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Reproducing Refugees: Photographìa of a Crisis



Since 2015, the "refugee crisis" is possibly the most photographed humanitarian crisis in history. Photographs taken, for instance, in Lesvos, Greece, and Bodrum, Turkey, were instrumental in generating waves of public support for, and populist opposition to “welcoming refugees” in Europe. But photographs do not circulate in a vacuum; this book explores the visual economy of the ‘refugee crisis,’ showing how the reproduction of images is structured by, and secures hierarchies of gender, sexuality, and ‘race,’ essential to the functioning of bordered nation-states. Taking photography not only as the object of research, but innovating the method of photographìa— the material trace of writing/grafì with light/phos—this book urges us to view images and their reproduction critically. Part theoretical text, part visual essay, "Reproducing Refugees" vividly shows how institutional violence underpins both the spectacularity and the banality of ‘crisis.’ This book goes about synthesising visual studies with queer, feminist, postcolonial, post-structuralist, and post-Marxist theories: "Reproducing Refugees: Photographìa of a Crisis" offers theoretical frameworks and methodological tools to critically analyse representations, both those circulated through hegemonic institutions, and those generated from ‘below’. It carves a space between logos and praxis , ways of knowing and ways of doing, by offering a new visual language that problematises reified categories such as that of the ‘refugee’ and makes possible disruptive, alternative, resistant perceptions. The book contributes to the fields of migration and border studies, critically engaging visual narratives drawn from migration movements to question dominant categories and frameworks, from a decolonial, no-borders, queer feminist perspective.
Photographìa of
a Crisis
Anna Carastathis
and Myrto Tsilimpounidi
Tsilimpounidi Reproducing Refugees
Visual Studies | Political Philosophy
Challenging Migration Studies
Series Editors: Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley
“This timely book opens compelling terrains of critical engagement with episte-
mologies and lived experiences of ‘crisis,’ tracing how the photographic can
become an apparatus of biopoliticized reproduction, visual objectification, and
epistemic violence, but also, occasionally, comes to articulate transformative
solidarity and utopian imaginaries. In thinking of ‘crisis’ as a frame through which
subjects and the political are (re)produced and made (in)visible, the book mobilizes
queer feminist, antiracist, and decolonial perspectives to test the limits of bringing
crisis and reproduction together. In so doing, it oers a valuable lens through which
to imagine the possibility of change, whereby photographìa might be repurposed
to unsettle normative figurations of the present.” —Athena Athanasiou, Professor
of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences
“Anna Carastathis and Myrto Tsilimpounidi make a compelling case for the central
and indispensable role of photography in mediating the spectacle of Europe’s
‘refugee crisis.’ This book oe rs a vital critiqu e of the visual economy of obje ctification
by which human subjects crossing state borders are turned into the racialized and
gendered objects of other people’s pity or protection, or alternately, of their fear
and loathing. And by framing ‘crisis,’ the authors show that photography’s visual
economy is indeed an economy of power that inculcates ignorance and cultivates
consent and complicity with the border regime’s violence.” —Nicholas de Genova,
Professor and Chair of Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Houston
“A significant intervention into the politics of ‘crisis’ and mobilities, this exciting
book foregrounds reproduction, temporalities, and the visual. It demonstrates
the intensively productive nature of a metaphorical and literal queer lens on
human movement. Challenging containment in nations and families in favor
of making new connections, it oers a guide to thought and action. Read it!”
Bridget Anderson, Director of Migration Mobilities Bristol; Professor of
Migration, Mobilities, and Citizenship, University of Bristol
Anna Carastathis is co-director of the Feminist Autonomous
Centre for Research in Athens, Greece.
Myrto Tsilimpounidi is co-director of the Feminist Autonomous
Centre for Research in Athens, Greece.
An aliate of
Rowman & Littlefield
... All around Europe, solidarity, care and mutual aid networks provide the tools for common struggles centred around increasing precarisation and shared vulnerabilities between migrants and non-migrants. In this struggle, critical researchers have a role to play by confronting and disrupting the logics and knowledges that shape the border (Conlon and Gill, 2015;Loyd et al., 2012), by critically engaging with the racial, patriarchal and colonial assumptions that underpin the border and humanitarian regimes (Carastathis and Tsilimpounidi, 2020;Garelli and Tazzioli, 2013), and by unsettling categorisations, dichotomies and boundaries (Cabot, 2019;Gill, 2019). We offer this collection as a contribution in this direction, as a move toward what will hopefully -what has to -be a continuous and reflective dialogue on how best to tackle the systemic structures leading to power excesses such as the 'hotspot approach', and how best to tackle and even reverse its impact. ...
