Black Spaces examines how space and place are racialized, and the impacts on everyday experiences among African Italians, immigrants, and refugees. It explores the deeply intertwined histories of Africa and Europe, and how people of African descent negotiate, contest, and live with anti-blackness in Italy. The vast majority of people crossing the Mediterranean into Europe are from West Africa and the Horn of Africa. Their passage is part of the legacy of Italian and broader European engagement in colonial projects. This largely forgotten history corresponds with an ongoing effort to erase them from the Italian social landscape on arrival. Black Spaces examines these racialized spaces by blending a critical geographical approach to place and space with Afro-Pessimist and critical race perspectives on the lived experiences of Blackness and anti-blackness in Italy.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Witness to the Unthought Position: Introduction
Chapter 2. Africa-Italy: A Genealogy of Relational Places
Chapter 3. Black/black Spaces: Lived Experiences and Geographic logics
Chapter 4. Unarchived Everyday Violence
Chapter 5. Reading the death of Sylvester Agyemang: Can you be BLACK and bear this?
Chapter 6. Grammar and Ghosts: Refugees and Migrants in Italy
Chapter 7. Re-imagining Future Geographies: Conclusion
Heather Merrill is Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College. Her research examines place, space, race, belonging, Black Europe and the relationship between Europe and Africa. She is an anti-racist critical human geographer whose theoretical work is grounded in ethnography of African Diaspora in Italy. She is the co-editor of Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday and the author of An Alliance of Women: Immigration and the Politics of Race.
Featured Author Profiles
Heather Merrill has done it again. While her previous book broke new ground by studying the challenges of multi-racial feminist activism in Italy, this new contribution enlarges the picture. Here she takes aim at Italian common sense concerning race, while passionately foregrounding the lives of African migrants and Afro-Italians who daily navigate the deadly politics of exclusion. For all those who read with horror the headlines emanating from an increasingly anti-immigrant and antiBlack Europe, this book is for you. And for those who hold out hope that spaces of oppression may generate life-affirming possibilities, this book is also for you.
Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Author of Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail: Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool
A vital investigation of African migrant experiences in contemporary Italy, Black Spaces blends ethnographic methods and Black Pessimist theories to explore the material and symbolic meanings of social life and social death. This nuanced account of national and racial formations highlights mundane, and sometimes extraordinary, actions and utterances that bear witness to individual and collective examples of resistance to the erasure of African subjects from European civic life. Black Spaces is a formidable account of the workings of race and nation, power and relation in the modern era.
Daphne Lamothe, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, Smith College