Monthly Archives: January 2016

Educational Workshops in Lampedusa with Children of the Island on their Border Imaginaries

On October 16-17, 2015, the Centre for Research on Complexity (Ce.R.Co.) of the University of Bergamo in collaboration with the local Collective Le mamme di Lampedusa organized educational workshop activities in Lampedusa with children of the island on their border imaginaries.

The workshops were held at PortoM on Lampedusa. Porto M (Port/Harbour M) is a self-managed space where the Lampedusa-based Askavusa collective, in collaboration with the collective Le mamme di Lampedusa, has established a project of non-institutional museum. Askavusa launched a successful crowdfunding campaign during 2015 to move Porto M from its initial location to a very evocative new location in a natural cave near the statue of the Virgin Mary in the old port of Lampedusa facing the Mediterranean Sea. The initial “M” stands for the Italian words ‘Mediterraneo’ (Mediterranean), ‘Migrazioni’ (Migration), ‘Militarizzazione’ (Militarization), ‘Memoria’ (Memory), ‘Mare’ (Sea), ‘Madre’ (Mother). Not only is Porto M an exposition of migrant’s objects, but it is also a place for fostering active practices of political memory. The members of the Askavusa Collective have literally salvaged, one by one, the remains of the shipwrecks and the landings that have happened on the shores of Lampedusa over the years, in order not only to save the memories of the migrants from oblivion and carelessness, but also to use them in the creation of new works of art.

portoM

The documentary film “Houdoud al bahr | The Mediterranean Frontiers: Mazara-Mahdia” has been shown and discussed with children as a part of the workshop activities.

portoMlaboratorio2

During the workshop activities, great emphasis was given to narrative approaches considering the relevant role of narratives and narrations – be them written text, oral narrations, or stories told by visual means – for expressing identity processes. Specifically, narrative visual tools were used (drawings, maps and participatory mapping) in order to encourage children’s ability to tell their stories through visual narrative tools that bring their spatial imagination to the foreground.

portoMlaboratorio

Educational workshop activities with children of the island aimed to tell about children’s own imaginaries of the Mediterranean as a borderscape between Europe and Africa and to make children’s ideas of Lampedusa as the place where they live and as a border island in the Mediterranean in-between Europe and Africa emerge. Establishing a dialogue with children, the workshops also had the objective to foster a critical reflection on how children of the island would like Lampedusa to be, collectively discussing about what they feel is lacking in Lampedusa as the island where they live and interrogating the reasons why they feel that particular lacking and what possible solutions they envisage to productively solve the situation in the future.

In so doing, the workshop activities were first and foremost aimed at recalling much attention on the importance to consider children as active participants in constructing the borderscape where they live as a space of social liveability. This would be possible by deserving attention to children’s own ideas of the borderscape and to the affective, emotional meanings that children give to the places where they live. Listening to children and embracing their viewpoint on the borderscape which they inhabit means to acknowledge their right to participate in the public sphere, at the same time providing them with a democratic responsibility of which they are deprived as they are usually excluded from the political and administrative life and obliged to carry a sort of “postponed citizenship” that can be compared in some ways to that of migrants or in other ways it is a sort of “diminished citizenship” as that given to the marginal people who inhabit the world. Listening to children’s viewpoint on the borderscape where they live and giving voice and visibility to their ideas offers us the chance to make their agency emerge as a form of resistance capable of combating what Foucault calls a ‘microphysics of power’ through which an essentialized, external contemplative idea of borderscape is imposed. These practices of resistance find room in children’s experiences of local places on Lampedusa and they express what de Certeau defines as a ‘counter-microphysics of everyday practices’. These practices are acted by children who inscribed them in the borderscape that they inhabit as a space of ‘good life’ and liveability, contesting and challenging hegemonic configurations of their border island while searching for novel and ‘common’ configurations of Lampedusa. This entails relevant political implications coming from the opportunity to reflect on alternative forms of belonging describing emotional attachment to place rather than official citizenship. Children’s imaginaries and experiences of the borderscape can be regarded as ‘forms of resistance’ to the dominant monolithic image of Lampedusa as a border island in the Mediterranean. They sketch a counter-image of Lampedusa through a form of resistance that begins in the concrete. Thus, children resist with their own experiencing, performing, and inhabiting of the borderscape. It is a resistance that is acted through a political presence in the everyday showing the relevance of paying attention to mundane practices in lived places. It is also shown, in this way, the urgency of reconsidering modern categorizations of political belonging by enlightening in/visible thresholds where alternative political agencies and subjectivities become possible.

