Current Projects
Contesting Racialized Citizenship in the Black Mediterranean

Our current moment is characterized by the largest international mass migrations of people in recent history and the resurgence of explicitly racist, xenophobic nationalisms. Southern Europe stands at the forefront of these global transformations. Over one million refugees and asylum-seekers, many from sub-Saharan Africa, have crossed the Mediterranean Sea since 2015, and their presence in European countries has been met with varying degrees of marginalization and outright violence. Scholars have responded by studying the lived experiences of refugees, border securitization, and solidarity movements. Comparatively understudied, however, are concurrent contestations oriented on national citizenship. The most prominent of these is the movement to reform Italian nationality law and provide a path to citizenship for nearly one million children of immigrants born in Italy. 

My current book project, Citizenship and Diasporic Ethics: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean, asks why and how Black Italian activists have taken up national citizenship as a privileged terrain of struggle over race and membership in Italy. What new forms of differentiation and exclusion are emerging in these efforts to reformulate and expand Italian citizenship? I argue that citizenship—and specifically, longstanding debates about the legal inclusion of Black subjects within European polities—is key to understanding the connection between subtler, late-twentieth century “colorblind” or “cultural racisms” and the increasingly overt racial nationalisms of the last decade. This project is based on multi-sited, mixed-methods research conducted in Italy over five years (2013–2017).

I am also interested in the possibilities and limitations of the “Black Mediterranean” for understanding racial criminalization and racialized citizenship in Italy, and southern Europe broadly. How might this framework help to connect the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between Black liberation politics in Europe and refugee rights mobilizations? I am working on an edited volume (with Palgrave Macmillan) in collaboration with an interdisciplinary collective of scholars about racial subordination and resistance in the Mediterranean, entitled The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders, and Citizenship in the Contemporary Migration Crisis.

Related Publications
Black Geographies

Along with Jovan Scott Lewis, I am co-editing a book based on the UC Berkeley Black Geographies Symposium, which took place from October 11-12, 2018.  Building on the intellectual labor of generations of Black

scholars (including the 2007 volume Black Geographies and the Politics of Place edited by Clyde Woods

and Katherine McKittrick), The Black Geographic: Praxis, Resistance, Futurity--under contract with Duke University Press--is intended to serve as both a handbook and roadmap for Black Geographies.


The chapters in this volume lay out the key areas of inquiry that fall under the umbrella of Black Geographies; the theoretical interventions and innovations of Black Geographic scholarship; multidisciplinary methodologies and epistemological concerns; and new directions for future research. In particular, this collection engages with Black Geographies in and beyond North America, considering the spatial politics of Blackness in sites as far-ranging as the Caribbean, Brazil, West Africa, and the Maghreb. The volume is organized into five thematic parts, interspersed with poetic interludes: Black Geographic Praxis; Political Economy and Racial Capitalism; The Globality of Anti-Blackness; Blackness and the Urban; and Futurity and the Black Geographic Imagination.

Related Publications
Critical Race STS

My third area of research encompasses the racial politics of science and technology. ​I am interested in the historical entanglements of race and technology through
arguments about civilizational hierarchy, colonial practices of scientific knowledge production, and theories of the body’s relationship to the machine. While race” both seizes material bodies and has material effects, the materiality of the body does not speak for itself. Thus, different technologies produce raced bodies, through complex and never fully determined processes that are also shaped by networks of social actors, historical relations, and political economic conditions. A host of technologies hail, produce, and fix raced bodies, while at the same time naturalizing or invisibilizing the technological mattering of race. Whether they rely upon population statistics, physiognomic measurement, and forensic reconstruction, or the
isolation of specific bodily substances as containing the essential truth” of race, technologies of racialization work by reducing complexity into particular essential qualities, a process of bracketing that produces a pristine racial nature as separate from culture and history.

I have written about the production of the dangerous Muslim Internet café user” through Internet surveillance policies in Italy, and the afterlives of Mediterranean racial theorization in post-fascist Italy. With the Science & Justice Research Center at UC Santa Cruz, I am also exploring the way DNA and genomics research intersect with contemporary debates about race, nation, and citizenship with the research cluster "Theorizing Race after Race."

By Vladimir Menkov - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Related Publications