Doreen Massey

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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).

 

migrant detention

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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.”

Read report here.

Mediterranea

Mediterranea has finally reached Europe’s movie screens.

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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.

Adua

elephant-601783_640 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.

 

Orientalism and the Black Body

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.

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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 difference and 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.

 

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conflict tomatoes

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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).

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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.

Nero a meta’

imagesPino Daniele, the great artist, passed away yesterday. Author of numerous fabulous tunes, voice of the margins, of Naples, Italy’s vibrant colonial city, and inspirer of a great musical  tradition, Afro-European at heart, like his saxophonist James Senese, as well as the many international musicians he shared his life and stage with, indeed, nero a meta’. I would like to remember him with this song I discovered just recently on an edited album called Black Tarantella, e’ ancora tiempe, there’ still time, yes, Pino, to follow in your footsteps.

Mos Maiorum

Yesterday an all too familiar scene at the Italian-Swiss border in Chiasso: a young African, probably from Eritrea or Somalia, is being accompanied the border guards from the Cisalpino train connnecting Milan and Zürich – with no apparent signs of resistance. According to the Swiss newspaper NZZ, since January 2014 5721 Eritreans have demanded asylum in Switzerland, notwithstanding sharper bureaucratic scrutiny since 2012. In the meantime, the massive European police deployment Mos Maiorum apparently generates more state violence against migrants in South Italy. Keep reporting public police checkpoints and identity checks throughout the European Union.