Constructing the Mediterranean Region: Obscuring Violence in the Bordering of Europe’s Migration “Crises”

  • Alison Mountz Balsillie School of International Affairs Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Jenna M. Loyd Zilber School of Public Health University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Keywords: migration, European Union, boundaries, territories, region, migration management, political engagement, Africa

Abstract

Many names have been attached to regional spaces of migration around the edges of the European Union, including the Mediterranean, Africa-Europe, EU, and Schengen. These regional distinctions and the image of contiguous boundaries assume certain territorial stabilities that can be known, mapped, and policed: the African continent, the European Union, the Mediterranean and even the notion of territorial waters. Yet, territoriality itself is an unstable concept, and the many crises unfolding in the interstitial spaces in the Mediterranean signal precisely the fluidity of the region. Regional solutions are popular within the current panoply of enforcement strategies used to manage migration, but they function to reify and stabilize the concept of the region and obscure violence happening at other scales. In this paper we build on political geographers’ examinations of the social construction of scale to investigate the ways in which the region has been created through “migration management.” Building on the work of feminist geographers, we contend that attention to the scale of the migrant body shows the violence obscured by regionalized migration management and opens up spaces and strategies of political engagement. This approach highlights the multiple places where the EU-Africa borderlands are constructed and shifts the conversation from a state-centric discourse of migration management enacted at the region to one of embodied migration politics that addresses violence transpiring at finer scales.
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