Alessandro Corso

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ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow (2020) 

My work examines states of absence/presence, life at the borderlands and ordinary ethics, with a focus on the island of Lampedusa and the sea crossing of refugees from North Africa to Europe. In this Fellowship, I will build on my doctoral research on this migratory frontier of separation and reciprocity via a one-year engagement with the local community of Lampedusa. Rather than reinforcing the dominant portrayal of migration evidenced in media and political representations of Lampedusa as a stage of tragedy and death, the project builds upon a phenomenological approach aimed at unveiling the perspectives and interpretations of migrant remains held by members of the local community of Lampedusa. This focus [on interpretation and exchange] will help analytically to challenge the conventional concept of border as a space of separation and division, while also allowing for exploring innovative forms of ethnographic writing and methodological approaches. This will significantly open up potential pathways to impact and encourage a critical re-evaluation of the legal and ethical challenges of irregular migration in the contemporary world.

My doctoral thesis, 'Lives at the Border: Abandonment and Survival at the Frontier of Lampedusa', offers an ethnographic description of the contemporary struggles that undocumented migrants, migration workers, and locals experience within the contemporary and ongoing phenomenon of forced migration through the Mediterranean Sea. The thesis, which I aim to turn into a published monograph during my ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Oxford Department of International Development, ultimately explores how people on the island of Lampedusa respond when faced with difficult borderland situations including via contradictory gestures of individualism and mutuality, indifference and love. I have also written short pieces for artists and theatre performers about fear and indifference based on fieldnotes, and developed collaborative projects exploring the role that art and anthropology play in impactfully disseminating knowledge on irregular migration. My work features in an online exhibition called 'Illustrating Anthropology' hosted by the Royal Institute of Anthropology, available at: