Deconstructing the “Refugee Crisis”: Race, Representation, and Recognition

4 - 5:30 p.m.
Barrows Hall 691

Center for Race and Gender

The CRG Thursday Forum Series presents…

Deconstructing the "Refugee Crisis": Race, Representation, & Recognition

Denaturalizing the Mediterranean border: Mediterraneanism, Mediterranean migration, and the tracing of the boundaries of Europeanness
Ilaria Giglioli, Geography

Over the past five years, the European 'refugee crisis' has made painfully clear the human cost of the closure and fortification of the Mediterranean sea. In response, intellectuals, public figures and activists throughout Europe have sought to question the closure of the Mediterranean border, and the notion that this border represents the 'natural limit' of Europe, by turning to Mediterraneanism: the celebration of historic interconnections between Europe and North Africa.

Mediterraneanism, however, has multiple articulations. In my talk, I analyze everyday manifestations of Mediterraneanism in Sicily, Italy, as both a multicultural model, and as a regional development discourse, showing how the celebration of Mediterranean interconnection is going hand in hand with the production of racialized difference between Sicilians and Tunisian migrants. By reading current articulations of Mediterraneanism in Sicily in relation to histories of colonial cosmopolitanism in Tunisia, I also show how – more generally – the celebration of Mediterranean mixing and interconnection has historically served to support European (Italian and French) colonial ambitions over Tunisia.

Through this analysis, I show how, in some articulations, Mediterraneanist projects do not question the exclusion of racialized subjects from the national or European community, the fortification of the Mediterranean, or implicit 'civilizational' hierarchies between Europe and North Africa. More generally, I argue that in order to challenge the current Mediterranean status quo, Mediterraneanist projects must be accompanied by policies of equal access and redistribution – both within Europe and across the Mediterranean, a critique of Islamophobia, and a questioning of how the boundaries of Europeanness are drawn.

Kate Jastram, Human Rights Attorney
More info soon.


Ilaria Giglioli is a PhD candidate in the Geography department of the University of California, Berkeley. Her research, partially funded by a grant from the Center for Race and Gender, analyzes cross-Mediterranean migration between Sicily and Tunisia (both current Tunisian northward migration to Sicily, and histories of Sicilian southward colonial migration and settlement to Tunisia), focusing on the drawing of the boundaries of 'Europeanness' through the production of racialized difference between Sicilians and Tunisians. She has published her work in a range of journals, including Geopolitics and The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

A UC Berkeley School of Law alumna, Kate Jastram is an expert on refugee, migration, and human rights law.  She practiced immigration and nationality law in San Francisco and directed a pro bono asylum program in Minneapolis. From 1991-2001, Jastram was a legal advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland and Washington, D.C.  Jastram has also served as an expert on asylum issues for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bi-partisan federal agency, since 2003. In 2005, she was a co-recipient of the Arthur C. Helton Human Rights Award, awarded by the American Immigration Lawyers Association in recognition of outstanding service in advancing the cause of human rights.