A collaborative project of collective writing
coordinated + edited by:
Nicholas De Genova + Martina Tazzioli
Soledad Álvarez-Velasco, Nicholas De Genova, Elena Fontanari, Charles Heller, Yolande Jansen, Irene Peano, Fiorenza Picozza, Lisa Riedner, Laia Soto Bermant, Aila Spathopoulou, Maurice Stierl, Zakeera Suffee, Martina Tazzioli, Huub van Baar, Can Yildiz
Note on Authorship: For each of the specific keywords, the first listed name indicates the keyword’s lead author, whereas the names that follow are simply listed alphabetically to affirm the parity of contributions by the co-authors.
Europe / Crisis: Introducing New Keywords of “the Crisis” in and of “Europe”
Martina Tazzioli + Nicholas De Genova
It has become utterly banal to speak of “the crisis” in Europe, even as there have proliferated invocations of a veritable “crisis of Europe” – a putative crisis of the very idea of “Europe.” This project, aimed at formulating New Keywords of “the Crisis” in and of “Europe,” was initiated in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in January 2015, and has been brought to a necessarily tentative and only partial “completion” in the aftermath of the subsequent massacre in Paris on 13 November 2015. Eerily resembling a kind of uncanny pair of book-ends, these spectacles of “terror” and “security” (De Genova 2011; 2013a) awkwardly seem to frame what otherwise, during the intervening several months, has been represented as “the migrant crisis,” or “the refugee crisis,” or more broadly, as a “crisis” of the borders of “Europe.” Of course, for several years, the protracted and enduring ramifications of global economic “crisis” and the concomitant policies of austerity have already been a kind of fixture of European social and political life. Similarly, the events in Paris are simply the most recent and most hyper-mediated occasions for a re-intensification of the ongoing processes of securitization that have been a persistent (if inconstant) mandate of the putative Global War on Terror (De Genova 2010a, 2010c). Hence, this collaborative project of collective authorship emerges from an acute sense of the necessity of rethinking the conceptual and discursive categories that govern borders, migration, and asylum and simultaneously overshadow how scholarship and research on these topics commonly come to recapitulate both these dominant discourses and re-reify them.
As a network of scholars in critical migration and borders studies, we have been particularly concerned to defy the intellectual and political ghettoization of these topics in relation to the ordinarily unquestioned manifold and transversal reality of the multiple “crises” that coexist alongside the purported “migration” or “refugee crisis” in (and of) “Europe.” How indeed may the “crises” associated with border control and asylum and immigration law enforcement be apprehensible as co-constitutive of what is otherwise so ubiquitously known simply as “the crisis” (the economic crisis), as well as the related “crisis” of “Europe” itself (the political, juridical, and institutional crisis of the European Union, and particularly such “European” institutions as the Schengen zone of passport-free travel that has reconfigured the borders of “Europe” by sustaining an “internal” space of [relatively, albeit differentially] free mobility)? Likewise, this critical angle of vision on “the crisis” in and of “Europe” must be further situated within the context of our global historical moment: the recent and ongoing proliferation of wars, civil wars, military interventions, and neocolonial occupations across the planet in which European powers are and have long been profoundly implicated. This perspective illuminates the dire necessity of radically unsettling any self-satisfied European discourse on “migration” or “refugees” as the de facto human refuse of “crises” constructed to be strictly “external” to the presumed safety and stability of “Europe,” erupting always “elsewhere.” In other words, starting from the dramatic increase in the numbers of people seeking asylum in EU-rope because of the violent convulsions and disruptions of war, but also in light of the preemptive unavailability of any other route for migration to Europe for the vast majority of the world’s population, what is at stake here is a rigorously postcolonial critique of the governmentality of migration and asylum and the misleading opposition between “genuine” or “legitimate” refugees and ostensibly“economic” migrants (Garelli and Tazzioli 2013a; Tazzioli 2013; 2014). These contrivances of the global government of human mobility intersect substantially (and consequentially) with the analytical categories that discipline academic research and scholarship. Furthermore, and related to these intersections surrounding human mobility, this project similarly inquires into how these manifold and interconnected “crises” might signal a larger epistemic crisis regarding some of the central and defining categories of thought and action surrounding the contemporary (postcolonial, post-Cold War, neoliberal) constitution of a place called “Europe.”
The aspiration and intended purpose of these New Keywords is to effectively “hijack” the dominant discourse surrounding and superintending how we speak of and think about the conjunctures of “Europe” and “crisis.” Specifically, we posit our interventions into this contradictory problem space from the distinctive critical vantage point enabled by our engagements with the perspectives and experiences of migration and borders. Hence, the primary motivation behind our collaborative work has been to engage in the kind of theoretical dialogue and debate that aims to interrogate and disentangle the multifarious articulations of “migration” and “crisis,” highlighting that the so-called “migration crisis” in fact supplies a crucial lens for grasping the wider dynamics of “crisis” in and of “Europe” and the European border regime (see “Border Regime” in Casas-Cortes et al. 2015).
