Migrations on a gateway to the EU: some considerations on Istanbul as a border city

Nadia Matarazzo, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Statistiche, Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”

  1. Geography, geopolitics and migration: a transcalar analysis of the borderlands

Global networks and economic-political interdependence are some of the most important pivots of contemporary world contingency and human mobility is what defines the relationship between social groups and the territory they inhabit. In the twenty-first century that relation is fluid, variable and mobile, because the new global economy requires the interaction between here and there, while the forces opposing to people’s movement weaken as well as the power of barriers’ restrictions. In this scenario, Geography contributes to redesign the spaces of circulation by adopting a multidisciplinary perspective as a necessary methodology to study the complexity of the interaction between environment and human groups in movement (Gentileschi 1991).

Geopolitics in particular helps to better understand the political exercise of power assets on human mobility, since the continuous increase of stakeholders doesn’t reduce the role of politics: the recent historical events showed that the regulation of mobility is fundamentally a geopolitical practice, involving the definition of spatial strategies and territorial arrangements to preserve the integrity of borders and contain perceived external threats (Nagel 2002).The forces opposing migration are afraid of the social, cultural and political changes it generates. In other words, human mobility and migration in particular are powerful territorial transformation factors as they redefine public space and its use, the labour and housing markets as well as the social stratification.

As a result, political issues increase, new social problems arise, and new civil rights or better civil rights for new people need to be defined. In order to observe the most important traits of the territorial dynamics activated by contemporary trends in human mobility, this analysis focuses on the urban scale, as the city does not only represent a place of attraction for people in movement, but also an environment where new borders are generated, and others dejected. The post-colonial social and political transformations have progressively developed a new kind of mobility, which is more complex and cannot be considered just a mere transfer of people from a place to another one, i.e. globalized: it appears to be a mobility that does not only involve people and places, but is also relevant for the geopolitical, economic, social and cultural network in which it develops. Thus, once the city has been chosen as a worth focusing environment, the current analysis needs in any case to be transcalar in order to keep together global and local spaces, as well as the interstitial ones (Agnew 2002). Routes and border territories are the key places where human mobility shows its meanings and objectives, sometimes changing the original ones: regular or irregular, in transit or for settlement.From the theoretical point of view — as Soja (2000) highlights — , the local/global relationship is a complex continuum that involves trans-scalar, multitemporal and multicentric factors. In this scale framework, each player can operate, even simultaneously, on multiple scales, as the relationships among players can unfold through many spatial levels: local, regional and global.

On the one hand, this process might be described as globalization; on the other hand, however, it can also be described in terms of (neo-)regionalism or localism. (…) in rethinking localization, for example, it is recognized that we always act (and think) locally, but our actions and thoughts are also simultaneously urban, regional, national, and global in scope, affecting and being affected by, if often only in the smallest way, the entire hierarchy of spatial scales in which our lives are embedded. Rethinking globalization leads to the recognition that it is not a process that operates exclusively at a planetary scale but is constantly being localized in various ways and with different intensities at every scale of human life, from the human body to the planet. (Soja 2000, 199–200).The debate around the socially constructed nature of the scale (Swyngedouw 1997; Marston 2000) showed that spatial practices change their scale references depending on the stakeholders involved. Those references appear to deal with a trans-scalar dimension which embraces together different spatial levels and the correspond-ing players and organizations. Thus, the scale cannot be taken for granted, but has to be defined by taking into account the related — and often multiple — positions of the stakeholders involved in the spatial interaction, sometimes at several scales (Salone, 2012).

Geopolitics of migrations is an approach to the human post-modern mobility aimed at considering migration as a transcalar geopolitical process: it occurs and flows linked to political, economic and social imbalances at global, regional and local scales. This kind of geopolitics becomes more visible in the world border spaces, i.e. those places crossed by relevant flows of people, goods and assets and where circulation and mobility need to be ruled by politics or sometimes challenge even politics itself.Moving to a smaller scale, there are some borders which mean more than a border and they are often located not so close to the borders themselves: we can identify them into the urban spaces that the sociologist Natalia Ribas Mateos (2005) called border cities.

The present paper aims at showing the complex scenario of mobility in a Mediterranean metropolis we can consider as a border city since its history and social geography have developed around different forms of flows and exchanges, several morphologies of an urban culture always looking forward to a bordering process capable of social discovery and innovation: Istanbul — the city always waiting to pass the border represented by itself.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.13128/bsgi.v1i1.95

Read Full Text: https://riviste.fupress.net/index.php/bsgi/article/view/95

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— the piece was written in September 2020 and was not updated.

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University of Florence

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The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy

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