- The Borders of "Europe": Autonomy of Migration, Tactics of Bordering ed. by Nicholas De Genova
This edited volume offers twelve essays that explore European borders and migration through ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the last decade, predominantly in the Mediterranean, the space of the most frequent and deadly border crossings. Nicolas De Genova's introduction provides a wide survey on the current research on migration and border studies in Europe, including a compact summary of central ideas from his earlier work. De Genova recalls several 2015 migrant- and refugee-related media events: a shipwreck in the Mediterranean that killed 850 refugees, the discovery of an abandoned meat truck with seventy-one corpses in Austria, the "Calais crisis" when hundreds of migrants took advantage of port workers' strike and boarded UK-bound trucks, and a migrants' protest march toward the highway leading out of Hungry. De Genova notes that these "border spectacles" (3) are central in displaying what is strategically defined as the "crisis" of migration, a discourse of urgency utilized to reconfigure more efficient tactics of control and law enforcement. Among these tactics, the author emphasizes the significance of categorization of displaced populations as migrants versus refugees, or as victims of trafficking versus potential perpetrators of terror events that reinforce a permanent epistemic ambiguity that empowers the governance of transnational migration in Europe.
Research presented in the volume examines multiple meanings of borders, as well as policies and forms of border control and their impacts on the quotidian lives of migrants. Through fieldwork in Greece with an extended Syrian family, Maurice Stierl shows how physical violence of the border regime (collisions between border security and migrants) have traumatic aftereffects that migrants struggle with, so "moving on" is often both a physical and a psychological necessity. Fiorenza Picozza's work analyzes the Dublin agreement's (which stipulated that an asylum claim can only be submitted in the first country of entry) effect on Afghan refugees who live in transit between Rome and London, and how this legislation produces "existential conditions of precariousness, restlessness, and stuckness" (237), a condition that, as Picozza reminds us, is at the root of the word refugee (fugis meaning to flee and the prefix re- implying recurrence).
An important aspect of European borders that the volume highlights is their function as spaces that blend humanitarianism and securitarianism both in practice and discourse. Ruben Andersson's article, based on fieldwork conducted in the Spanish borders on the Mediterranean, examines entanglement of the seemingly paradoxical functions of capture and rescue and control and care. While the Spanish Guardia Civil claims that they conduct "humanitarian assistance," humanitarian workers use resources, information, and know-how generated by border security, leading to [End Page 657] "deep and daily collaborations" (84). Along similar lines, Glenda Garrelli and Martina Tazzolli examine the refugee camp in Choucha (Tunisia), a "humanitarian camp" established (and then abandoned) by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to host people fleeing from the Libyan war. Garelli and Tazzolli show how humanitarian projects created a buffer zone of control for refugees destined for Europe, as well as a space of containment for "rejected refugees," who are supposedly beyond humanitarian concern.
This research on camp in Choucha portrays another aspect of European borders: European frontier enforcement is increasingly conducted in zones that are geographically outside of the continent. Laia Soto Bermant analyzes the southernmost European border (geographically outside Europe) in Melilla, Morocco. While Melilla is most visible in the European media through its fences against southern "invasions," Bermant brings to attention less debated issues such as "hot deportations" (illegal expedited removals) and the border economy—the smuggling and customs duties that generate significant revenue. The collection also sheds light on another significant aspect of European borders—jurisdiction based on selective control and abandonment. Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani point out that complex forms of maritime governance in the Mediterranean carve up "partial sovereignty regimes" that "expand and contract selectively" (100). This elastic notion of sovereignty allows...