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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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16 The Janus-faced doors of Mediterranean emigration/immigration in museums and archives (Itala Vivan)


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16 The Janus-faced doors of Mediterranean emigration/immigration in museums and archives


A wave of migration characterizes our present, and is but one more stage in the centuries-long history of peoples who cross visible and invisible boundaries, modifying them through patterns of endless mobility. In modern times, museums narrating European emigration were created as memory archives of a social phenomenon that marked the cultural landscape of Mediterranean societies: are they still functional in the context of our present predicament, or do they require innovation and change? The chapter analyses the history and function of such museums, referring to case studies in Italy and France, and interrogates their cultural and political purpose in contemporary society. The analysis relies on the concept of a new museum aiming to contribute to cultural representation, and considers Zygmunt Bauman’s vision of contemporary society as liquid, in order to develop the museum pattern inscribed in our heritage into a comprehensive vision of what is actually happening in our contemporaneity, and project it onto the backdrop of a European multicultural context.

A gaze from the Door of Europe

Museums are one of the central sites at which our modernity has been generated, (en)gendered, and sustained […]. They are so natural, ubiquitous, and indispensable to us today that it takes considerable effort to think ourselves back to a world without them […]. Our world is unthinkable without this extraordinary invention.

— PREZIOSI (1996:...

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