Days after the mass eviction of the Grand Ghetto of Rignano, new accusations arise as to who is responsible for the deaths of two of its inhabitants. On 2 March, Mamadou Konate (33) and Nouhou Doumbia (36) died in a fire that destroyed their barracks and left their bodies carbonised. In a press stamement, released after a protest manifestation in Foggia held on 8 March, theUnione Sindacati di Basi (USB) writes: “These are the tragic conclusions of years of absent political solutions and migrant witch hunts.” They assign particular responsibility to the chief attorney of Foggia, who decided to proceed with the eviction without involving the workers who live there, an act they describe as “institutional arrogance”. In the meantime, the activist movement Campagne in Lotta cites eyewitness who claim -so far without material evidence- that the fire has been ignited by the police, with the aim to intimidate those present to leave this “parallel city”, as superintendent Antonio Piernicola Silvis called the ghetto.
In a recent reaction to the closure of Rignano, the new Minister of Internal Affairs, Marco Minniti claims the eviction is just the beginning, and that the plan is to eradicate all remaining informal labour settlements across the country.
Allow me a bit of publicity for a band I’ve closely followed over the last three years. ARAMA is a ensemble, which performs music from the whole Mediterranean region, covering East, South and North. The three lead musicians, Laura Francaviglia (classic guitar, saz, oud, riqq, darbouka, daff), Chiara Trapanese (vocals and middle eastern percussions) and Elio Pugliese (accordion and vocals), have chosen this Turkish name for their band, which means “search”. After a long period of gigs and fieldwork in Sicily they decided to record their first album in Emilia Romagna. VersOriente (Toward the East) also includes Olivia Bignardi (clarinet), Daniele Gozzi (double bass) and Frida Forlani, who sings a traditional piece from the Appenino Bolognese.
An interesting report on Pro/fuga and the way it tries to confront the exploitative conditions of migrant workers in the Foggia area of Puglia, Italy, just came out on Meltingpot. Definitely worth the read. More information on the current situation is being regularly collected by OMB.
Sadly receiving the news about the passing of Doreen Massey, I would like to flag two obituaries that describe well her life-long dedication to an understanding of space that is “complex, porous and relational,” as Noel Castree put it. Massey is, concretely, the reason why I am in(to) geography now. I still remember my colleague flagging up her brilliant piece Politics and Space/Time when I was about to finish my PhD. Together with Michael Watts’ ‘Sinister Life‘ it greatly influenced my thinking for the next decade. So I am extremely grateful to Massey -and to my colleague of course- for having brought me onto this path. Words can’t describe her career better than these two separate obituaries by Noel Castee (for PiHG) and David Featherstone (for the Guardian).
The Global Detention Project has just published its new report, The Uncounted, on migrant detention in Europe and the US. Here is what it says:
“Based on a two-year investigation seeking basic details and statistics about immigration detention practices in 33 countries across Europe and North America, this joint report by the GDP and Access Info Europe reveals that in many countries it is impossible to obtain an accurate picture of the number of migrants and asylum seekers being held in
detention. Information is frequently unavailable, many countries refuse to answer freedom of information requests, and when information is released or publicly available it is often incomplete or based on unclear measures that do not fully capture what is happening on the ground. The report concludes that in Europe in particular there is not sufficient transparency in detention regimes to be able to develop a coherent picture of the treatment of detainees or to make informed policy decisions, a fact that is all the more alarming given the large number refugees and asylum seekers currently being apprehended across the continent.”
Have a look at the weekly border digest on the Schengen area here. Daily updates can be sought on their twitter account. Both sources offer updates on the situation at Europe’s border hotspots, aiming to collate and simplify information from a variety of sources.
The critics were enthusiastic about this debut movie of Jonas Carpignano, a young Italian-African-American director who received the critic’s prize during this years’ Cannes festival. The movie (a coproduction between Italy, France, the US, Germany and Qatar), which was filmed in Morocco and Calabria, tells the story of two immigrants from Burkina Faso who reach Italy after a long journey through the Libyan desert, and get involved in the revolt of Rosarno of 2010. Mediterranea is a story about the precariousness of globalisation, the author mentions, but also about prejudice and what being a migrant in contemporary Europe is like.
