The EU and the changing lives of fishermen living along the European external border. The case of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Session #3  Presentation  | Wednesday, June 26 | 10:00
Auditorium Maximum JU (Aula Mała)

Sub-theme: The shifting borders of inclusion/exclusion: Europe as a space of change

Presenters:  Giacomo Orsini & Lorenzo Sibiriu

When sociologically involving individuals, European studies somehow left aside European society: a ground-level sociological study of how European citizens experience the EU is missing. However, even though the EU can still be seen as an ongoing process of institutional construction, nowadays as never before we can also speak of Europe as an established polity producing real effects on people’s daily lives: the time has come to start looking to the outcomes that such an institution has on citizens rather than focusing exclusively on what this institution is and how it works.

fishermen1 (2)_

Winter: Carlo preparing a fishing net

This study analyzes whether and how the EU affects the daily life dimension of European citizens. To do so, well established European policies need to be taken into account. Moving from this perspective, this investigation focuses the cases of two small-scale fishing communities living along the European external border, on the islands of Lampedusa, Italy, and Fuerteventura, Spain. Local fishermen’s activities as well as their lives on the islands are indeed mainly impacted by two well established EU policies: the Common Fishery Policy (CFP) on the one side, and the European external border management on the other. Fishery, a marginal European economic sector, is indeed one of the areas most strictly regulated and largely subsidised by the EU. On the other hand, due to the geographical location of the islands – closer to Africa than to Europe – these two territories work as isolated offshoots of the widening Schengen area of free movement of people. Due to this marginal geopolitical location, since the end of the 1990s thousands of boat-migrants coming from the coast of Africa have reached these two islands. The EU response has been articulated on the one hand by the opening of migrant detention centres and, on the other, into a militarization of the sea-border, generating a permanent state of emergency on the island and in its surrounding sea waters. In other words, both islands have become central within the management frames of the European external border and, more broadly, of EU migration policies.


fishermen: Carlo, Pietro & Antonio

Empirically, the border here works also as a methodological choice. The idea is to bring the margins to the centre, showing how they are fundamental both in social, political and economic terms to define the centre itself. It is at the border where policies designed for the flat borderless EU territory are expected to have a major impact, revealing themselves more visibly. Through two periods of study of five to six months on each island, several in-depth interviews have been conducted with local small-scale fishermen, alongside the shooting of a documentary, a day to day ethnographic-like observation and a consistent number of semi-structured interviews with local stakeholders – fishery organizations, cooperatives and associations; coast guards; local administration and the like, as well as policy makers in Brussels.

Giaocomo Orsini

Graduated from the University of Padova - BA in International Relations and Human Rights, followed by the University of Bologna - MA in Local and International Cooperation and Development. Next, he extended his academic career in Groningen, Krakow and Pune as a Euroculture MA student. Unable to make plans for the future, he is a very sociable person who loves to travel, spending his time along the streets of big and small cities, in lost villages as well as in crowded buses and trains all over the world. In short, he likes to be in touch with people, trying to understand how individuals make sense of the reality surrounding them and so how they deal with their everyday life challenges. This is probably why he decided to go further with his academic career – he is a second year bursary PhD student of the University of Essex - doing what he likes most - travelling and meeting people - while analysing and discussing how the EU affects the lives of individuals living at the margins of the EU itself.

Lorenzo Sibiriu

Lorenzo Sibiriu: Movie director, graduated from DAMS - Disciplines of the Arts, Music and Entertainment - Cinema of the University of Bologna in 2010. As a member of the Camera Obscura group, he has worked in shooting fiction shorts, notably Paula (2006) and A Life (2008). In 2010 he collaborated in the shooting of the documentary Baz Baran, focusing on the lives of second-generation Iranian immigrants in Italy.