Spaces in Migration: Postcards of a Revolution

edited by Glenda Garelli, Federica Sossi and Martina Tazzioli

230 pp
Published: October 2013
229 x 152 mm

£15.99; $25.49; €16.99
ISBN: 978-0-9571470-1-0


December 17, 2010 – January 14, 2011. These dates have been fixed as the beginning and completion of a revolution which took the world by surprise, opening up a sudden and peculiar spatial upheaval. Mohamed Bouazizi’s gesture, setting himself on fire, was an extreme one. Immediately following this act, squares and streets started to fill up, from Tunisia to Tahrir square, to Sana’a, to Tripoli and to Damascus. The revolutions that originated were revolutions against political dictatorships and against dictatorship over people’s lives, against the way poverty was rendered invisible and against unbearable existences. These revolutionary struggles staged an unprecedented capacity for common action based on a logic of ‘spatial takeover.’ These existences decided to stand up and be counted, taking over streets, squares, Kasbahs, medinas, taking up their freedom, the freedom to be, to go, to be noticed at last. They did so forming an uncontainable movement, from Tunis to Cairo, from Maghreb to Mashreq. From Tunisia to Europe. These ‘Arab Revolutions’ and, the one that sparked in Tunisia in particular, have not followed just one direction in their ‘spatial takeover.’ They have also managed to fill a series of European spaces with existences and bodies: streets, islands, stations, parks; from Lampedusa to Paris, crossing the sea in an unexpected and sudden capacity to unify two shores and two continents, hence erasing centuries of history, acting on and performing the ‘natural’ proximity of these shores. Spaces in Migration:. Postcards of a Revolution attempts to rearticulate some of the images of what happened starting from December 17, 2010, sketching a necessarily fragmented story, a series of postcards, and piecing together fragments of before- and after- moments, following the spaces in migration of this revolution.

The book traces a series of reflections on this spatial upheaval. It takes into account the geography of the Tunisian revolution bringing into focus the ‘peripheral’ spaces from where it started – the poor regions of Tunisia’s inland and the banlieues of the city of Tunis – and the ‘marginal spaces’ where it landed. The book also looks at the ‘Collective of Tunisians from Lampedusa in Paris,’ a group migrants who occupied many buildings in Paris in the Spring of 2011, and their nominalist subversion breaking into the spatiality of the Earth, shattering centuries of history, political thought about space, belonging and the spatial inscription of the body. It deals with the group of mothers and families of Tunisian missing migrants that for two years have challenged the migratory policies of the European Union, demanding the institutions to be accountable for the lives of their sons, establishing again, from one shore to the other, the Sea as a space of crossing, the concreteness of lives’ plots. Two years after the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, the book addresses the ongoing ‘migration crisis,’ looking at the strategies of resistance asylum seekers put in place at the Choucha refugee camp at the Tunisia-Libya border. In order to investigate the political and spatial upheaval Tunisian migrants produced in the European space, the book reflects on the ‘on/off circuits of Schengen’ and on the way in which European policies reacted to the conflict that migrants’ border crossing opened in the Schengen area. Included in the book is a counter-map of the Mediterranean from the vantage point of the Tunisian revolution. Spaces in migration: Postcards of a Revolution focuses its investigation on the physical spaces, the concrete spatial upheavals, and on mobilities across space of the Tunisian revolution.

In praise of Spaces in Migration

Spaces in Migration is an intellectual eruption — the eruption of the Arab Spring, and the Tunisian Revolution in particular, into the critical study of migration and borders.  This volume asks vital questions for critically interrogating the contemporary European border and migration management regime, particularly in the face of the migratory surge that ensued from the toppling of not only the dictatorship but also its policy of closed borders, through which Tunisia’s citizens were confined and obstructed from emigrating.  Combining the very nuanced analyses of the Italian scholar-activist contributors with the transcripts of their interviews with Tunisian migrants and their families, and also with refugees from various African countries encamped in the borderzone between Libya and Tunisia, this book provides a poignant exploration of how the autonomous subjectivity of migrants can radically destabilize the logics of border control.”

Nicholas De Genova, co-editor of The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement (Duke University Press, 2010).

“This book is a compelling read, which brings together a plethora of voices while making a decisive intervention in debates about migration in the wake of the Tunisian revolution. Deftly combining analysis with rich empirical detail, the authors succeed in highlighting critical dimensions of the revolution as well as key problems of contemporary migration and humanitarian regimes. Voices that sorely need to be heard find space in this book. By weaving interviews with migrants and activists between analytical essays, the authors demonstrate the complexity of issues as well as the seriousness of stakes that the politics of mobility involve. This is developed through an inventive map composed of diverse ‘postcards of a revolution’, each of which highlights the importance of migrant struggles across and beyond the contemporary shores of North Africa and Southern Europe.”

Vicki Squire, Associate Professor of International Security at the University of Warwick, UK