I must admit I haven’t yet seen the movie, but as soon as I do I will post my impressions. In the meantime you can read the Guardian’s review here.
Camille Hawthorne just posted an extensive review of Igiaba Scego’s novel ‘Adua‘, on Africa as a Country. Hawthorne, whose research analyses the politics of Blackness in Italy, diaspora theory, and postcolonial science and technology studies, situates the novel in the persistent expressions of racism in Italy, but also in experiences of a more liminal kind. Rather than depicting subjects “trapped between two worlds,” she writes, Scego’s novel succeeds in portraying a range of experiences that–while still structured by racism, misogyny, and other axes of power–can do justice to the changing face of Italy today.
Colonial representations -if at all admitted- have been pretty much dominated by the Italian conquest perspective, but that image is slowly starting to change, thanks to the contribution of Sego and others. Also have a look at the interesting lecture Sego gave at NYU.
Further to my posts on the Black Mediterranean, I signal two interesting events this and the next month, on in Florence, and one in Milan.
The Florence conference and exhibition Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories(28-31 May) offers comparative perspectives on the historical and contemporary role played by photography, art, film, literature, and music in referencing the image of the black body in the West. Reflections include the art collection of NYU’s Villa La Pietra, the historical villa and home of the New York University Florence program where the conference is held -including a collection of ornamental black sculptures known as “Blackamoors” that have become an important colonial trope.
On 14 may-2 June in Milan at the Fabbrica del Vapore, another post-colonial reflection takes place, involving a series of film screenings inspired by Edward Said‘s work on Orientalism. The event is called Notes on Orientalism. Video practices at the age of radical differenceand you can find more information here.
Amongst others, the event hosts a screening of Sven Augustijnen‘s Spectres, on the murder(ers) of Patricre Lumumba.
The event also shows Renzo Martens‘ provocative art project ‘Episode III: Enjoy Poverty’, which represents an emancipation programme Martens set up in the midst of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s endless civil war. Mimicking international charity and aid organisations, Martens’ project encourages the local population to reap the benefits of their greatest resource: poverty. The piece is the third in a series of films that, by enacting their own parameters, try to make visible their own complicity in a world obscured by depictions of it.
An interesting article in The Guardian yesterday mentioned the term ‘conflict tomatoes’ –a remarkable term given its legacy in denouncing corporate complicity with financing warfare (images of the movie Blood Diamond immediately spring to mind, but also of coltan, and Congo). Echoing my earlier post on heterogeneous market associations, the Guardian writes how British consumers in particular are being consciously misled. Sweet mixed baby tomatoes sold by supermarket giants Tesco and Morrisons, and which have been labeled as produce of Morocco, in fact are cultivated by giant agribusinesses in the contested area of the Western Sahara. Some of these businesses are property of the wealthy King Mohammed VI, others of powerful Moroccan conglomerates and French multinational firms.
The term conflict tomatoes first came up in a joint WRSW-Emmaus report produced last month, which denounces the upcoming trade agreement between the EU and Morocco that will open the Union for large imports of agricultural products from Morocco. Morocco, however, is an occupation power, it writes. And the deal can be used by plantation companies in occupied Western Sahara to export fruits and vegetables to EU supermarkets free of tariffs and under the veneer of a an internationally ratified agreement.
I am curious to what extent research will follow up on the effects the massive displacement this extensive agricultural production rise will obviously generate both locally and transnationally (in the same logic as West African farmers now are joining the ranks of Europe’s precarious labour force in the agricultural sector as a result of aggressive capitalist expansion they face at home).
At the same time, the terminology of the ‘conflict tomato’ also opens up a whole new spectrum towards this kind of aggressive agricultural frontier developing in and South of the Sahara. Contrarily to the earlier campaigns against conflict diamonds that concentrated predominantly on the role of non-state actors and shady businessmen, for example, advocacy organizations like WSCUK are explicitly criticizing the role of states and multinational corporations. Maybe this ‘unusual take’, as the Guardian calls it, will also help enrich the conceptual scope of the conflict minerals debate towards a wider critical understanding on such changing global constellations of economic appropriation and development.