Associate Professor of Africana Studies Heather Merrill presented a paper titled “Black Spatialities: Technologies of Invisibility in Europe’s Border Regimes” at the Nordic Geographers’ Meeting, held June 11-14 in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Merrill’s paper was presented in “Fearful empires and geographies of whiteness,” a session she helped organize. The theme of the meeting was “Responsible Geographies.”
According to Merrill, “As over the past several decades the European ‘empire has struck back’ by moving to diverse metropolitan territories where the keys to the kingdom were promised, the response has been nothing short of a constantly reworked call for border controls. Broad claims for recognition among postcolonial populations are recent developments in Europe, placing old hierarchies and ontological (b)orderings of the world and its inhabitants in question.
“In a fluid social context, new technologies of enclosure are emerging to render people perceived as non-European invisible. A technology of the fluid convergence of space and race includes what Merrill refers to as black spaces, often invisible and dispersed homeless shelters, detention centers, condemned buildings, and other dispersed locations.”
Merrill said she “employs black spatialities to capture and hold up to scrutiny the silences surrounding the confinement of African asylum seekers and refugees as well as people of African descent more broadly and the discourses, policies, and taken for granted epistemologies that produce the popular and scholarly silences around their suffering, resistance, and contributions to European society.”
She said that her ethnographic material is drawn from the Italian case and that “black spatialities are conceptual and material spaces that represent those who by virtue of their asylum status or non-European origins and association with African territories are rendered noncitizens, even though they are an integral part of modern Western societies.”