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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 book Contesting Race and Citizenship: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean (Cornell University Press, 2022), 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 seven years.

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 Black liberation politics and refugee rights mobilizations in Europe? These are questions I take up with my collaborators from the Black Mediterranean Collective in a co-edited volume about racial subordination and resistance in the Mediterranean, entitled  The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders, and Citizenship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).

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Related Publications
Black Geographies

With Jovan Scott Lewis, I am co-editor of The Black Geographic: Praxis, Resistance, Futurity (Duke University Press 2023). This volume is intended to serve as both a handbook and roadmap for Black Geographies: the chapters lay out key areas of inquiry for Black Geographies; the theoretical interventions and innovations of Black Geographic scholarship; multidisciplinary methodologies and epistemological concerns; and new directions for future research. The Black Geographic explores Black struggles for liberation across a wide range of historical and geographical terrains such as urban displacement, environmental degradation, and border fortification.

With Brittany Meché, I am currently co-editing the volume Heartbreak and Other Geographies: Assembling Katherine McKittrick (under contract with University of Minnesota Press), a collection of key essays by the foundational Black geographic theorist Katherine McKittrick.

In addition, at UC Santa Cruz I founded and co-facilitate (along with Naya Jones and Savannah Shange) the Black Geographies Lab. The work of the Black Geographies Lab encompasses reading groups, writing workshops, symposia, and poetic modes of embodied and artistic inquiry. We undertake rigorous, interdisciplinary, and transnational inquiry about the spatialities of Blackness, always oriented toward collective liberation for all beings. 

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. 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
Comparative Border Studies

Jennifer Kelly and I co-coordinate the "Border Regimes and Resistance in Global Perspective" research cluster, which has received support from the UC Humanities Research Institute and the UC Santa Cruz Humanities Institute.  Taking up sites that range from US/Mexico, to the Mediterranean, to Israel/Palestine, and beyond, we intend to move past superficial comparisons and think through the circulation of technologies, expertise, policing, and surveillance alongside the circulation of anti-colonial strategies via transnational social movements. We ask not only why and how border regimes around the world are connected, but what it would mean to denaturalize those borders. What kinds of radical political practices and speculative imaginings can help us to fashion a world wherein borders are no longer taken for granted? What do political community and solidarity look like in a world characterized neither by methodological nationalism nor by a neoliberal fever-dream of frictionless global capital circulation? And how does historical amnesia preclude the futures we are able to imagine? 

As part of this initiative, we co-edited a special issue of Critical Ethnic Studies called "Borderland Regimes and Resistance in Comparative Perspective."

Related Publications
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