Nevertheless, while we seek to problematize the very language of “crisis,” it is imperative to underscore that this collaborative intervention arises also amidst the horrific spectacle of migrant and refugee mass deaths that has been produced as a consequence of the European border regime. Far from downplaying the frequently tragic dramas of the migrants and refugees who have braved the violence of Europe’s extended and expansive borders – and the monumental fact that 2015 has been the single most deadly year on record for illegalized migrants and refugees seeking to cross these borders, especially across the Mediterranean Sea – let alone the protracted travails of the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants repeatedly blocked during their “long march” across numerous borders through the Balkans, this project nevertheless emphasizes the generalized crisis of the government (and control) of human mobility instigated for the European border regime by autonomous migrant and refugee movements that have defied the borders and appropriated the space of Europe.
The multiplication of borders and border-zones (Mezzadra and Neilson 2013) within and around the amorphous “European” space is seen here as a cascade of reactive responses put into place by a diverse variety of formations of sovereign power. These heterogeneous state formations include the European Union (and various subsidiary agencies such as Frontex, the EU’s border policing operation), as well as particular EU member nation-states, European states that are not EU members, as well as the junior partners in the peripheries of “Europe” who have been variously sub-contracted to police the borders of EU-rope, such as Libya prior to 2011 or Turkey now (albeit with much greater and more complex strategic geo-political and military stakes). Despite their significant differences and inequalities, all are substantially dedicated to disciplining migratory movements that objectively challenge outright the regimes enforcing selective access to the “right” of cross-border mobility and the exclusionary criteria of the “right” to asylum. In the face of militarized border police brutality, including rubber truncheons, stun grenades, and tear gas, as well as razor-wire fences, and the ever-present horizon of interdiction, prolonged detention, and deportation, we are reminded nonetheless of migrant and refugee mobilizations, such as the ad-hoc protest march that departed from Budapest’s Keleti train station and occupied a six-lane highway heading to Austria, chanting “Freedom!”
Beyond such dramatic and overtly politicized mobilizations, however, migrant struggles to appropriate movement and claim space – to enter Europe, claim asylum, and move onward to northern countries in the quest for safer and more promising places to stay – are visible in any European border zone, from Lampedusa to Lesvos, from Melilla to Nicklesdorf, from Ventimiglia to Calais (see “Migrant Struggles” in Casas-Cortes et al. 2015).
In the face of the “migration crisis” and the “crisis of Europe,”therefore, we are reminded of what Sandro Mezzadra has depicted as “the politicality of migration movements” and must begin to contemplate the politics of “the crisis” from the critical standpoint of what he designates a “Border-Europe,” a “Europe” constituted by the proliferation of borders and border struggles (Mezzadra 2016).
Thus, the collaborative work compiled here operates at a significant distance from the current proliferation of discourses about the “migrant” or “refugee crisis,” challenging the taken-for-granted meaning of the term “crisis” by looking at the productive dimension that the declaration of a state of “crisis” of “emergency” generates. In the face of the epistemic crisis of both state and other institutional actors (as well as academics) in taking stock of the heterogeneity of practices of migration towards and across “Europe,” we seek here to re-craft some of the most commonplace taken-for-granted categories undergirding the dominant discourse from the standpoint of a constitutive struggle over mobility and space. That is to say, these New Keywords respond to the urgency of producing a collective counter-discourse about migration and refugee movements and the purported “crisis” that ensues, starting from an epistemological destabilizing and theoretical questioning of the very meaning and function of certain key concepts and categories, such as “humanitarianism,” “refugee,” “migrant,” “mobility,” and so forth. By focusing on the (at least) two-fold “crisis” that has dominated the media spectacle and the discourse of the political establishment – “the (economic) crisis” and “the migrant/refugee crisis” – and by refusing the systematic separation of these and other related figures of “crisis,” we hope to direct critical scrutiny toward the frameworks and practices of governmental intervention enabled and energized by the proliferation of“crisis.” Likewise, yet still more importantly, we aim to call attention to the new spaces produced by the diverse manifestations of the autonomy and subjectivity of the migrants and refugees themselves. The politics of austerity, acutely affecting southern European countries in particular, coupled with border enforcement strategies that preemptively illegalize mobile people seeking asylum, together impact upon both “Europeans” and “non-Europeans” – citizens and migrants alike – and thereby simultaneously re-fortify the “obscene inclusion” (De Genova 2013b) of war refugees and other illegalized migrants into the socio-political fabrics of local “European” economies.
