Accepted paper:

Discourses of differentiation among NGO healthcare workers and refugees in Siracusa, Italy


Adam Kersch (University of Central Florida)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore post-colonial discourses present among non-governmental organization workers aiding in the provision of healthcare to refugees as well as the strategies used in making and unmaking of perceptions of borders among refugees and other local actors in Siracusa, Italy.

Paper long abstract:

As a result of political and economic instability in Africa and the Middle East, Europe has experienced an unprecedented influx of refugees. Southern European nations have in particular seen massive numbers of migrants as a result of their geographic proximity to refugees' countries of origin. Sicily, a historically poorer region of Italy, has been a site of sizable immigration and must not only grapple with these refugees but also austerity measures resulting from the Eurozone Crisis. These neoliberal policies encourage privatization at the cost of public services, such as healthcare. Reduction of healthcare has produced involvement of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which are attempting to aid in healthcare provision to refugees. Perception of refugees plays a powerful role in provision of care among these healthcare workers. Additionally, these perceptions are affected by imaginaries of borders among refugees and NGO workers. This paper will critically analyze the impact of these discourses and perceptions on provision of care to this vulnerable population. This analysis will be contextualized within post-colonial encounters and neoliberal economic policies present in today's Europe, and based on ethnographic research conducted in hospitals and refugee camps in Siracusa as well as through interviews with local actors over the course of several months of fieldwork in early 2015. This paper will contribute to theoretical and ethnographic perspectives of migration in Southern Europe. Simultaneously it will illuminate concerns related to human rights and healthcare policy in the area.

panel Mig004
Pursuing utopias/challenging realities: producing and resisting borders in and out of Europe