The shipwreck of October 3, 2013, when at least 366 Eritrean refugees drowned off the Italian island of Lampedusa, points to ongoing border carnage in the region. As an anthropologist with research experience on Mediterranean migrations and as an Italian citizen, I seek to inform broader publics and policy discussions of this issue. My substantial contributions to the public sphere have, in turn, foregrounded analytical tensions involving anthropological knowledge, critical citizenship, and the politics of immigration and of representation. But is it even relevant to engage broader publics when our interventions risk inconsequential incorporation into the vortex of the corporate news cycle? Probing a densely occupied terrain of knowledge production, this article illuminates narrow interstices where anthropological knowledge can be publicly disseminated. Anthropological knowledge does not settle for a fatalistic chronicle of structural injustice, and yet it resists merely pleading for the world as it ought to be. It confronts a lethal status quo by conveying the transformative power of actually existing realities. In particular, the article makes the case for an unyielding commitment to a relational, anti-essentialist approach. This approach, encompassing anthropological knowledge from production to dissemination, constitutes a distinctive analytical and political asset. It challenges the entrenched reification of migrants and refugees, and allows for the public dimension of scholarship and of citizenship to come to fruition.


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pp. 865-893
Launched on MUSE
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