Terraqueous Necropolitics

Unfolding the Low-operational, Forensic, and Evocative Mapping of Mediterranean Sea Crossings in the Age of Lethal Borders


  • Laura Lo Presti University of Padova




Necropolitics, Mediterranean Sea, migration, visual culture, critical cartography, terraqueuos space


Over the last years, the European Union (EU)’s anti-immigration policy has shifted the imagery of the Mediterranean Sea from a lifeworld into a deathworld. The ensuing media attention on migration across the sea has resulted in the dramatic proliferation of images exhibiting human suffering and death. These images include maps, which have been barely discussed by critical scholars. This paper narrows this gap by examining the relationship between the lethal policies affecting the Central Mediterranean Migration Route and its maps. It introduces the terraqueous necropolitics as a new framework of analysis, by acknowledging the power to kill that EU is exerting over an amphibious space, that is, through the blocking of migrants on the firm land and the intentional inaction in sea rescues. This power is also perpetrated by the media representation of migrants as quasi-objects. On the other hand, due to the multivocal relations of cartography with marine territoriality and what I call “the geometry of the unliving,” I draw on three case studies on mapping and migration to explore the modes through which maps produce, expose or evoke the necropolitics of the Mediterranean Sea. I frame these “mapshots” through three interpretive categories: low-operational, forensic and evocative mapping. These visual and spatial regimes of investigation require interdisciplinary attention on the distinctiveness among cartographic events and the configuration of the terraqueous border they enact.


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How to Cite

Lo Presti, L. (2019). Terraqueous Necropolitics: Unfolding the Low-operational, Forensic, and Evocative Mapping of Mediterranean Sea Crossings in the Age of Lethal Borders. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(6), 1347–1367. https://doi.org/10.14288/acme.v18i6.1829