- Mapping the Margins of EuropeRace, Migration, and Belonging
"Something unique is afoot in Europe, in what is still called Europe even if we no longer know very well what or who goes by this name. Indeed, to what concept, to what real individual, to what singular entity should this name be assigned today? Who will draw up its borders?" (Derrida 1991, 5) Jacques Derrida uttered these words in 1990, a time of extraordinary transformation in Europe. The Berlin Wall had fallen, the Soviet Union had collapsed, and the anxiously anticipated Maastricht Treaty, which would formally establish the European Union, was around the corner. Today, in 2017, Derrida's words have at least as much resonance as the day they were spoken.
In 1990, the geopolitical and economic borders of Europe were metamorphosing into those of the European Union. Old hierarchies were being overlaid with new ones, disclosing and producing a complex bricolage of affluence, renewal, erosion, and dispossession. A quarter of a century later, both Europe and the EU—two entities that are perhaps more visibly discrete than ever before—still struggle to discern and respond to what is afoot, and decide what or who goes by these names: Europe and the EU. Skepticism, anger, and indignation at the postwar European project are at an all-time high. The question of what will become of Europe and the EU looms on the horizon. The borders of both entities are, as always, multiple and in flux, and the questions of who draws them and how they are drawn are as contested as ever. [End Page 205]
The disputed economies within older Europe, including Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain (often collectively designated by the disturbing acronym PIIGS), have been rendered peripheral through austerity. These newly marginalized spaces are also places of transit, absorption, and rejection for increasing numbers of migrants and refugees fleeing social and political conflicts as well as economic and environmental devastation in the Middle East and Africa—conflicts and devastation in which Europe has been and remains complicit.1 As the recent influx of Syrians seeking refuge by attempting to traverse the borderscapes of Europe makes painfully clear, Europe continues both to signify an object of desire and function as an apparatus of necropolitics (Grzinić and Ttlić 2014).
This newest, though by no means only, refugee crisis reveals much about Europe's long-standing unwillingness to reckon with the consequences of its historical and contemporary colonial and imperial exploits and entanglements. It illuminates also the internal social, political, and economic hierarchies and borders Europe and the EU continue to proliferate. Situated within persistent conflicts over belonging and Europe's indebtedness to those it includes and excludes (Bojadzijev and Messadra 2015), the refugee crisis likewise throws into sharp relief Europe's reluctance to attend to the question of race, and the myriad racializations and racisms that have formed part of Europe's anatomy (Arendt 1951; Foucault 1997). As Fatima El-Tayeb elucidates, there is a refusal to see racialized minorities as Europeans. She explains this is because the continent is framed
as a space free of "race" (and by implication racism), [which] is not only central to the ways that Europeans perceive themselves, but has also gained near-global acceptance. Despite the geographical and intellectual origin of the very concept of race in Europe, not to mention the explicitly race-based policies that characterized both its fascist regimes and its colonial empires, the continent often is marginal at best in discourses of race or racism.(El-Tayeb 2011, xv)
Thus, the margins and borders of Europe have been drawn by ongoing, shifting, and competing internal processes of othering that simultaneously racialize so-called non-Europeans and deny recognition of minority statuses within national discourses (Wekker 2016; Welch 2016). "Migrant" and "refugee" have come to brand the newest wave of mobile masses traversing circuits of survival, histories of colonialism, and contemporary capitalism within Europe and on its margins. But "migrant" and "refugee" have also come to operate as racializing categories that permanently anchor multigenerational communities to an outsider status, confirming Étienne Balibar's (1996, 362) concern that European citizenship, if...