The seventh day of MeditHerity 2021 revolved around the subject of the borderland and it was conceptually driven by the morning lecture of Maria Pisani, from the University of Malta.
Although not always in plain sight, both migration and tourism as forms of human mobility are tigthly connected with the establishment and perpetuation of borders. The lecture of Maria Pisani delivered a broad understanding of what “border” might mean and she extended it from the immediate realm of history and politics to the very relationships that occur among humans.
Humanity has always been a mobile species, yet the vocabulary, the issues and the circulation of “crises” and “emergencies” linked to human migration are relatively modern phenomena. Pisani connected these developments to the dawn of border-making policies, which are essentially linked to the appearance of the nation-state form of governance and social-cultural paradigm, first in Europe and then throughout the post-colonial world. “Societies and states are the product of bordering, not the other way around”, could be the recap line of the ways in which from one whole planet, much of humanity ends up grappling, to various degrees, with borderlands.
The lecture traced these developments by following the history of Malta, an insular country whose very position and historical legacy offers a unique window over the intersection of mobility issues – from ancient Mediterranean mobility to colonialism, through the construction of Malta as a modern nation-state, down to tourism and contemporary migratory flows. Maria Pisani stressed the contradiction at the heart of modern globalisation and political-economic system, for which the expansion of travel and technology corresponds to the hardening of international borders. At the same time, the stiffening of such “regimes of division” is not equally borne or experienced. Where tourists are given the privilege to unsee borders, by flying over them or having visa exemptions, migrants are confronted with criminalisation, precarity and, oftentimes, death.
The lecture of Maria Pisani invited us, however, to reflect on the idea of borders not only as a political and cultural fabrication, but also as a manifestation of the ways in which we establish relationships and subjectivities in our everyday conducts. Rather than conceiving persons, including ourselves, as pre-relational individuals we may recognise instead the multiple ways in which we are all always-already entangled. In the closing of her speech, Pisani made us reflect, in groups, on ideas that may allow one to overcome such borderland-thinking, such as the idea of love.
In the afternoon, we returned to discussing the concrete instances of migration in Lampedusa, with another session which included the Forum Lampedusa Solidale. We tried to apply the notions we elaborated with Maria Pisani and the stories and moments we experienced over the previous days through an artistic visual form – a collage of drawing and objects collected from the complex of the summer school – and especially through the composition of a short lyrical corpus, to be attached to the song Fischia il Vento a Lampedusa (“Blows the wind in Lampedusa”). In small groups, we composed a few lines for this music experiment. While on the surface it appeared to be a light or trivial activity, in fact the act of focussing on the possible verbal expression of the migratory experience was a touching and compelling moment that perhaps approximated the inter-subjective position which we discussed in the morning with Maria Pisani.
Although vested as an occasion for socialisation and amusement, the session and the seventh day at large provided us with a unique chance to test the ordinary ways in which the “us” and “them” are commonly constructed, sometimes unwittingly, and it showed us how a social world that recognises relationality and empathy may look like.