'The Politics of Island Utopias and Dystopias: “Boat People” Fleeing to the Rim of Europe'

Chapter by Helen Hintjens

ISS senior lecturer Helen Hintjens recently published a chapter in Lynda Mannik (ed) Migration by Boat: Discourses of Trauma, Exclusion and Survival, Barghahn Books.

The chapter is entitled "The Politics of Island Utopias and Dystopias: “Boat People” Fleeing to the Rim of Europe", and explores popular images of islands as 'heterotopias'.

According to the editor's introduction: "Helen Hintjen's (chapter 10) compares media reporting and film to look at the ways islands near Europe’s Southern Mediterranean shores are symbolically depicted as both places of refuge and places of horror, where refugees and migrants along with islanders, inhabit ambiguous spaces of transit".

The chapter reflects on how movements across the Mediterranean were depicted, including at the time of NATO military intervention in Libya, when Lampedusa became the prime destination of those who braved drowning at sea. Those who cross the sea to reach island spaces in Europe are captured in a kind of war on refugees, and therefore can transit endlessly in a 'state of exception'.  As the editor's introduction also reports: "Several tiny islands on southern Mediterranean shores have become clearinghouses for the [detention]...of asylum seekers. Hintjens focuses on the heterotopic nature of these places that are surrounded by water, alongside the conflicting relationships between tourists, island inhabitants, and refugees".