March 30, 2021 1:00 PMOnline
"Specters of the Aegean."
Mina Karavanta (University John Kapodistrias, Athens)
March 30, 1:00pm CST
ZOOM ID: https://tulane.zoom.us/j/3724362763
Co-sponsored by the Department of French and Italian, Middle East and North African Studies (contact: Roberto Nicosia, email@example.com).The massive dispossession of people from their lands, plagued by economic, political but also ecological disasters, and the protracted stay of the migrants in the places of their first entry, away from the places of their desired or dreamed destination, have created the conditions of the “new subaltern” in the present era (Spivak; Chakrabarty). As one of the borderlands of the new subaltern, the Aegean Sea emerges as both the doorway to North Europe and the frontier zone of the global South. Afflicted by the extended and ongoing effects of the financial crisis that has severely damaged the welfare state and subjected the citizens to heavy taxation and budget cuts that have made their social and political lives vulnerable, Greece has also been one of the southern mediterranean countries, derogatorily referred to as P.I.G.S, that have received and hosted thousands of migrants. The concurrent development of the financial and migrant crises in the south of Europe have therefore transformed the Aegean Sea from serving as an iconic civilisational site and a symbol of the so-called miracle of western democracy into operating as the liquid fence that keeps the migrants outside the main European territory, where the northern paradises can be protected from the arriving migrants. In a dramatic twist, the openness of the Aegean, which is often represented as the fertile ground of the first democracy born on the European continent because of its privileged location at the crossroads of the cultures that are spawned across the Mediterranean, has become a problem for the sovereignties of the European nation-states. The graveyard of those who have failed to cross it and the pathway to a life of freedom, Homer’s “wine-dark sea” has become the new black Atlantic strewn with refugee camps and centres where life is barely livable. Awaiting for the processing of their asylum applications, facing the danger of refoulement, the migrants continue to make their ongoing claims to soil, rights and education; their stories archived in a multiplicity of texts—documentaries, photographs, written and oral narratives—intertwine their different histories of dispossession, perseverance but also death and disappearance at sea, and disclose “a coloniality at large” (Morana; Dussel), characterised by the multiple forms of resistance against the systematic commodification and disavowal of human life by neocolonial policies that regulate the mobility of human beings while deregulating human and labour rights across the global south. They betray how the old histories of slavery and colonialism overlap with the neoliberal order of politics that sees to the financialisation of every aspect of human life. However, the persevering presence of the community of the “new subalterns” and their ongoing claims, their acts of dissent and creative alliances with activists, artists and concerned citizens from the host communities reveal how the migrant communities are constitutive of the force of the political that, in the case of democracy, arises from the demos and all the people who inhabit it. This presentation will draw on some of these acts of dissent and creative alliances to discuss the ways by which the new subaltern does speak, thus betraying the presence of a decolonial subject, that of the “citizen-xenos”.