Accepted Paper:

New geographies of belonging in the Greek island borderlands  


Heath Cabot (University of Pittsburgh)

Paper short abstract:

The Greek island borders of Mytilene and Samos, known primarily as tourist definitions, are also first EU points of entry for asylum seekers from throughout the Middle East and Africa. This paper examines how these sites serve as crucial nodes in the delineation of who and what is "Europe."

Paper long abstract:

The Greek islands of Samos and Mytilene are known for sea and sun, prime destinations for recreation and tourism. However, only a few kilometers from Turkey, they are first points of arrival on EU territory for many asylum seekers, who have traveled from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and farther to cross these short but dangerous distances. As stepping-stones into the EU, these islands figure powerfully in the experiences of new arrivals, shaping expectations and imagined possible futures in Europe. While sites of dangerous sea crossings, often violent policing, and months in detention, these islands are also points of intense hope and possibility, as new arrivals board ferries to Athens, attempting to move onward to new lives, education, and prosperity. This paper examines the tensions that surround these island borders, where tourism mixes with violence, danger, and imagined possibilities of Europe. I enlist ethnographic data from detention centers, interviews with local officials, asylum seekers' stories of crossing and "arrival," and European Parliament discussions of the Greek borders. While new arrivals on these satellite European coasts imagine European futures, locals accustomed to serving foreign tourists express both fear and hospitality toward these new "foreigners" (ξένοi). Meanwhile, the power centers in the European North condemn Greece for not maintaining its borders and detracting from the EU's realization as a site of "freedom, security, and justice." I show that these tourist centers of coast and sea are central in multiple re-delineations of who and what is Europe.

Panel W016
Intercultural mobilities in tourism context: migrants, tourists, new residents and local population