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African Migrants, European Borders, and the Problem with Humanitarianism

Forthcoming from Manchester University Press (UK) and its Theory in a Global Age series, and co-authored by P. Khalil Saucier, African Migrants, European Borders, and the Problem with Humanitarianism aims to blacken our understanding of the plight of the displaced person, particularly as it relates to Africans on the move.  African Migrants highlights how the singular structural antagonism of blackness is rent across the contemporary problem of displaced persons in the discourse on refugees, human trafficking and so-called “modern day slavery” in the Mediterranean Basin.   African Migrants critically explores the fault lines within pro-refugee and anti-trafficking/slavery activism and scholarship, identifying the power relations to which it inheres, and clarifying the ethical coordinates informing the conceptions of the problem and the solutions proffered.  Contemporary scholarship on these issues often bypasses the ontological and epistemological structures that undergird the paradigm of Western knowledge and as a result fail to understand that the originating and grounding name of racism is “black.” As a result, pro-refugee and anti-trafficking scholarship and activism in Europe is persistent in its declination to confront race, which is to say blackness, positionally and paradigmatically.  The thinly veiled irritation with the limitless resolve of black liberation points to how Europe’s recent self-initiated “crises” of migration and the attendant levels of dispossession across the region are themselves a function of a black presence that is constitutive to the modern world, and at the same time, deeply disavowed.

African Migrants is a metacritque of the ways in which particular racial analytics within pro-refugee and anti-trafficking/slavery discourse serve as a vital source of psychic (existential) community building wherein blackness is a prop, a phobic object that is omnipresent in its absence.  To this end, our aim is to problematize any ready presuppositions on police power and violence in the Mediterranean Basin in order to illustrate that the political typologies often used to understand the Mediterranean refugee “crisis” are organized by antiblackness.  African Migrants, therefore, pursues the critical insight that antiblackness structures the onto-epistemological realities of global age, rather than being merely derivative of white supremacy’s holdouts, colonialism’s hangovers, or neoliberal capital’s excesses.  This perspective forces us to examine how Europe remains structured by racial slavery and leads us to angle the “black Mediterranean” as a vital unit of analysis for understanding contemporary forms of policing Europe’s borders. 

 In the most general sense, the scope of the problem, as African Migrants elaborates, is an under-theorization, even in the most radical of circles, of the deep-seeded nature of antiblackness expressed in everyday relationships between state, civil society, individuals, and intellectual production. This mundane violence is the ontological reality of black social death.  By undertaking a black study, African Migrants reframes issues of great ethical concern with respect to those most affected. In short, the aim and scope of African Migrants is to think about questions essential to social theory and the global age in order to generate a paradigmatic response to police power in the Mediterranean Basin accountable to the black struggle for liberation from all forms of bondage and dehumanization. 

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