Panel 5 Chair, Bilgin Ayata

Black Migration and Infrastructural Violence

Ingy Higazy
14 January 2021
“From EurAfrica to EuroMed: Infrastructures of Violence and Containment in the Mediterranean Sea”
Abstract ︎︎︎
This paper explores the political life of mobility infrastructure in the postcolonial Mediterranean. Against the backdrop of the refugee reception crisis, I investigate how the two port cities of Marseille, France and Suez, Egypt, become sites where transnational geographies of connection, containment, and unequal mobility materialize. Closely examining the Euroméditerranée Urban Renewal Project (EuroMed) in Marseille and the Suez Canal Area Development Project (SCADP), this paper asks: how are the port developments currently underway in Marseille and Suez producing (im)mobility in the Mediterranean Sea? How are the historic and uneven colonial relations of mobility between Africa and Europe expressed in, and negotiated through, the materiality and spatiality of those infrastructures? How do ideas of a shared ‘Euro-Mediterranean’ past and present contend with the legacy of EurAfrica, as two economic, political, and cultural projects, in the construction of those infrastructures? In this paper, I explore how those infrastructural developments (port expansions, roads, bridges, and eco-districts) make desirable movement (capital, trade, and tourism) possible, while containing unwanted (migrant) movement. In doing so, I historicize the everyday violence (destruction and displacement) entailed by those infrastructures. I draw on fieldwork I conducted in the ports of Marseille and Suez in 2019. Dwelling on interviews with journalists and academics, official documents, and visual material, such as the recent exhibition in March 2019 on Marseille and the Suez Canal at the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille, I critically examine the material and cultural legacies of EurAfrica and EuroMed in the making of mobility in the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, drawing on insights from the bio-politics of infrastructure, urban studies, and critical race theory, this paper is an inquiry into one of the many ways that infrastructures—products of urban plans, state power, and capital flows—play an integral role in controlling, containing, and disciplining populations across the Mediterranean.

Bios ︎︎︎
Ingy Higazy is a PhD candidate in Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and holds a BA in Honors Political Science and History from the American University in Cairo (2016). Her dissertation project explores the politics of mobility, urban development, and violence in post-colonial Egypt and the Mediterranean. Ingy was previously a researcher at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), working on the New Urban Agenda in Egypt. She bridges academic, creative, and journalistic writing, and has been published in The Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), Mada Masr, andAhram Online, among others.

Huda Tayob
14 January 2021
“Black Infrastructures and Planned Violence”

Abstract ︎︎︎ Post­Apartheid South Africa has seen an increasing number of migrants from other parts of the continent including numerous circular migrants and cross­border traders. These transnational traders, many of whom are women, transport and trade goods following particular trajectories. Focusing on traders who travel among Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa, this paper argues that these women are a form of “infrastructure of people” following AbdouMaliq Simone. Yet, the paper asserts that while the inventive spatial tactics of these women are seemingly a post­colonial (and post­Apartheid) phenomenon, their practices and routes map onto and mirror earlier formal colonial infrastructures. Through oral histories, it emerged that many of these traders belong to a longer matrilineal lineage of similar actors pointing to their “infrastructural” nature as having an extended history beyond the post­colonial present. Putting oral histories into conversation with archival finds like road and train maps, border posts, mineral and natural surveys and other hard infrastructural projects, it emerged that that these “infrastructures of people” in many cases operated within, through and around forms of colonial spatial control and capital, which included colonial legal frameworks, mining interests, and transnational infrastructural agreements established from the 19th century into the independence period. Rather than understanding the colonial and postcolonial as binary, this paper argues for recognising the intimate relationship between the colonial, informal and postcolonial. The paper therefore argues that the trade networks established by these women could be understood as a form of “Black infrastructures”, established by Black urbanites, at times in parallel, and at other times drawing on and appropriating colonial extractive infrastructures, constructing alternative imaginaries. In the post­colonial period, some of these infrastructures, such as railways, are no longer used, yet the paths taken by traders continue to mirror them. In looking at the everyday practices of cross­border traders and colonial state projects in Cape Town (South Africa), Windhoek (Namibia) and Harare (Zimbabwe) comparatively, this paper complicates the narrative of an “infrastructure of people” by questioning the porosity of the temporal and national frameworks in which these informal networks operate, and suggests resistant and more complex infrastructural narratives both within and among these particular sites.

Bios ︎︎︎ Huda Tayob is a lecturer and History & Theory Programme Convener at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg where she also co-leads Unit 18. She holds a PhD from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Her research interests include a focus on migrant, minor and subaltern architectures, the politics of invisibility, and the potential of literature to respond to archival silences in architectural research. Recent publications include ‘Subaltern Architectures: Can Drawing “tell” a different story?’ (2018, Architecture and Culture) and ‘Architecture-by-migrants: the porous infrastructures of Bellville’ (2019, Anthropology Southern Africa).

Irene Peano14 January 2021
“Spectres of Eurafrica in an Italian agroindustrial enclave: (Post)colonial infrastructures of labour and migration containment”

Abstract ︎︎︎
Today the district of Foggia, in the northern part of Italy’s Apulian region, bears the ruined traces of a distinctively infrastructural Eurafrican project (i.e., bonifica integrale) that took shape in the 1920s and 30s. Here, Mussolini’s Fascist regime devised one of its largest feats of land reclamation, second only to that of the Pontine Marshes. The project was a measure to fulfill its promise of land to peasants (one of the core points of Fascism’s political programme in the aftermath of WWI) without bothering that agrarian bloc which had supported its rise to power. At the same time, it was a strategy to quell internal opposition and build international reputation. Bonifica integrale belonged to a wider scheme that extended to Italy’s possessions in Libya and East Africa. Across internal and external colonies, the building of irrigation and agrarian infrastructure was key to what was presented as an all-encompassing civilizing mission, founded on the engineered resettlement of a large number of people. Influenced by 19th-century criminal anthropology, some such populations (and particularly southern peasants) were in fact assimilated to Africans in racialized terms. Now the second largest stretch of arable land in Italy, after the Po valley, since the late 18th century, the so-called Tavoliere has gone through various stages of land distribution, policy failure, bloody struggles and mass outmigration. Currently, it hosts the highest number of foreign-born farm workers, mostly migrants from Eastern Europe and West Africa, who are notoriously subjected to forms of violence and exploitation. In this paper, I am to show how current infrastructures for the containment, disciplining and management of this heavily racialized and segregated labour force are haunted by the spectres of those earlier infrastructural-cum-ideological projects. Drawing on archival research, on secondary sources and on over seven years of engaged participant research, especially among the West African sector of the labour force, I show how living infrastructural spaces (tent and container camps; abandoned farmhouses from the time of bonifica; slums) and the (expert and popular) discourses that accompany their design, building and management, can highlight the presence of past Eurafrican ideals in spectral form.
Bios ︎︎︎ Irene Peano obtained a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge (UK), with a dissertation on the bonded labour of Nigerian sex workers for which she conducted over 18 months of fieldwork between Nigeria and northern Italy. She subsequently held positions at the Universities of Bologna (first as a Marie Curie fellow and then as a postdoctoral researcher) and Bucharest (as a visiting professor). She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lisbon. Throughout her postdoctoral career, she has explored the relations between migrant sex and farm labour in several agroindustrial enclaves in Italy; forms of subjectivation, resistance and labour organization, also in relation to genealogical trajectories and spatial configurations.
International Conference 12-15 Jan 2021, Time zone WAT/CET