammare [Fire at Sea], a portrayal of the mutually impenetrable worlds of migrant tragedy and local ordinariness in Lampedusa, which won the Golden Bear at the 2016 Berlinale. In the context of the new policy of welcoming and compassion announced by the German government following the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, the festival was explicitly designed to foreground the increasing borderization of the outer margins of Europe and the criminalization of migrants.

Reflecting on the almost unanimous enthusiasm that greeted the film and the few dissenting voices which, particularly in Italy, were raised to contend that Rosi’s aesthetic accomplishment and haunting, unobtrusive gaze did not take enough of a stand against the EU’s responsibilities in the Mediterranean, the chapter addresses the complex and disturbing beauty of Fuocoammare, and the film’s ability to effectively respond to the current migrant catastrophe, in the light of the director’s own sophisticated theoretical intake on the cinema of the real.

Introduction: Of islands and bears

Drawing on the critical cultural work of the New Keywords Collective, an international team of self-defined ‘activist scholars’ (Mezzadra, De Genova, Pickles 2015: 59) committed to opening up new avenues of ‘militant investigation’ (64) on the issues of migration and borders, my chapter aims to map out...

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