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Essay on migration, borders and the Anthropocene

Essay on migration, borders and the Anthropocene

Above Griffith Review, Perils of Populism

The remixing of peoples: Migration as adaptation

In the summer of 2015, Greek photojournalist Tasos Markou journeyed to Lesvos to cover the story of the ‘great exodus’. What he saw there changed him. He became a volunteer, and then ran a 3-month photography workshop for refugees stuck in Greece after the European borders closed.

This piece of reporting explores the experiences of Tasos and the refugees and migrants who crossed the Mediterranean, framing the crisis as an Anthropocene story: 19th century nationalism, the French occupation of Damascus, the undue influence of oil money, ill-fated irrigation schemes, anti-imperialism and the rise of ISIS, and the pressures of climate change.

Lifejackets piled up at the borders might become future fossils, the material remains of our Anthropocene politics.

On the other hand, instead of creating fortresses and retreating to xenophobic nationalism, what if we saw our grievances as shaped by the same larger forces? These play out differently in local places and the burden is unequal, but what if we recognised that the real threat is the few who benefit the greatest from Anthropocene politics; that most of us are on the same side?

Could we seek solidarity with refugees and migrants? Rather treating refugees as security threats, requiring militarised solutions, could we see migration as an adaptation to the challenges of the Anthropocene?

Cameron Muir, ‘The Remixing of Peoples: Migration as adaptation,’ Griffith Review Edition 57: Perils of Populism, August 2017, pp. 93–115.