5th Seminar: Olga Lafazani, “The significance of the insignificant. Borders, migration, everyday life”

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Politics of Liberation

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Politics of Liberation
11 November 2022

The aim of the paper is to reflect on how borders proliferate in everyday life, not only through laws, institutions or policing practices, but also through deeds, words, and feelings. Rather than analyse migration and borders by focusing only on the borderzones, this paper attempts to capture the multiple relations that connect the camp to the city square, the deportation regime to the train carriage, the newspaper headlines to the housing tenements in an attempt to work towards framing a broader theory of borders in geographical terms.
By using fragments of narrations of everyday encounters between migrants and locals in the city, light will be shed on different moments, places, people, and encounters: brought together they create a map of the multiple and complicated ways borders operate as technologies of power within everyday life in the city. The city is Athens between 2009-2013, a time that saw the beginnings of the “economic crisis” in Greece. During those years, migrants were being increasingly illegalised and racialized by dominant policies and media discourses compared to the previous decade of “economic growth”.
It is well established in the critical literature that borders have a polysemic nature, as they do not hold the same meaning for everyone. As Caton and Zacka write: “A border is not a line, but a space with depth. And this space changes, morphologically, on the basis of the identity of the one who enters it.” (Caton and Zacka, 2010: 209).Taking a step further, this paper will discuss not only how meanings, experiences, and spaces change in relation to the identity of the people who cross the borders, but how identities, bodies, and spaces are themselves produced through bordering practices.
Everyday life, as described by H. Lefebvre is defined by conflicts and contradictions which become particularly apparent when we approach borders ethnographically, starting from the everyday life experiences of migrants: moments and spaces of exclusion, powerlessness, and subordination but also of inclusion, emancipation, and subversion. In this sense, the focus is on these microbe-like, clandestine, and insignificant acts of everyday life, in which borders are renegotiated between the ones who belong and the ones who do not, when belonging is not conceived as a sense but as a socially constructed position that manufactures bodies, acts, and feelings.
Drawing from critical geography, border and migration studies, as well as from feminist and postcolonial critique, and by focusing on everyday encounters an attempt is made to generate more complicated and nuanced understandings of subjectivity and power, and to bring to the fore the multiple borders that are simultaneously embodied and transcended, performed and challenged, established and subverted.

Politics of Liberation is a bi-monthly seminar series which will be convened by Rosa Vasilaki and Giorgos Souvlis and will take place in the premises of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (Kallidromiou 17, Athens, 1st floor) on Friday evenings from mid-September 2022 to the end of June 2023, from 7pm to 9pm.
The seminar will have the form of an open talk given by an invited speaker discussing aspects of the current conjuncture related to their research interests. Discussion with the participants will follow and materials related to the seminar will be available beforehand, so as to prepare ourselves for the discussion.

The seminar will take place in person, therefore it is paramount that you register before attending because of space limitations. Registration is on first-come first-served basis so make sure you register early. Registration opens 15 days beforehand. Make sure to make your booking asap! The seminar will also be broadcasted the digital platforms of the RLS office and the seminar’s social media and will also be available as a video on the website after completion.

Check details and register here.

You can watch the event on our YouTube channel, here.