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Title: Plastic hospitality : the empty signifier on the EU’s Mediterranean border
Authors: DeBono, Daniela
Keywords: Immigrants -- Mediterranean Region
Refugees -- Africa
Humanitarian assistance -- Mediterranean Region
Mediterranean Region -- Emigration and immigration
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Citation: DeBono, D. (2019). Plastic hospitality : the empty signifier on the EU’s Mediterranean border. Migration Studies, 7(3), 340-361.
Abstract: Hospitality and hospitality-laden language feature highly among people working in or around structures of first reception in Italy and Malta, two countries at the European Union’s (EU) external border. This is peculiar because hospitality rarely features at first reception, which forms part of the state’s border system. Characteristically, security issues are prioritized, and the first reception system is managed by the member state’s security agents, in collaboration with EU and international security agents. In practice, first reception refers to the processes of identification, registration, and classification that irregular migrants go through after having crossed the border without authorization and, often, without identification. Drawing on long-term and multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Italy and Malta, this article examines some of the uses of hospitality language by a spectrum of territorial borderworkers operating with state, non-state, security, humanitarian, and activist entities in the two countries that are the object of this study. Discourse analysis yields interesting insights into how the use of the hospitality paradigm and hospitality terminology in first reception is less about hospitality practices and more about power. It proposes that the hospitality paradigm be conceptualized as a Laclauian empty signifier, and therefore, as a locus of power.
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