Discussing on Lampedusa – a border island how it is and how the children of the island would like it to be, the argument of the presence of migrants on the island emerged as a key argument for children to define Lampedusa as a border island. Specifically, it is worth considering that children often refer to the presence of migrants on Lampedusa to describe how it is the border island where they live and how they would like it to be:

“Migrants are now living in a fenced building in Contrada Imbriacola. There are bars to the windows. It looks like a prison…I would like to build a new house for migrants with windows that can be opened and without bars and I would also like to build a gym for both the Lampedusians and migrants.”

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“Thinking of Lampedusa as a border island, I think of migrants landing in Lampedusa on overcrowded boats…It would be great if migrants could live with us in Lampedusa…it would be great if we could eat ice-cream together or have a chat sitting on any bench in town.”

portoMdisegno2portoMdisegno1

References

Brambilla C., “Exploring the critical potential of the borderscapes concept”, In Geopolitics, 20, 1, 2015, pp. 14-34.

Brambilla C., “Mobile Euro/African Borderscapes: Migrant Communities and Shifting Urban Margins”, in: A.-L. Amilhat Szary, F. Giraut (eds.), Borderities and the Politics of the Contemporary Mobile Borders, Palgrave-McMillan, Basingstoke – London, 2015, pp. 138-154.

Brambilla C., “Educare all’intercultura attraverso il paesaggio: esperienze a Mazara del Vallo” (“Educating the Children on Interculture through the Landscape: Experiences from Mazara del Vallo”, Dialoghi Mediterranei. Periodico bimestrale dell’Istituto Euro-Arabo in Mazara del Vallo, gennaio 2015, http://www.istitutoeuroarabo.it/DM/educare-allintercultura-attraverso-il-paesaggio-esperienze-a-mazara-del-vallo/.

Brambilla C., “Navigating the Euro/African Border and Migration Nexus Through the Borderscapes Lens: Insights from the LampedusaInFestival”, in: C. Brambilla, J. Laine, J. W. Scott, G. Bocchi (eds.), Borderscaping: Imaginations and Practices of Border Making, Ashgate, Farnham, 2015, pp. 111-121.

De Certeau M., 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Foucault M., 1997. Il faut defender la société, Paris: Seuil Galliard.

Ingold T., 2000. The Perception of the Environment. Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, London: Routledge.

Knorr J. (ed.), 2005. Children and Migration: From Experience to Agency, Bielefeld: Verlag.

Rancière J., The emancipated spectator, Verso, London – New York, 2011.

Houdoud al bahr | The Mediterranean Frontiers: Mazara – Mahdia (Italy, 2015)

  • Film run: 60’
  • Concept: Chiara Brambilla
  • Direction: Chiara Brambilla, Sergio Visinoni
  • Script: Antonino Cusumano, Chiara Brambilla, Alessio Angelo
  • Anthropological Research and Consulting: Chiara Brambilla, Alessio Angelo
  • Production Coordination: BC Today Agenzia di Comunicazione
  • Camera Operators: Riccardo Baratella, Leonardo Bruzzese, Alberto Micheli
  • Editing and Post-producing: Riccardo Baratella

Houdoud al bahr is a documentary film based on conceptual reflection and ethnographic research conducted by the Centre for Research on Complexity (Ce.R.Co.) of the University of Bergamo within the EU-FP7 EUBORDERSCAPES project.

