In 2015-16 I have carried out my dissertation fieldwork on the remaking of “European” borders along the Balkan migration routes between Greece and Berlin, and in the borderlands of Mediterranean Central Europe in and around the border-town of Trieste, where I was raised. I have been working mostly with Italian, Slovenian and Croatian EU citizens and asylum seekers from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I am investigating the rise of and the struggles against neofascist, nativist and populist movements in the collective spaces of squats, communes and communal gardens. In particular, I am invested in attempts to rethink the politics of such struggles around different perceptions, experiences and mobilizations of the notion of “precarity” and vulnerability through a feminist and post-colonial lens.
After seven years spent between California, China and Central Europe, an MA in History at LSE and one in Asian Studies at Berkeley, for my 4th year of PhD work in Geography I have been funded by an SSRC IDRF grant for 2015-2016 while carrying out my fieldwork in Southern Europe and the Balkans, in my 5th year I’ve been based in Germany to write, collaborating mostly with Viadrina University and Freie Universität Berlin, and then in England collaborating at University College London, King’s and SOAS, while for my final year I’ve been back here in Berkeley.
Precarity, Walling and Resistance in a ‘Refugee Crisis’
At the conjuncture of a protracted economic crisis and what has been idealized as an epochal refugee crisis, the contemporary European swing to the right emerges as an attempt of immunization of the self, the land and the home-land against virulent invaders, not only as a result of the Paris and Brussels attacks or the Cologne sexual harassment episodes, but also in everyday life. Since summer 2015, my ethnographic research in and around urban refugee camps and the new collective spaces of gardens, communes and squats in the Italian-Slovenian border-town of Trieste and in border crossing areas all along the ‘Balkan migration route’ between Greece and Berlin, has been concerned with how the walling up of borders has been reproduced through racialized and gendered desires for the protection of an immunized ‘European’ space.
The guarding of borders by the EU Frontex border agency and their wallingup, as much as reactionary closure in everyday life, remain framed as a reactionary approach to boundary-making that we may call “frontier-thinking”, which involves a double feminization of the inner space of the European home-land, on one hand as safely immobile (thus guaranteeing security in times of precarity and crisis) and on the other vulnerable to what are constantly described as flows, waves or a high tide of hyper-masculine invading outsiders (its precarious shores thus left in need of urgent defense).
What is the future of the European left in this context? Understanding the production of a sense of ’emergency’ in how one ‘crisis’ has been articulating with another (the refugee crisis with the EU economic crisis) seems to be crucial. In this sense, walling up represents a naturalized reaction (rather than a response) to the perception of a produced and instrumentalized sense of psychological, physical and especially socioeconomic ‘precarity’ among young European generations. The queering of the frontier-walls protecting a ‘precarious Europe’ becomes thus only possible by understanding the very different but increasingly inter-related vulnerability of everyday life conditions on both and all sides of a Med-iterranean understood instead as an ever-contested Eurafrican and Eurasian borderland.
Alessandro Tiberio – email@example.com
University of California, Berkeley – Department of Geography