How many translations were left incomplete during our time on Lesvos? How many dialogues but, also, emotions, relationships and confrontations were left incomplete? An atmosphere of incompleteness dominated the Olive Grove outside Moria hotspot on Lesvos. It was, also, a matter of time. People were eager to move forward, to catch the next ferry so that they could make it on time to the border. By boarding together, the ferry on 15th April 2016, we were “lending translation the freedom” (Silver, 2009) beyond the attachment to a specific route, date of arrival, place and identity and our right to become something else together beyond the hotspot reality and the fixed subjectivities that it imposed, along racial, gendered and sexualized ways, such as that of the ‘tourist’, ‘refugee’, ‘economic migrant’, ‘volunteer’, ‘activist’ and ‘researcher’. We refused to belong to the specific times and spaces that were constructed around the Deal. We refused to stay put on Lesvos; we refused to move forward. On that ferry journey, through the erotic mutual subjectivity, the constituted relationship between the method and content of research was formulated (Nayak 2017).
This article explores cultural production on queer migrant sex work. More specifically, I critically analyse a photography series by Bradley Secker titled Sexugees and a short documentary film by Manuel Abramovich titled Blue Boy. Despite sex work featuring in many narratives on queer migration, this is often treated as one marginal aspect of broader experiences. Sexugees and Blue Boy take an alternative approach by centring sex work. Instead of relying on tropes of vulnerability, I argue these forms of cultural production rely on objecthood as a sign of political agency to highlight queer migrant subjectivity. Objecthood thus becomes means of not only refusing the necessity of performing as worthy subjects of sexual humanitarianism, but to complicate the relationship between queer migrants and those gazing upon their presence within cultural production.
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This article uses a critical lens to examine the various representations of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Lesvos, Greece through both the system of the hotspot regime and the performative acts of commoning, defined as the creation of the commons. It also proposes a process of commoning by the creation of an ‘assemblage’ of the Lesvos Migration Atlas . In this manner, the Atlas as an outcome of the research is itself a representation that embraces theory, narratives, practices, and acts; a visual and symbolic tool that provides space for photographic material, videos, artworks, (re)mappings, everyday stories, and reflective texts. At the same time, it is a collective process of capturing, writing and representing, open to new material and scripts – thus a product in a process of becoming. Overall, the online and interactive Lesvos Migration Atlas can well be approached as an ‘assemblage’ that respects the mobility and contingency of the various crises, representations and acts of commoning. In the Atlas , the refugee crisis, the hotspot regime and the common spaces that have been created are brought together through the emergence and critical confrontation of the multiple representations of Lesvos.
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The invisibilization of political violence, its material traces and spatial manifestations, characterize (post)conflict situations. Yet counter-semantics and dissonant narratives that challenge this invisibility have been articulated by artists, writers, and human rights activists that increasingly seek to contest the related historical amnesia. Adopting "performance" as a concept that is defined by repetitive, aesthetic practices-such as speech and bodily habits through which both individual and collective identities are constructed and perceived (Susan Slyomovics)-this collection addresses various forms of performing human rights in transitional situations in Spain, Latin America, and the Middle East. Bringing scholars together with artists, writers, and curators, and working across a range of disciplines, Performing Human Rights addresses these instances of omission and neglect, revealing how alternate institutional spaces and strategies of cultural production have intervened in the processes of historical justice and collective memory. With contributions by Zahira Aragüete-Toribio,
Immigration was a salient feature of Trump and Brexit campaigns in 2016. In view of this, the study assumes that media coverage of Middle Eastern and African (MEA) migrants in international press might deteriorate. Extracting contents from Bloomberg Businessweek, Time and The Economist magazines for the years 2016–2018, the phenomenon was investigated using quantitative content analysis and qualitative textual analysis methods. The findings showed that MEA migrants are positively framed. However, the metaphors and language of constructing the image of these migrant groups belie the positive frames, making references to migrants’ values, cultural backgrounds, faith, and origins in a way that dehumanises and capable of generating hostile attitudes towards them. Of the categories of sources used, politicians’ voices and quotes dominated the coverage with references to the political actors of the 2016 epochal events, while the voices of MEA migrants are underrepresented. What these findings suggest is that not only did the 2016 Brexit and Trump immigration discourses influenced MEA migrants’ portrayals, they also indicated that the media is still manufacturing consent with regards to immigration coverage.
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In this paper, we examine how bordered reality is being imposed and resisted in the context of where we are placed right now, ‘Greece’. Drawing on ethnographic research and discourse analysis, conducted in Lesvos, Samos, and Athens (from March to September 2016), we examine how resistance to a bordered reality took place, as islands in the north Aegean, as well as Greek and European territories, were being remapped according to the logic of the hotspot. We approach this process methodologically from the situated angle of the embodiment of resistance in the concrete experiences of people (including the researchers ourselves), whose narratives reveal the distracted spatial coordinates of the ‘hotspot regime’, which becomes a traveling control device. Rather than approaching the hotspots on the five Greek border islands as geographically fixed entities we introduce the concept of the mobile hotspot to show how the logic of the hotspot suffuses the uneven geographies of a bordered reality. We use the ferry as an illustrative tool with which to critically explore the density, tensions, and conflict-ridden nature of movements within, around, and against the hotspots.
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