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Migration and the Dystopian Imagination of European Border Regimes

Stock, Adam ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6172-0971 (2024) Migration and the Dystopian Imagination of European Border Regimes. C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-century Writings, 11 (1).

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Inward migration has long troubled the European political imagination. For example, an emphasis on fortification and low immigration was key to the civilisational fantasy of many early modern European literary Utopias. The dominant contemporary political framing of irregularised migration as a European problem thus leans on an imagined transnational ‘European civilisation’, concretised in the contemporary EU but with roots stretching back centuries. This article examines critical cultural treatments of legal and policy frameworks, grounded in a (supra-)nationalist civilisational myth, which now determine the treatment of irregularised migrants. Specifically, I examine three cultural texts (a novel, a film, and documentary artwork) produced in the years immediately preceding the development of the current Dublin III Regulation, which determines how and where asylum claims are processed in the EU. These three realist primary texts counter the official techno-scientific discourse of territorial integrity using science fictional narrative strategies, generic conventions, and tropes: the 2012 documentary artwork Liquid Traces: The Left to Die Boat Case by Forensic Architecture uses science fictional visualisations to directly confront the deadly effects of European bordering in the Mediterranean. Aki Kaurismäki’s film Le Havre (2011), shows how twentieth-century history haunts contemporary migration fears by spatialising multiple temporalities in the titular city. Finally, Chika Unigwe’s novel On Black Sisters’ Street (2009), explores the colonial dynamics of irregularised migration and the complexities of individual agency, producing a form of critical dystopian engagement with the social and political conditions of the present without being a generic dystopia. These three texts expose the dangers and violence of European bordering, and counter the science fictional civilisational fantasies of its policies. They share an emphasis on the need for solidarity, resistance, and, via encounters with the spectral presences of Europe’s past, they demand forms of historical justice which will break with contemporary dystopian conditions and the hard borders of the present.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.16995/c21.9350
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
J Political Science > JZ International relations
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/9581

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