Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Citizenship Islands: The Ongoing Emergency in the Mediterranean Sea

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Abstract:  I present the concept of “citizenship islands” to analyze the ongoing emergency in the Mediterranean Sea. Citizenship islands are based on the idea of “nonplaces” for noncitizens who are both constantly present and invisible. Citizenship islands are a test of what is to come, as noncitizens such as migrants and refugees continue to arrive, even as countries refuse their right of entry and of seeking asylum. Based on research in Lampedusa, I argue that as understandings of citizenship change, the ongoing emergency in the Mediterranean Sea forces a focus on noncitizens. What is happening around discourses of citizenship, mobility, and migration requires new language to describe and analyze what is already happening, and to theorize new research tools for the future. Nonplaces invite a paradox between visibility and invisibility, between in-dependence and inter-dependence, highlighting the importance of language in characterizing the experience of migrants and refugees and how that language shapes relationships between newcomers/noncitizens and already established residents/citizens.

Keywords:  citizenship; Mediterranean Sea; migrants; mobility; noncitizens; nonplaces; refugees



© Alessandra Von Burg. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.