March 19, 2015

LACEY, Wash. – Using Emanuele Crialese’s 2011 film, Terraferma, as a frame of reference, Eastern Michigan University Associate Professor Nataša Kovačević will explore the plight of immigrants who cross into the European Union (EU) via “that most porous of European borders,” the Mediterranean Sea, at the next Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture.The lecture, “Necropolitics of the European Border in Terraferma,” will take place Monday, March 30, at 3 p.m. in Harned Hall, Room 110, on the Lacey campus of Saint Martin’s University, 5000 Abbey Way SE.


The lecture will be preceded on Monday, March 23, by a screening of Terraferma in the University’s Spangler Hall Conference Room, from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Almost weekly, hundreds of people perish in the Mediterranean . . .while trying to cross into the European Union (EU). While internal European borders have been abolished, both visible and invisible walls have been erected to protect the external border against prospective migrants,” explains Kovačević, a member of the Department of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan. “Following Achille Mbembe, I call this policy the necropolitics of the border: the discourses and practices which legitimize a violent, often deadly, enclosure of Europe against any variety of “illegal” migrant, including refugees and asylum seekers.”

Kovačević says necropolitics operates in borderline, extra-legal spaces of exception, such as the Mediterranean sea itself and outlying European islands, where the authorities engage in surveillance, segregation, imprisonment and physical abuse of the migrants. “Recent films and literature have criticized such a border regime, envisioning alternative practices of hospitality to migrants,” she says.

Terraferma is set on a remote Italian island where geographic, as well as symbolic boundaries between Europe and non-Europe, blur, making it increasingly difficult to segregate citizens from migrants, according to Kovačević. “Questioning the official EU border policy, the film explores the islanders’ "illegal" offers of hospitality to foreigners based on the so-called "law of the sea," she says. “Cultural narratives such as Terraferma can help us interrogate the discourses of protecting European borders – and identity – against invading ‘others.’”

Kovačević is the literature program coordinator at Eastern Michigan University and she teaches classes in post-colonial and global literature. Her major academic interests include theories of neocolonialism in the wake of the Cold War, and post/colonial and post/communist literature and film.

The Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture Series was created by Robert Hauhart, Ph.D., professor of criminal justice, to raise awareness of social justice issues within the community and to honor the work of Harvie, former professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Saint Martin's.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washing¬ton. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedic¬tine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes nearly 1,200 under¬graduate students and 323 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College.

For additional information:

Robert Hauhart, Ph. D., J.D.
Chair, Department of Society and Social Justice

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager