Publication: 2021

Banality of the sea. Borders, quarantine and cruise ships in the time of COVID-19

Edited by: Elena Giacomelli

Defining migration means drawing a line between states and agreeing not only that that border has been crossed, but also whether it was migrants, asylum seekers, tourists, vagrants or travellers. As defined by Alessandro Leogrande (2015), the border is therefore «a line made up of infinite points, infinite nodes, infinite crossings. Each point a story, each node a handful of existences. Every crossing is a crack that opens». This contribution aims to explore those cracks, entering their deepest fissures. The theater of this analysis will be one of the most spectacular, and at the same time frightening, frontiers of recent years: the Mediterranean Sea.

What does it mean to cross borders in the time of COVID-19? In the face of the pandemic that has closed borders more and more, were all foreigners the same? On the one hand, tourists, perceived as a source of economic support and income, have crossed borders and carried out fiduciary quarantines. On the other hand, the quarantine ships were created to deal with the health emergency, isolating migrants who arrived in Italy by sea. The paradox that binds migrants and tourists together is located precisely in the Mediterranean Sea, where migrants carried out the mandatory quarantine on cruise ships once intended for the prestige and pleasure of tourists. Starting from the professional and personal experience of the researcher on quarantine ships, this contribution is positioned off the port of Augusta (Sicily), investigating the migrant-tourist dichotomy during the COVID-19.

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