“The Refugee Crisis” and the Mediterranean Seametery

Hakim Abderrezak, University of Minnesota

November 2, 4:00 - 5:30 pm, Jennings Hall room 155

In his talk, Professor Hakim Abderrezak examines how “the refugee crisis” and clandestine migrations across the Mediterranean Sea have been portrayed in French, Arabic, Spanish and Italian literature and cinema, as well as in political discourse and mass media. Ever more stringent anti-migration policies have forced individuals to embark on increasingly fatal journeys from Africa and the Middle East. Mare Nostrum (Our Sea), La Grande Blue (The Big Blue) and al-Baḥr al-Abyaḍ al-Mutawassiṭ (The White Sea of the Middle) are some of the many names given to the Mediterranean Sea by various peoples, in several languages and at different times. Basing his analysis on a close study of the flawed terminology used to discuss the phenomenon of sea crossings, Abderrezak argues that in addition to the romantic and lyrical appellations bestowed upon this body of water, the contemporary Mediterranean must also be addressed as a bleak Seametery.

Hakim Abderrezak is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He teaches in the Department of French and Italian and is affiliated faculty in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, the doctoral program in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society, the Program in Religious Studies, the interdepartmental graduate minor in Moving Image Studies, and the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change. His research focuses on Mediterranean, Maghrebi and Francophone studies. He is the author of Ex-Centric Migrations: Europe and the Maghreb in Mediterranean Cinema, Literature, and Music published by Indiana University Press in 2016. A major part of his work examines clandestine sea crossings in literary and artistic works that have appeared in French, Arabic, Berber, Spanish and Italian. He has presented his research at national and international venues and has given invited talks and keynote lectures at several universities across the country. In 2013, he organized “Burning the Sea: Clandestine Migrations in the Global Age”—the first US-based interdisciplinary symposium on clandestine migration that brought together a wide array of distinguished scholars working across national languages in the humanities and social sciences. His essays and articles have appeared in collected volumes, as well as in journals such as SITES: Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Expressions maghrébines and the Journal of North African Studies. In 2012, he co-edited a special issue of Expressions maghrébines on literary works produced in and about North Africa in languages other than French and Arabic. He has several forthcoming book chapters on the Mediterranean cemetery. In addition, he is currently working on two book projects. One of them examines media coverage and political discourses about the current “refugee crisis.”