(Un)framing Lampedusa: Regimes of visibility and the politics of affect in Italian media representations

Chiara Giubilaro, Gabriele Proglio, Laura Odasso

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5 Citazioni (Scopus)


The 3rd of October 2013 more than 300 migrants died after a boat sank off the coasts of Lampedusa. This probably was the most dramatic shipwreck ever happened in the Mediterranean, and certainly the one which attracted the most media attention in Italy and elsewhere. Since at least 1992 the Mediterranean has become the unstable ground where the dominant policies of regulated mobility and discontinuous surveillance are continuously challenged by bodies which struggle for their fundamental right to move. This conflict between global regimes of disciplined mobility (Philo 2014) and singular forms of embodied resistance (Agamben 1990) involves also the field of representation and its forcible effects on perception and responsiveness. If representation is the main domain where practices of humanization and dehumanization ceaselessly occur (Butler 2013), then it becomes crucial to analyse the production of images critically and to understand how socio-political and visual norms are inextricably linked to each other. This relationship between politics and aesthetics (Rancière 1995) is particularly strong in contexts marked by violent asymmetries between those who gain representation and those who have no chance to represent themselves, as for the migrants crossing – or attempting to cross – the Mediterranean today. In order to unveil the subtle and forcible norms which regulate the visual domain and its internal organization, Butler’s notion of frame seems to offer a powerful theoretical tool. The point here is not to locate what is in or outside the frames, that is to say what can be shown and what has to be concealed, but to detect “what vacillates between these two locations, and what, foreclosed, becomes encrypted in the frame itself” (Butler 2009). These practices of framing illustrate how power actively works on the field of perception, in order to control affect and to hamper our capacity of ethical responsiveness. According to these theoretical premises, the aim of this paper is to analyse how media representations built on and augmented the 3rd October place of event (Massey 2005), exploring how racial and gender norms marked its mise-en-scene, restricting what could be seen, felt and known on that occasion. Despite the increasing attention of scholars to migration and its representation (Cuttitta 2012; Bond et alii 2015), a visual cultural analysis of media images and imaginations on Lampedusa is still to accomplish. To learn to see the frames and their dehumanizing effects means not only to unveil norms and patterns regulating our field of perception, but – more radically – to open up a space of political responsibility and critical intervention
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteBorder Lampedusa. Subjectivity, Visibility and Memory in Stories of Sea and Land
Numero di pagine15
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2018

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