HOW ARE SUB-SAHARAN TRANS-MIGRANTS ORIGINALLY BASED IN ITALY AFFECTED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, AND WHAT IMPLICATIONS FOR ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH?

Gilles Reckinger

Abstract


This contribution is organized in three parts.
The first part analyzes how West African migrant harvest workers in South Italy often try to escape from hyper-exploitation by temporarily travelling to other European countries to seek better working and living conditions. While this has always been a complicated endeavour, the COVID-19 pandemicis widely jeopardizing these projects, mainly because of the travel restrictions imposed by national governments within the Schengen area.
The second part considers some methodological challenges for ethnographic fieldwork – where social proximity, instead of social distancing is key – in times of COVID-19. By elaborating on the problematic of keeping contact with people in the field in a highly precarious research setup, the article shows the structurally insurmountable differences between the migrant’s living conditions and those of the ethnographic researcher.
In the last part, a few key points on the recent trajectories of some migrant workers are reported to highlight how they are affected by the ongoing violence of the European border regime and how their condition is aggravated under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords:
African Migrants, European Border Regime, Ethnography, Precariousness, Social Effects of COVID-19


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Registrazione presso il Tribunale di Napoli n. 37 del 05/07/2012