Reclaiming Neoliberal Zones of Indifference: Exclusionary Borderscapes in Anders Lustgarten’s Lampedusa

Lidia De Michelis, Università degli Studi, Milan


Drawing on a cluster of interconnected perspectives, but relying mainly on critical cultural studies and border studies approaches, my article explores the complexities inherent to the challenge of representing the ‘borderization’ of the outer margins of Europe, and the increasing criminalization of migrants by institutions and the media that alternatively deploy images of the ‘drowned’ and the ‘saved’ in order to serve both compassionate, self-gratulatory agendas and populistic discourses of infection and invasion. Building on recent scholarship, such as, among others, Balibar (2009; 2015), Mezzadra et al. (2015), van Houtum (2010), and Mazzara (2015), I shall first analyze how migrants and the once (stereotypically) idyllic island of Lampedusa have been discursively re-constructed, across the European public sphere, as subjects and spaces of abjection, waste, expendability, and, according to the occasion, empathetic scopic consumption. Subsequently, I shall take as case study the short play Lampedusa, by the young British political activist and playwright Anders Lustgarten. Inspired by the relentless death toll at sea, and in particular by the appalling shipwreck of 3 October 2013 which reverberated across international headlines, inaugurating the discourse of “the Mediterranean-as-cemetery”, the play “is dedicated to the people who didn’t make it” (Lustgarten 2015: frontmatter), and overtly takes issue with Europe’s collective responsibility for the enduring tragedy of contemporary migration.

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