CRS Seminar: The Distance to Nowhere: Rethinking Mediterranean Ocean Crossings and European Futures with Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Greece
Guest speaker: Othon Alexandrakis, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, York University
From the surface of the water one’s perception of horizontal and vertical distance can become uncertain. Proximity to ground and grounding phenomena of all description is easily misjudged: distant objects and land can feel like they are a swimmable, or at least a floatable distance away; the depths and what they may hold–watery menageries, museums, morgues–can seem immediately present beneath the waves. Since 2015, thousands of unaccompanied minors travelled across the Mediterranean Ocean from Turkey to the Greek island of Mytilene. For many of these children, the intense experience of being on water was punctuated by being in the water, losing things and sometimes people below the surface, while looking around to see other panicked travellers, for a lifesaving object, or to some coming ship for help. Here, I consider the accounts of two children who endured this experience, and the difficult lives they were living when I met them in an Athenian shelter in 2019. Drawing together anthropological work on migrant geographies and Deleuze’s writing on child memory, I examine the manifold slippages that rendered life unnavigable for my interlocutors in terms of an unfixed topography. I posit that their often-capricious responses to this perpetually unsettling state of being can be understood as a critique of the continental humanitarian apparatus.
Othon Alexandrakis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at York University. His research and writing focuses on the intersections of social action, affect, memory and power in Athens, Greece. He is particularly interested in rethinking resistance in terms of the transformative possibilities enabled by micro-social responses to conditions of shared hardship and, in turn, how these possibilities come to challenge normative political formations.
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