Houdoud al bahr is an Arabic expression that literally means ‘the borders of the sea’. The title comes from discussion with some of the young protagonists of the film and the documentary tries to describe the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this title. The original title in Italian ‘I confine del mare’ is the literal translation from the Arabic. Yet, after discussion with the protagonists we decided to translate it into English using the expression ‘Mediterranean frontiers’, making explicit reference to the Mediterranean and using the word ‘frontier’ in plural instead of the word ‘border’. It is also worth considering the subtitle: ‘Mazara – Mahdia’, which allows us to zoom in on the particular case study in the Italian/Tunisian borderland that the documentary tells us about.

Mazara Mahdia

The film is intended to dis-orient spectators in an attempt to emancipate them, by favouring an active engagement of spectators who are called to critically interrogate the images they are seeing. In this sense, the film wishes to contribute to overcoming the essentially passive routines of the mass media visualizing the Italian/Tunisian borderscape at and across the Mediterranean.

Gazing into the Euro/African border and migration nexus through the borderscape lens, Houdoud al bahr provides an alternative multi-sited choreography of the Italian/Tunisian borderland. By adopting such a multi-sited approach, the film aims to reveal the complexity of this Euro/African borderscape that is perceived as mobile and relational, resembling a fluid terrain of a multitude of socio-cultural, political and economic negotiations, claims and counterclaims that are actualized at the level of everyday practice. In so doing, the documentary illustrates how the Mediterranean Europe and North Africa have become enmeshed in multiple layers of competition and integration through trends of colonialism, migration, and the formation of transnational communities.

In the film, attention is given to ‘traces’ in the border landscape on both the Northern and Southern shores telling us about the genealogy of the Italian/Tunisian borderscape. Great emphasis is placed on the need to ‘humanize’ the borderland, by giving attention to experiences. Indeed, borders are not experienced in the same way by all people. Consequently, Houdoud al bahr intends to describe how ‘pluritopical’ and ‘pluriversal’ experiences of borders often clash with the assumptions of geopolitical theory and dominant mass media representations, and to investigate how the rhetoric and policies of borders impact, conflict and are in a dynamic relationship with everyday life; how these rhetoric and policies are experienced, lived and interpreted by those who inhabit the Italian/Tunisian borderscape. The documentary is also aimed at responding to the need to search for new ways to give voice to these experiences and make them visible, embracing the very concept of ‘visibility’ as elaborated by Hannah Arendt – a kind of visibility understood as a first way to access the public sphere, or as the precondition for active political participation.

During the research, we have worked with young people living in Mazara del Vallo (Sicily), whose families are originally from nearby Tunisia, to capture their kaleidoscopic perceptions, experiences, representations, and imaginaries of the Italian/Tunisian borderscape. A variety of qualitative research methods have been used:

Short videos

Auto-photography

 

Short videos

Short videos

 

Drawings

Drawings

 

Photo-elicitation

Photo-elicitation

 

Participatory mapping and counter-mapping

Participatory mapping and counter-mapping

 

 

Walking expeditions and shadowing

Walking expeditions and shadowing

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young people’s viewpoints have been incorporated into a broader ethnographic work, also involving other kinds of actors, on both sides of the borderland and mainly focusing on urban borderscapes of Mazara del Vallo, in Italy, and Mahdia, in Tunisia.

Houdoud al bahr attempts to take the chance to relate the somewhat abstract level of conceptual change in critical border studies with actual borderscaping as practices at and across the Mediterranean through which fluctuating borders are imagined, materially established, experienced, lived as well as reinforced and blocked but also crossed, traversed and inhabited. This could help move toward alternative border imaginaries ‘beyond the line’ able to describe the shifting processes of b/ordering in-between Europe and Africa; thereby denying that Europe and Africa can be reduced to single bounded entities and exploring transversal Euro/African borderscapes that contribute to dis-closing Africa in Europe and Europe in Africa.