I study borders, mobility, and how experiences of precarious migration are shaped by histories and institutions. My interdisciplinary research has focused especially on Africa-Europe mobilities and questions of asylum, migrant reception, human rights, and racial justice in the Italian context. This work bridges critical refugee studies, transnational Italian studies, and postcolonial studies, through methods including media, narrative, and discourse analysis, and oral history and ethnography. In analyzing shifting border dynamics and engaging a range of testimonial and documentary forms and practices, I aim to inform understandings of the relationship between mobility, sovereignty, memory, rights, and belonging in and beyond Italy and the Mediterranean.
My forthcoming book, Emergency in Transit, takes up these issues through a set of oral, written, and visual testimonies by Africans in Italy whose witnessing challenges the idea that their presence and movements constitute a crisis or emergency. This book is under contract with the University of California Press, in their Critical Refugee Studies Series.
I'm currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Italian Studies at Brown University, where I am also affiliated with the Cogut Institute for the Humanities. As an affiliate with Cornell University's Migrations initiative, I host the podcast Migrations: A World on the Move.
My book in progress, Emergency in Transit, investigates the discourses and experiences of “emergency” that are shaping contemporary Mediterranean migration to the EU. I turn to testimonial narratives, analyzing oral history interviews I conducted with migrants and aid workers in Italy, together with a range of visual and narrative texts that portray transit to Europe and within Italy. My published articles contribute to discussions of the role of colonial memory and racial and identity discourse in Europe, and the possibilities for migrant self-representation and witnessing in these contexts. More generally, this work responds to the colonial present made manifest through border violence and anti-immigrant racism.
- Italy: Post-1990 Policies and Trends at Europe’s Southern Border, co-authored with Francesca Soliman, in Ana Vila-Freyer and Ibrahim Sirkeci (eds), Global Atlas of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Migration Series, vol. 45, Transnational Press London, pp. 159-173, 2023.
- Gendered Asylum in the Black Mediterranean: Two Nigerian Women’s Experiences of Reception in Italy, in R. Zapata-Barrero and I. Awad (eds), Migrations in the Mediterranean, IMISCOE Research Series, Springer, 2023.
- Performing Border Externalisation: Media Deterrence Campaigns and Neoliberal Belonging, co-authored with Sara Riva, Geopolitics, 2023.
- “OutLaw Yard”: Reading Traces of Displacement as Testimonial Inscription, co-authored with Katrina M. Powell, Migration and Society, vol. 6, n. 1, pp. 87-104, 2023.
- Testimony on the Move: Navigating the Borders of (In)visibility with Migrant-Led Soundwalks, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, vol. 37, n. 1, pp. 129-152, 2022.
- Writing against border imperialism: epistemologies of transit, Italian Studies in South Africa (special issue on Diversity, decolonization, and Italian studies), vol. 35, n. 1, pp. 92-96, 2022.
- Border Crises and Migrant Deservingness: How the Refugee/Economic Migrant Binary Racializes Asylum and Affects Migrants’ Navigation of Reception, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, vol. 20, n. 2, pp. 293-306, 2022.
- The Transits and Transactions of Migritude in Bay Mademba's Il mio viaggio della speranza (My Voyage of Hope), the minnesota review, in "migritude folio", issue 94, pp. 104-123, 2020.
- The Liminal Lives of Europe’s Transit Migrants, Contexts: Understanding People in Their Social Worlds (American Sociological Association), vol. 17, n. 2, pp. 40-45, 2018.
- Autobiographical Docudrama as Testimony: Jonas Carpignano’s Mediterranea, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, vol. 32, n. 3, pp. 659-666, 2017.
- The Spaces of Citizenship: Mapping Personal and Colonial Histories in Contemporary Italy in Igiaba Scego’s La mia casa è dove sono (My Home is Where I Am), European Journal of Life Writing, vol. 6, pp. 135-153, 2017.
Public Scholarship and Outreach
- Media Deterrence Campaigns: Border Externalisation and Neoliberal Belonging, co-authored with Sara Riva, Border Criminologies Blog, November 6, 2023.
- Beyond Numbers: Confronting Europe's Broken Border System, The Globe Post, May 30, 2023.
- ‘I’m not a refugee, I’m a person’: Rethinking Power and Community in Humanitarian Contexts, co-authored with Giovanni Fontana and Dina Pasic of Second Tree, Routed Magazine issue 21 on "Creative Migration Policy", March 2023.
- A court case against migrant activists in Italy offers a reminder – not all refugees are welcome in Europe, The Conversation, May 13, 2022. Italian translation published by the weekly magazine Internazionale on May 19, 2022.