Reflecting upon and engaging with spatial and political transformations that are still underway, however, we are notably confronted with the methodological problem of keeping up with the ongoing border struggles and the concomitant reconfigurations of the mechanisms of capture and control that are at play in governing human mobilities, in the dizzying context of the diverse array of recent events in Europe that have directly affected our areas of inquiry. In particular, we must mention the various closures of EU internal borders in the securitarian aftermaths of both the arrival of large numbers of refugees and migrants in the second half of 2015 and the violent events in Paris on 13 November 2015. We must likewise note the moral panic erupting over the sexual assaults in Cologne/Köln during the 2016 New Year’s Eve festivities, which have authorized a new round of debate over the criminalization and prospective deportation of “asylum-seekers.” Consequently, ours is necessarily an intrinsically tentative and always-incomplete grappling with the immanent task of theorizing the contingencies and irresolution of socio-political conflicts and struggles in which we are still immersed. Hence, while these interventions can in no way pretend to provide any semblance of an exhaustive account or comprehensive analysis of the recent political transformations occurring in “Europe,” the keywords that we have chosen – “Crisis”; “Migrant Crisis”/ “Refugee Crisis”; Numbers (or, The Spectacle of Statistics in the Production of “Crisis”);“Humanitarian Crisis”; “Mobility”; and (The Crisis of) “European Values” – each of these signal broad rubrics that allow us to repeatedly tackle anew, and from somewhat different critical angles of vision, the larger over-arching question of the relation between (the government of) migration and (the government of) the wider multiplicity of apparently disparate and divergent formations of “crisis” in Europe today.
It is perhaps self-evident, but particularly noteworthy, that these texts have emerged amidst the still-unfolding and unpredictable repercussions of the securitarian and military responses–within Europe and abroad – by numerous EU authorities and member states to the attacks in Paris of 13 November 2015, which will continue to have multiple impacts upon human mobility at large. These ramifications are particularly consequential for the social and political conditions of refugees and migrants, both for those within the space of “Europe” as well as for those beyond the borders who may yet seek entry to “Europe.” Nonetheless, and very importantly, this is also true for EU-ropean citizens – especially those racialized as “Muslims” or “Roma” or other supposedly “non-white” (“non-European”) “minorities” (De Genova 2010c; De Genova and Tazzioli 2015; van Baar 2016b). On the one hand, all migrants and refugees may now be newly figured as always-already “suspect” – potential “terrorists” who have infiltrated Europe alongside the influx of “genuine” refugees.
Moreover, Syrian refugees and migrants, in particular, who hitherto have widely enjoyed a distinctly preferential treatment over and against others seeking asylum in Europe, have now been abruptly re-fashioned as inherently suspect and thus, special candidates for the dubious status of “bogus” refugees, albeit now re-figured as potential “secret agents” with the nefarious mission of entering Europe only to perpetrate “terrorist” atrocities. On the other hand, the repeated and successive closures of various internal EU borders have simultaneously accelerated the “crisis” of the Schengen area of “free” mobility (long celebrated as a paramount achievement of European integration), while nonetheless summoning new formations of still more enlarged powers of integrated sovereignty to be configured at the EU-ropean scale. Therefore, simultaneous with the “crisis” of Schengen, we seem to be witnessing its re-fortification through an aggressive push for the unprecedented securitization of the EU’s external borders, specifically targeting EU citizens.
The New Keywords of “the Crisis” in and of “Europe” emerged from a workshop convened by Nicholas De Genova and Martina Tazzioli at King’s College London on 25–26 June 2015. Notably, this is the second iteration of the “New Keywords” endeavor, and follows an earlier but related dialogue that culminated in the analogous project of collective authorship and collaborative publication, coordinated and edited by Nicholas De Genova, Sandro Mezzadra and John Pickles, which appeared in print as a Special Thematic Section on “New Keywords: Migration and Borders” in the journal Cultural Studies (Casas-Cortes et al. 2015). Both of these experiments in thinking and writing together stem from the meetings of a multi-disciplinary research network on “The ‘European’ Question: Postcolonial Perspectives on Migration, Nation, and Race,” initiated by Nicholas De Genova and Sandro Mezzadra with migration and borders scholar-activists and activist-scholars from the UK, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Latvia, and the Czech Republic, as well as Turkey, Iran, the United States, and Ecuador.
Therefore, this interrogation of the conjunctures of “Europe” and “Crisis” is also a contribution to reformulating and expanding the purview of what Nicholas De Genova (2016) has called “the ‘European’ Question” – contending that we must recurrently and unrelentingly ask: What indeed is “Europe”? and Who may be counted as “European”? Posited first and foremost from the conjoined perspectives of migration and race, the “European” Question demands a persistent attention to the postcolonial dimension of the borders of “Europe” and the boundaries of “European”-ness at the core of our analysis. Fundamental not only as a vital corrective against the (re-)bordering of would-be critical reflection within the academic boundaries of migration and refugee studies but also for problematizing the vexed politics of race, national identity, citizenship, migration and asylum in “Europe” today, the “European” Question has supplied a defining framework for debate among the contributors to these New Keywords. Extending this interrogation of “Europe” through the critical lens of “crisis” – the multiplicity of invocations of “crisis” in and of “Europe” – including of course the rationale of “economic crisis” as the presumptive authorization of austerity and reactionary populist backlash – these interventions around “the crisis” therefore emphatically remind us that what is at stake is nothing less than the very question of “Europe” itself. Situated, as we are, in discrepant relations to “Europe” and “European”-ness, we nonetheless seek to seize hold of our moment of “crisis” as a moment of opportunity through which it may be possible to think and act differently in the aspiration to make the place where we live into a place where life is worth living, together.