DAY 3 - Mediterranean Encounters

The third day of the summer school has begun with the morning seminar by Samira Mechri, senior lecturer and coordinator of the MA in English and International Relations at the University of Tunis El Manar. Drawing on a cultural studies approach (based on the work of authors like James Clifford, Edward Said and Stuart Hall), the lecture has tried to examine three complex and interconnected issues such as mobility, encounter and enclosure.
Mobility is a multilayered and multidimensional phenomenon which includes a wide range of movements, motivations and categories (travel, tourism, migration, exile, expatriation, diaspora, pilgrimage, etc.). During the seminar, by an inspiring discussion between the professor and the students, we have tried to define and to challenge some of them. Is there a difference between travel and tourism? And between migrants and expats? We realized we cannot draw a precise line between these different categories.

Mobility is also affected by power relations and the freedom to move is not equally guaranteed. As John Berger stated in his speech Fellow Prisoners, for many people the world has become a prison because in everyday life they experience exclusion through borders, gates, fences, walls and other means of enclosure.
On the other hand, the Mediterranean has been for centuries a place of encounter and common heritage, crossed by different kinds of mobility, i.e. the Arabs in Sicily and Spain, the Italian fishermen in “Small Sicily” in la Gouletta (Tunisia), the European and American travellers and flâneurs in Italy, Greece and Morocco etc.
Nowadays, especially in the aftermath of the Tunisian Revolution, on the shores of the Mediterranean there are unexpected encounters, between tourists and “irregular” migrants (harraguas). Very popular touristic destinations, like Lampedusa and Zarzis, have also become icons of human tragedy, where leisure and suffering are interconnected. However, migration is not one way traffic (from the South to the North). Today, Tunisia and Italy are both countries of departures, arrivals and transits.

In the afternoon, we met Ali and Rimaz, members of the association “Sparks15” which helps refugees and migrants to learn English in order to find a job or to study at the University. In a fruitful moment of exchange, they also talked about their own experience as young migrants living in Malta and how they manage their cultural diversity in this social context.

Finally, we went to Birkirkara to visit TheMill - Art, Culture and Crafts Centre founded by Gabriel Caruana, one of the most important contemporary Maltese artists. There, his daughter Raffaella showed and explained the work of his father and introduced us to the rich artistic scenery in contemporary Malta. Afterwards, we met Norbert Bugeja, co-coordinator of the Mediterranean Institute at the University of Malta and general editor of the Journal of Mediterranean Studies. Norbert is not just a scholar but he is also a renowned poet and he outlined the history of Maltese poetry from its origins until now, focusing on the postcolonial literature production. At the end, he read, both in Maltese and in English, a few of his poems from the book “South of the Kasbah”, giving us a taste of the hybridity of the Maltese language.