- The U.K. wants to send refugees to Rwanda. That’s become a trend, co-authored with Christa Kuntzelman and Rachel Beatty Riedl for the Washington Post, Monkey Cage, April 20, 2022.
- Do border walls prevent migration?, appearance on the news program Roundtable, TRT World, September 20, 2021.
- Death on the Central Mediterranean: 2013-2020, co-authored with Annalisa Camilli, The New Humanitarian, January 12, 2021.
- Seeking asylum in Italy: assessing risks and options, Forced Migration Review 65, "recognising refugees" feature, Nov. 2020, pp. 50-51. Also available in Spanish, French and Arabic.
- Border Agency Recruitment: Circulating Narratives that Criminalize Asylum and Erase Border Violence, co-authored with Sara Riva, Discover Society, October 2020.
- ‘Have I really survived?’: On home, refuge, and quarantine in Rome, co-authored with Khaled Karri, Routed Magazine issue 10 on 'Epidemics, Labour and Mobility,' June 2020. Also available in Spanish (at Routed) and Chinese (at The Paper) and with the Coronavirus and Mobility Forum of Oxford's Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society (COMPAS).
- EU Must Stop Equating Protecting Borders With Asylum Management, The Globe Post, March 5, 2020.
- Tunisia: North Africa's overlooked migration hub, co-authored with Annalisa Camilli, The New Humanitarian, January 22, 2020.
- Closing the Vučjak Camp doesn’t resolve the humanitarian crisis for migrants in Bosnia, co-authored with Annalisa Camilli, openDemocracy, December 13, 2019.
- The White Readymade and the Black Mediterranean: Authoring “Barca Nostra”, co-authored with Nicole Miller, Los Angeles Review of Books, September 22, 2019.
- Janet Biggs: Overview Effect, co-authored with Nicole Miller, The Brooklyn Rail, Jul. 2019.
- Italy’s Shutdown of Huge Migrant Center Feeds Racist Campaign to Close Borders, The Globe Post, July 16, 2019.
- Europe’s refugee crisis explains why border walls don’t stop migration, The Conversation, January 30, 2019.
- Transit Migration in Europe: Methods and Dialogues, a reflection on my Summer 2017 fieldwork, September 22, 2017.
- La Pirogue: the Myth of Europe and the Realities of the Journey, a review of a showing and discussion of the 2012 film La Pirogue, March 6, 2017.
- Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) and ‘Practices of Reception’, a review of a showing and discussion of the 2016 film Fuocoammare, February 6, 2017.
- No, Mr. President-Elect, You Are Mistaken: We Welcome Refugees at the Ohio State University, The Daily Kos, December 8, 2016.
Translations and Reviews
- Review: Camilla Hawthorne’s Contesting Race and Citizenship: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean (Cornell University Press, 2022), Antipode Online, February 20, 2023.
- Review: The Black Mediterranean Collective's The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders, and Citizenship (Palgrave, 2021), Antipode Online, November 8, 2021.
- Translation: The Two of Me (Io siamo in due) by Gabriella Kuruvilla in M. Orton, G. Parati and R. Kubati (eds.), Contemporary Italian Diversity in Critical and Fictional Narratives, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2021.
- Review: Stephanie Malia Hom's Empire's Mobius Strip: Historical Echoes in Italy's Crisis of Migration and Detention (Cornell UP, 2019), Italian Studies, vol. 74, n. 4, 2019.
- Translation: Liquid Border, excerpt from Annalisa Camilli's The Law of the Sea (La legge del mare, Rizzoli, 2019), The New Inquiry, August 20, 2019.
- Host: Migration: A World on the Move. Recent episodes available on Spotify.
- Boris Johnson presents: Motel Rwanda, interview for Vox's Today, Explained, 7 Jun., 2022.
- Migration and Testimony with Dr. Eleanor Paynter, interview for the Public Cultural Studies podcast, hosted by Dan DiPiero, September 30, 2021.
- Precarious Journeys: Transit at EU Borders with Human Rights in Transit: a conversation with Kathryn Metz based on our fieldwork observations and interviews.
- Europe’s ‘Refugee Crisis’ and Dynamics of Mediterranean Migration and Reception: What Kind of Crisis? For Whom? with Human Rights in Transit: an interview with Dr. Vicki Squire.
- Rethinking Representation in Diaspora with Human Rights in Transit: an interview with Qorsho Hassan and Ruth Smith about their community-based research and exhibit on the Columbus Somali community.